Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Chili Con Carne

Chili was from a can when I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s in California, served in a bowl with lots of cheese on top. The first time I ever made chili from scratch was, strangely, when I lived in London for the first time.  Made with ground beef and lots of vegetables and served on rice, it was a flavorful and relatively cheap way to serve a crowd.  It has since become a family favorite. I like mine served with some avocado and sour cream on top, the kids like it with lots of chedder cheese.  Either way, it tastes much better than the canned version.

In this recipe, I have used stewing beef, cut into small pieces.  This makes for a luxury version, but I normally just use ground beef, which makes the preparation a bit easier.  Ground chicken would also work well.

Serves 4 to 6
1 kilo stewing beef or ground beef
2 bell peppers
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic
2 cans crushed tomatoes (about 500 grams each)
2 cans kidney beans (about 400 grams each)
11/2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cumin
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
about 1 cup water
red chili pepper, if you like

Cut the beef into bite sized pieces.  In a large pot, turn on the stove to high heat, and add oil.  Fry the meat in 3 to 4 batches, putting the meat in the pot in a single layer, browning the outside.  Put the browned meat in a bowl. If the browned bits at the bottom of the pot start to look in danger of burning, then add a few tablespoons of water in between batches. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan so that all the browned goodness is melted into the water.  Pour the water into the bowl with the rest of the meat. Do not be tempted to add all the meat at once, this will only lead to your meat boiling instead of browning.  If you are using ground beef, use the same procedure.

While the meat is browning, prepare the vegetables.  Peel and chop the onions.  Peel and mince the garlic.  Peel and cut the carrots into bean sized pieces.  Cut the peppers into bean sized pieces, discarding the core.  Once the meat is browned, add the vegetables to the pot and pour the meat and juices back in.  Add the tomatoes and the drained canned beans. Do not be tempted to use the liquid from the beans because while it tastes fine, it is viscous in texture and will add an unpleasant mouth feel to your chili.

Add in all the spices, stir and bring to a boil with the lid on.  Let the chili cook for half an hour and then taste and check the seasoning. Cook the chili for a further half an hour or until the meat is tender.

Slow Cooker Method:  Brown the meat and then put the meat, vegetables, and spices all in the slow cooker and cook according to how long you will be away.  Adjust the seasonings before serving.

Serve hot by itself with any of the following garnishes: cheese, sourcream, chopped onion, chopped avocado, or chopped cilantro. Tortilla chips or cornbread would be delicious with the chili. Alternatively, serve the chili on a bed of rice or on big oven roasted potato wedges. Cut baking potatoes into wedges lengthwise and put on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle liberally with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake in a hot oven for about 45 minutes until the potatoes are golden brown and tender inside.

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