Just Chilli

Posted on July 7, 2012


Ah, the British Summer.

Memories of playing with the sprinkler on the lawn, sucking ice pops from the freezer and school holidays that lasted forever.


This Summer is becoming more about cagoules, umbrellas and drying off soggy chickens that are too stupid to go inside out of the torrential rain.

Hence this week I cooked up a chilli to warm our bones.

As regular as clockwork when I’m cooking this, the chilli vapours burn my eyes and the heat numbs my tongue and I always panic that I have overdone the heat; but with the long slow cooking and a bit of last-minute adjustment to flavours it always seems to turn out perfect.

Even the boy asked for seconds and said “I love your chilli Mum, it never has chewy bits in and it’s got just the right amount of spice”

Praise indeed.

This is a recipe that I cook on auto-pilot, using store cupboard ingredients that frequently get subbed for whatever is at hand. But I often find that halfway through proceedings I am missing some vital component, like tinned tomatoes*, so I thought documenting it here might help me ‘take stock’ for next time.

*This time the missing tinned tomatoes were replaced by two cartons of passata and some sliced sweet red peppers from a jar, no one even noticed.

I make a huge batch so that I can put some in the freezer for a rainy day (and on a rainy day). This makes enough for the 2.5 of us for three meals plus a small pot for a future ‘chilli dog’ evening. Money in the bank as one of our friends would say.

I realise now that I use two of nearly everything. Perhaps the rain is invoking Noah’s ark principle.

“The ingredients go in two by two hurrah, hurrah!”

My ever-changing chilli ingredients list

  • 3lb minced beef
  • 1 pack of streaky bacon or pancetta and/or 1 small pack of chopped chorizo
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 2 sticks of chopped celery
  • 2 chopped garlic cloves
  • 2 or 3 tins of tomatoes
  • 2 cans of water (or some red wine)
  • 2 Oxo cubes
  • 1 teaspoon of hot chilli powder
  • ½ teaspoon of hot, smoked paprika
  • 1-2 teaspoons of chilli flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs of oregano
  • 2 teaspoons of brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of cocoa
  • A cinnamon stick, broken in two
  • 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 big squirts of tomato purée
  • 2 cans of beans (I use one of red kidney beans and one of cannellini)
  • Plenty of Salt and Pepper
My method
  1. In a very large pan with some olive oil, I cook the chopped bacon, and if I have some, chorizo too, until the fat runs out.
  2. I add the onions and celery and let them cook down until softened in the oils.
  3. Next I add the garlic to cook for a minute or two before the beef gets added in batches until browned.
  4. The rest of the ingredients (except the beans) go into the pot, get brought to a boil and stirred well.
  5. Then, I just turn it right down to a low simmer and leave it to cook for a couple of hours, or sometimes up to 4, stirring whenever I pass the kitchen. It works just as well in a slow cooker, leave it on low all day or high for the afternoon.
  6. Half an hour before we eat I take the lid off bring it back up to the boil, add the beans and let it cook for half an hour whilst I make the rice, lay the table and open a beer.

A last minute tasting usually calls for more salt and Worcestershire sauce…oh, and a quick photo.