Monday, 25 August 2014

Mince Wonder 1: Chilli con Motherfucking Carne

You've never had chilli like this.

The name literally means "chilli with meat" which sounds about as appealing as sex with William Hague while your Mum watches. On the other hand, put an exotic spin on the most mundane dish and it will sound so much more vibrant. Carne y dos verduras sounds a lot more interesting than meat and two veg, alternative name for male genitalia not withstanding. You could say, maintaining the same comparison and in keeping with the Latino theme, "chilli con carne" sounds as appealing as sex with Jennifer Lopez. Anyway, literal meaning aside, my version of chilli con carne has grown and evolved over years to become the masterpiece it is now and would be my signature dish if I were running a restaurant.

It's a little known fact that chilli con carne isn't actually a true Mexican dish, but Tex-Mex, which is a bastardised version or, as some twatty restuarants bill themselves, a "fusion" (to-MAY-to/to-MAR-to) of Mexican food with that from north of the Rio Grande. This is because it contains meat and a significant tendency to increase your BMI to morbid obesity levels. Your average Mexican peasant couldn't afford meat and carrying an additional few stone of adipose tissue doesn't help with tilling the fields. It also generally contains fewer pulses so is also less likely to have the effect of making your friends avoid standing downwind or sharing a lift with you after a meal of this cuisine, though not so much in this instance. Since this is a bastardised cuisine I don't see any need to stick to authentically New World ingredients so this recipe includes Bisto, British beer, balsamic vinegar and soy sauce.

This is enough to make 4 or 5 adult-sized portions

500g beef mince (low fat if you're a ponce like me)
1 tin of tomatoes
250 ml beer (good, dark British ale. Not pissy lager, not even Mexican)
1 tbsp Bisto powder or similar (see notes)
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1tbsp tomato puree
2 big tsp whole cumin seeds
2 big tsp oregano
2 big tsp ground coriander
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 beef stock cube
1 tbsp Worcester sauce
½ tbsp tomato ketchup
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil
One large red and one large green pepper, or combination of colours if they're smaller chopped chunkily (yeah, I just made that word up, but you know what it means so get over it or fuck off)
2 or more fresh chillies (see later), finely chopped including seeds
Tin of kidney beans (See notes below)
Balsamic vinegar
Dark soy sauce
1 tsp ground cumin
A small piece of your immortal soul (optional, but don't expect your chilli to be truly great without it)

Preparation: 20 minutes
Cooking time: Upwards of 2 hours

Brown your meat. No, that's not a euphemism, I mean stick the mince in a pan on the hob and heat it until it's cooked. Drain off the fat in a sieve. Tip it back in the pan and add the tomatoes plus half the beer and bring to a gentle boil.

Mix up the Bisto in a cup with a little remaining beer to make a slurry and pour it in and stir well. Add the onion (uncooked) and stir in the tomato puree. Add the spices and the stock cube and mix in well, adding the rest of the beer.

 The spices
From 11 o'clock: cumin seeds, coriander, smoked paprika and oregano

In a separate pan, fry the garlic in the olive oil for a minute or so and stir into the mixture. Add the peppers, chillies, beans and two teaspoons of balsamic vinegar, then let it stew on a low heat for at least an hour and a half, enough time for the onion to become transparent and peppers to become tender.

Taste it (the chilli, not the vinegar, you fuckwit). It should have a good balance of sweetness and tang so you can add a drop more balsamic or Worcester if necessary. Also, if it seems a bit wishy-washy (similar, I would imagine, to the aforementioned sex with William Hague, though far less unarousing) add a splash of soy sauce to give the whole stew more umami, the meaty flavour that is the recently discovered companion to salt, sweet, sour and bitter sensing tastebuds on the tongue.

You may need to boil off some of the liquid as it starts closer to soup than a stew, but also this helps concentrate the flavour. It should still be quite runny. Before serving add the spoonful of ground cumin.

In da pan

This makes easily enough for four people with some left over for lunch the next day. It serves well with  plain boiled rice or baked potatoes.

The clue's in the name: chilli with meat. This recipe needs to be hot, as hot as you can stand it. If you have a bowl of this and aren't sweating like an art dealer trying to shift the last few Rolf Harris pieces in his inventory on the day of the verdict, you've made it wrong. You may experience what feels like actual hellfire spewing from your arse the next day, this means you've done it right. The depth and complexity of the chilli heat and flavour increases if you use different types of chilli: fresh ones of different types (jalapeno, bullets, fingers, birds eye), dried (chilli powder, cayenne, chilli flakes, dried chipotle), chilli sauces (for example Tabasco, Cholula, Encona Hot Pepper sauce) or pickled chillies like jalapenos. Obviously, you need to make it as hot as the person with the lowest chilli tolerance you're feeding. For example, I need to tone down my preparation to accommodate my wife and toddler son and add more chilli to my own portion. On the other hand, if I was making it for myself it would have enough chilli to register the next day on the Beaufort, the Richter and the Bristol Stool scales as well as having a shit-load of zeros on the Scoville scale when you're actually eating it. Science fact: heat of chillies is due to a compound called capsaicin which is actually neurotoxic.

Oh, and also, remember not to touch your genitals for any reason after you've been chopping chillies unless you think thrush just isn't painful enough

It has got to be a dark, British ale because it needs the richness this comes with. If you use lager in it, you might as well piss in the pan. Cheap supermarket own brand bitter in cans does the trick but if I want to make it that bit more special I add Shepherd Neame Bishop's Finger.

Kidney beans
You can use fresh beans, though I've never bothered. The reason is because if you don't prepare them properly you will be ill, and not in the good "Oooh, that chilli last night was bloody hot!" way. They've got a poison in them that is related to ricin, as favoured by eastern bloc spies, would-be terrorists and Walter White Sr. It's kind of ricin-lite

A British staple of many a kitchen, the original Bisto gravy powder makes great gravy with meat juices if you do a roast, but adds some well needed richness and helps thicken up the sauce in this chilli. This is what I'm talking about:

Supermarkets will also do their own version. If all else fails, improvise with some cornflour, more soy and even some Marmite or similar yeast extract.

Is it called chilli con carne y chocolate? No it's not. Neither is it mole and it's definitely not a fucking dessert. Leave the cocoa for the nighttime drink of nursing home residents. If you do put chocolate in this dish, I will find you and I will kill you.

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