Chili was the first dish I cooked when I left home to go to college. My Mum had carefully written out the recipe, which I carefully followed: mince beef, kidney beans, chopped tomatoes, chili powder, 2 tsps of salt. Unfortunately I read “2 tsps salt” as “2 tablespoons of salt”. It seemed like a lot but hey, Mum knows best, so I followed the recipe as I understood it, and to do my new friends credit they ate it as well – some of them even accepted the next time I invited them round for supper!
This recipe has evolved over the years, as most family chili recipes do. You will find some unexpected ingredients in it and I am sure most Mexican Mamas would shudder at the thought. Authentic it ain’t, delicious it is. I add cubes of potato because I’m not that keen on boiled rice. Put the potato in and it becomes a great one pot dish, ideal for portion freezing and taking to work for lunch.
Preparation time: 30 minutes Cooking time: 90 minutes – cook the day before eating if possible. Serves: 8 greedy people
- 1 kg / 2 lb mince beef
- Malt Vinegar
- 6 tsp sugar
- 1 large onion roughly chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- 1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 can baked beans
- 3 peppers, red, yellow and orange, cut into rough chunks
- 4 oz / 100 gms mushrooms, cut into large chunks
- 3 bay leaves
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Oregano, Turmeric, Paprika
- 2 beef stock cubes
- Tomato puree or ketchup
- chili, fresh red, deseeded and chopped, or dried chili flakes, or chili powder
- 1 lb / 500 gms potatoes, cut in to 2 cm / 1 inch cubes – skins left on
A little while before you start cooking open your packs of mince, sprinkle with sugar and an equal amount of vinegar. I usually use malt, but most vinegar works fine. If you use balsamic you will need a little less sugar.
Heat a little oil in a very large pan (everything is going in the pan), add the onion and fry to soften for a couple of minutes before adding the garlic to fry for 1 minute more.
Add the mince, with a little of the sugar/vinegar liquid, and fry until browned. now add the stock cubes, crumbled, the turmeric – a good 2 tsps, the bay leaves, a good shake of oregano and a teaspoon of paprika. Then a large pinch of salt and grind in plenty of black pepper.
Give this a good stir round then add the tomatoes and the tomato puree or ketchup. Puree is for purists – I think it tastes nicer with a good squirt of ketchup – try it and see what you think.
Now add the chopped peppers and mushrooms. The peppers are essential and you will smell the dish coming to life as soon as you add them. I like mushrooms and I think they add depth to the flavour, but if you don’t like them the dish will survive without.
Now add the kidney beans, and the baked beans with all their juice – never had chili with baked beans in it before? Trust me on this one.
Now add the chili. Remember, you can always add more, but you can’t subtract. So go easy on the chili to start with, taste as it cooks and add more if needed. I like to add fresh chilis to mine, but it really is fine with dried flakes or chili powder.
Lastly, add the potatoes if using. Now give it all a good stir cover, reduce the heat to very low, or put it in a low oven and cook for at least 90 minutes.
After this time it will be done and ready to eat. But it is so much better if you can leave it over night and eat the next day.
This chunky chili has beef, pulses, plenty of veg, and if you are using the potatoes it really is a meal in itself. Serve with a blob of sour cream or natural yoghurt, a sprinkle of paprika for colour and maybe some tortilla chips on the side.