Chilli Con Carne

last week I was shocked to learn that a ‘hero’ of mine since my early teens – Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, entrepreneur and activist – passed away. I was surprised at the amount of grief I felt for the loss someone I didn’t know personally, but I do feel she made an impact on the world, and she definitely made a difference to me.

anyway, feeling a bit down, I turned to food… not to chocolate or fried snacks, but to something comforting and warming, but something fiery enough to do justice to Anita Roddick’s feisty persona and strong spirit. something a little hot-headed, but soulful, balanced and true. something you can throw handfuls of spice into, then cover in handfuls of coriander and spring onions.

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Chilli Con Carne (you could go vegetarian on this one to really get into the tree-hugging, but then it would not be at all Con Carne, and sometimes you need some meat to your argument). I like my chilli soup-y, accompanied by toasted turkish bread.

toss great piles of chunkily chopped onions and garlic into a large pot or stockpot with a splodge of olive oil (or not), then add minced beef. brown off, don’t worry if it burns a little here and there, I find it adds a smokey flavour. add chopped fresh green and/or red chillies, ground cumin, cayenne, fresh or dried thyme, paprika (hot or smoked), a couple of lemon quarters or just some zest. let spices become toasty and aromatic, then throw in some chopped red and/or green capsicum (bell shaped) or other capsicum-y things – I like to use a variety, including ‘banana’ ‘caps’. reserve some chopped ‘caps’ for adding later. now add (depending on quantities of other ingredients) 2-3 x 400ml tinned chopped tomatoes, 2-3 400ml tinned red/kidney beans, a few spoonfuls of tomato paste, stir, and kinda fill the pot with water.

lid, and leave on a low heat, stirring occasionally, until you or it is ready to eat. I like to cook it down for 40 mins to an hour, but you can easily turn off the heat, and leave for several hours, then warm up when you want to eat.

ready to eat? ok – bring back to higher heat, add reserved capsicums and some diced courgette, cook until softened. season well with salt and black pepper, fish out the lemon wedges, and serve in generous bowls, topped with a great splodge of sour cream, some crumbled or grated aged cheddar cheese, a huge handful of chopped fresh coriander and spring onion, another grinding of black pepper, and some lemon or lime to squeeze over and toasted turkish bread to dunk.

you may of course choose to use fresh tomatoes, if you have an abundance, and to soak dried beans overnight to use. or substitute any number of my preferences for flavour and spice.

I’m sorry I don’t give any quantities. I don’t know precisely how much of anything I use, because I am a throw/splodge/sprinkle kind of girl, and have never been a cup/tablespoon/pinch kind of cook. plus most of my recipes don’t really require precision, and personal taste/availability should prevail. if this is seriously annoying anyone, please leave a comment and let me know and I can at least give roughly more accurate quantities. otherwise, get cracking on a heartful bowl of chilli (proven to dry out or draw out and disguise tears).

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