This Chilli Con Carne recipe is the traditional British variation that became very popular in the late 20th Century – note: the spelling alone determines this is different from the original American ‘Chili’. From the late 19th Century the first American Chili’s were made without beans and without tomatoes, which is considered the most traditional of all the American variations, however both these ingredients (among others missing in an American recipe) play an important role in the British variation.
Although it is a little labour intensive, it is worth ‘constructing’ all of the elements in this British recipe as it makes it far superior in developing deep flavours compared to the simple chili’s. This is not a simple recipe asking you to just open a few cans, but this recipe will make the perfect chilli con carne, far superior to anything you will have made or eaten in the past – it really is worth while and you will make an impression on anyone who tries it.
Chilli Con Carne Recipe
- 1kg lean beef mince (from aged meat and free of gristle)
- 15 beef short ribs (braised, see below)
- 60g chilli powder blend (see below)
- 3 whole star anise
- 1 large onion (finely diced)
- 2 celery sticks (finely diced)
- Roasted peppers (from 4 red bell peppers)
- 5 large cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
- 50g fresh jalapeno chilli (finely chopped)
- 40g tomato purée
- 60ml Jack Daniel’s whiskey
- 60ml red wine
- 1 tsp fresh chives (chopped)
- 1 tsp fresh flatleaf parsley (chopped)
- 1 tsp fresh tarragon (chopped)
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
For the kidney beans and tomato base
- 35 large on-the-vine cherry tomatoes
- 300g kidney beans (dried organic)
- 900ml water
- 20g sea salt
- 2 tsp tomato puree
For the chilli powder blend
- 5 dried bird’s-eye chillies, (de-seeded and ground fine)
- 10g ground cinnamon
- 20g sweet smoked paprika
- 30g ground hot chilli powder
For the braised short-ribs
- 15 beef short-ribs
- plain flour, for dusting
- 40ml vegetable oil
- 3 tsp chilli powder blend (see above)
- 1 large onion (sliced fine)
- 2 large leeks (white and pale green parts only, sliced very fine)
- 2 large carrots (chopped very fine)
- 500ml red wine
- 500ml beef stock
- sour cream
- boiled or steamed rice
- corn bread or corn chips
PREPARING THE KIDNEY BEANS & THE TOMATO BASE
The day before making the chilli con carne: Combine 900ml of water with 20g of sea salt in a storage container and stir to dissolve the salt. Tip the organic, dried kidney beans into the container, cover and refrigerate for 12 hours. This soaking step will help the finished beans to cook evenly and keep the skins from splitting during the cooking process.
Pull the tomatoes off the vine. Remove the cores with a paring knife. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and place in a sieve over a bowl. Sprinkle two teaspoons of sea salt over them and leave until about 100ml of tomato juice has collected in the bowl.
Place the tomatoes and their juice in a saucepan. Cook over a high heat, stirring frequently, until the liquid has reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes then vigorously push the tomatoes through a sieve, separating out any large bits of skin etc. into a container below. Leave the sieved tomatoes to fully cool then put a lid on the container. Store this tomato liquid in the fridge for 12 hours, until the beans have soaked.
Next day: Strain the beans out of the salt water, rinse and tip into a saucepan. Add 2tsp of tomato puree and the tomatoes from the container to the beans. If necessary, add some water so that the beans are covered. Put on the lid and place over a high heat, stir occasionally. When almost at the boil simmer for 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
MAKING THE CHILLI POWDER BLEND
Cut up and then finely grind the de-seeded, dried, bird’s eye chillies with a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder. Add the hot ground chilli powder, ground cinnamon and sweet smoked paprika, grind and stir to combine. Cover and store until required.
BRAISING THE SHORT-RIBS
Dust the ribs on all sides with flour. Add the vegetable oil into a large oven proof casserole dish over a high heat. When the fat starts smoking add the ribs in batches. Sear on each side (1-2 minutes) until golden-brown. Remove the ribs from the pan and set aside.
Lower the heat to medium. Add 3tsp of chilli powder blend to the pan and fry quickly for around two minutes to release the flavour into the oil. Add the onion, leeks and carrots and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the vegetables are lightly caramelised, stirring occasionally. Pour in the wine and bring to the boil, scraping up all the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Reduced the wine by two-thirds.
Preheat the oven to a low temperature of 140C/Gas 1.
Add the short-ribs, plus the beef stock and kidney beans in tomato sauce (prepared earlier) to the casserole. Cover the dish with foil, or a lid and place in the oven for five hours.
After five hours transfer the short-ribs from the casserole dish to a large container. Remove the meat from the bone and discard both the bones and any heavy connective tissue. Using a fork, shred the meat into long pieces where it wants to separate naturally. Return this shredded meat and juices to the casserole dish, submerging it to keep it from drying out.
PREPARING THE ROASTED PEPPERS
Preheat the grill until very hot. Core and halve the peppers, and remove the white pith and seeds. Put the pepper halves, skin side up, on a grill pan and brush them with olive oil. Place under the hot grill and leave them until they are black. Remove the blackened peppers from the grill and wrap immediately in cling film. Set aside for ten minutes. Unwrap the peppers and peel off the blackened skin. Cut the peeled peppers into 1cm cubes.
ASSEMBLING THE CHILLI CON CARNE
Place a large saucepan over a high heat for at least five minutes. Add the vegetable oil. When smoking hot, add the minced beef in batches and cook until evenly browned. Between batches deglaze with red wine as needed and save all of the bits and liquid that is collected.
Turn the heat down to medium heat and add a bit more oil. Add the rest of the chilli powder blend and fry briefly, adding more oil if needed. Crush the star anise and bag it in a square of muslin. Add this with the celery and the onion to the pan and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the onion is soft and caramelised.
Turn the heat down to low, then add the garlic, jalapeno chillies and the roasted red peppers you prepared earlier. Cook for about ten minutes, or until soft. Add the tomato purée and cook until it becomes a deep brick-red colour.
Deglaze the pan by turning the temperature up to medium and adding the Jack Daniel’s. (Be careful as the whiskey will flame.) Bring it to the boil, then scrape up all the bits stuck to the bottom.
Add the browned mince plus the meat from the short-ribs, kidney beans, tomatoes, stock and braising liquid etc. from the casserole dish. Add in the chopped herbs and bay leaves, stir and simmer over a low heat for 40 minutes. Remove the bag of star anise and bay leaves and adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and extra chilli powder blend if needed.
Serve: serve with boiled rice, sour cream and corn bread or corn chips.