Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Reggie's Personal Favourite Dish: 30 Year Old Chilli con Carne

Chilli con carne is a weird dish. It doesn't matter whether two different cooks use identical ingredients, the dish never tastes the same. I think that maybe the method of cooking makes basic ingredients taste completely differently, or maybe it's the bit of your soul that goes into cooking your favourite dishes which does the trick.

Anyway, I have been making chilli con carne since I was about ten years old, when Mrs Ribeye Sr. taught me her her version and allowed me to start making the family dinner. Since then, I have made this dish, on average, every month - which means that, because I will be 40 in May (eek!), this recipe has evolved over 350 times of making it. It tastes nothing like my mum's now. So, unless another 350 times passes, and no unforeseen new developments arise, I will say that this dish is absolutely perfect, and will remain so forever.

The funny thing is, I now use less ingredients than I ever did, but now the taste is far more complex. I used to put in chopped sweet peppers and, at one point, mushrooms. Sweetcorn has come and gone. Goodbye paprika. Adieu to stock. So long, red wine. See ya, cinnamon, cumin and coriander. Now, it's all about beef and beans, cooked low and slow, with my ultimate simple, authentic blend of flavouring ingredients. I know that the purists will say that beans have no place in a chilli at all, but I don't care. Chilli is a very personal thing and I would not make it any other way.

Please follow my method TO THE LETTER - I promise that you won't want to make it any other way in future, either. I normally serve my chilli with pitta breads or rice, but I occasionally make my Friday Night Chilli Burrito instead, if I'm in a Man v Food pig-out mood. The chilli recipe in my burrito dish is very basic (but still delicious, of course), and can take the other burrito fillings well. This recipe, right here, is my gourmet version.

Whether you consider this a gourmet version or not (my wife, Mrs Ribeye Jr, does, by the way), this dish will only set you back £2.50 per portion, with rice or pitta breads on the side. I make my own flatbreads using my No Fuss Bread Recipe.

Serves 4


1 kg ground beef (12-15% fat is best for this recipe)
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon each of salt and pepper
1 tablespoon each of dried red chilli flakes and dried oregano
1 litre of passata (sieved tomatoes)
2 x 400g tins of red kidney beans in water
500ml water
4 fresh large red chillies, cut into fine rings, for sprinkling

8 toasted pitta breads, or 500g cooked basmati rice, to serve

In a large saucepan or casserole dish, place the beef and oil, and put the lid on. Cook, covered, on a high heat and without moving the beef around the pan, until the beef  is well browned and crusty on the bottom (20 minutes approx). Turn the beef over in one lump and sprinkle with the onions, garlic and salt and pepper. Replace the lid and cook until the onion is soft and translucent (5 minutes approx). Add the chilli flakes, oregano, passata, beans and water, and turn the heat to low, stirring with a metal spoon to deglaze the crusty bits at the bottom of the pan. Cook, covered, until the chilli is thick and unctuous (3-4 hours approx), stirring occasionally to break up the meat. Sprinkle with the fresh chillies immediately before serving. Serve with the pitta breads or rice.

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