Ultimate Comfort Chilli

We made this dish at the weekend, it was the perfect cheer-up food after a rain soaked Saturday. The smell of it cooking away slowly in the oven was incredible, you have to be very patient!

There are so many recipes for chilli con carne around, this one wasn’t particularly planned, we tend to throw in what we have lying around for a lot of our cooking so feel free to replace things if you don’t like that particular vegetable/spice or if you don’t have it in.

Ingredients (makes enough for 4-6 people):

  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 2-3 sticks of celery, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped/minced
  • smoked pancetta (you don’t have to add this but it creates a gorgeous base of smokeyness)
  • 500g good quality lean beef mince
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • 1tsp cumin powder
  • ½tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1-2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1-2 tsp hot chilli powder
  • 1-2 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tins/cartons of chopped tomatoes or passata
  • 1 tin of kidney beans in water
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • around 30g of really good quality dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
  • rice and sour cream to serve

If you wanted to make a vegetarian version of this dish one obvious substitution would be the meat for Quorn (other brands are available!), but we think it would be more interesting not to take the easy route and to bulk it out with lovely, meaty mushrooms and extra beans instead – some black eyed beans and/or pinto beans would make a lovely addition. To get more of the rich flavour without using beef stock cubes you could add a teaspoon of Marmite – it may sound odd but it gives that deep, savoury kick which you might miss otherwise.

Perfect for practising those knife skills.
Perfect for practising those knife skills.

To start with soften the onion, garlic and celery in a large casserole dish over a low heat, cook for at least 10 minutes but try not to get much colour at all on them, you want them to soften and sweeten. Add the diced smoked pancetta, we used barely any in this so you could leave it out if you wanted to but it definitely adds a little something! Fry this for a few minutes until it has lightly cooked and become fragrant and then add the beef mince, breaking it up with your fingers as you put it in. Immediately add 200ml of beef stock (use a whole stock cube to make it) – by not browning the beef off you’re making sure it cooks really slowly and melts in your mouth. Now it’s time to add your herbs and spices! The amounts listed above are a guide, obviously adjust to your own chilli preference and remember you can always add but you can’t take away. We were a little cautious at first and then added more about halfway through the cooking time.

Kidney beans

Once you have stirred the herbs and spices in add the chopped tomatoes followed by the pepper and kidney beans, give it a good stir, bring to a very gentle simmer and then pop in a really low oven (around 130°C) and leave alone for at least an hour. Cook for 3 hours minimum stirring every hour until you can’t take it any longer and have to eat some!

Right before serving place a couple of squares of dark chocolate on top and drool as they melt into the chilli. Don’t worry, this won’t add any sweetness, just the most fantastic, rich flavour.

Resist the urge to put your face in it...
Resist the urge to put your face in it…

Serve with rice and sour cream and if you’re feeling fancy (we were) some homemade guacamole.

We made a really simple guacamole by mixing 1 ripe avocado with a good pinch of sea salt, 1 diced tomato and a big squeeze of lime or lemon juice. Give it all a mix up and you’re ready for your Mexican feast!

... Now you can put your face in it!
… Now you can put your face in it!

This was the perfect meal to sit down to and ignore the rain lashing at the windows – warming, comforting and pretty healthy too.

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