The perfect Chilli Con Carne (ad)

If you have followed me for a while you will know that my husband likes to grow chillis. Lots of chillis. Like so many chilli plants all over the patio you can’t move for them over the summer. Alongside tomatoes. Our patio is positively awash with stuff from about May onwards, all grown from seed, all tucked up in a greenhouse on cooler nights and when it gets really cold they are brought inside to keep warm in the kitchen. I wish I was joking.

All of which means we have done a quite a bit of research into making dishes with chilli and tomato. We now have chilli sauces of varying degrees on the Scobel scale, pickeled chills and frozen chillis. Alongside a big box in the fridge that is labelled “using chillis”.

It was into that tub I delved recently to make what I call the best Chilli Con Carne in the world. We make this in the morning and put it in the slow cooker so that it cooks on a gentle heat for a good six to eight hours, but you could make it on the hob in half an hour if you are pushed for time.

First of all, start with a really good quality mince. Over the summer we discovered Swaledale butchers based in Yorkshire. Their approach is this:

… whole-carcass, nose-to-tail philosophy for nutrient-dense, grass-fed meat with immense flavour. All our meat is Always Fresh Never Frozen®, butchered to order, vacuum packed, and shipped in recyclable packaging to arrive safely insulated and ready to enjoy.

so we tried them out and were not disappointed. We tried their steaks on the barbecue and they were perfectly marbled and tasted fantastic.

Their mince at just over £5 for 540g is amazing, perfect for a really good home made burger where the meat is the hero of the dish, or as the base for the perfect chilli con carne.

  • First of all fry the mince, with no oil or fat, in a really good frying pan. There will be enough fat in the mince that you dont need to add any more, and I find adding oil can make it a bit slimy. You want to really cook this in the meat juices alone.
  • DON’T stir it or break it up with a wooden spoon. Just let it slowly cook through and then turn it over with a plastic fish slice. Leaving it alone means you get some harder bits on the outside and this adds texture to the finished dish.
  • Once the meat is brown with no pink bits, add a red onion, finely chopped and cook until the onion is translucent. Again, I find red onion gives more flavour and texture than a brown onion.
  • Add a whole chilli, finely chopped, leaving the seeds in. I prefer using a milder chilli and leaving the seeds in, rather than a hotter chilli and taking the seeds out. Cook for a couple of minutes.
  • Add any other veg you like, such as mushrooms, sweetcorn, Sunday lunch leftovers (finely chopped its a good way to use up any bits of veg that are looking past their best).
  • Now put all of this in the slow cooker, or a pre heated cast iron pan with a lid.
  • Add a tin of whole plum tomatoes that you have crushed in your hands as you empty it into the pan. Whole plum tomatoes are much cheaper than chopped tomatoes and I think they have more flavour.
  • Stir and once all mixed in add your beans. Traditionally you would add red kidney beans but I have been known to add a tin of cannelini beans too.
  • Once all stirred leave to gently simmer for half an hour, or put it in the oven on low for as long as you can. Or in the slow cooker for about six hours.
  • Enjoy with crusty bread, or rice.

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