Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Chili con carne topped with coriander salsa

"My feeling about chili is this: Along in November, when the first northern strikes, and the skies are gray, along about five o'clock in the afternoon, I get to thinking how good chili would taste for supper. It always lives up to expectations. In fact, you don't even mind the cold November winds." So said Lady Bird Johnson - and she may well have added that the same applies all the way through to about March. Though it originated in (probably) Mexico chili con carne is now a classic American dish to such an extent that it is the official dish of the US state of Texas.

True chili contains no beans. It is rather a spicy stew made from chili peppers, meat, garlic, onions, and cumin. And anything else is a bastardisation of the original. Which is fine by me - my personal history will attest to a penchant for bastards. For me it needs beans - usually kidney beans but they can be red or black - or some borlotti beans with their pretty speckled shells. And there is tomato for juice. The version I made this week also had cinnamon stick and a liberal addition of hot smoked paprika from Brindisa for a really deep complex spicing. Perfect on a cold night. Much like many a bastard!

I wanted to top it with a coriander salsa that I haven't made for ages but the recipe for which came from my friend Vicki. Despite the fact that she lives in Singapore and has done for a couple of years we still maintain a frequent conversation via the magic that is the internet. So I emailed her and confused her totally as she doesn't use it on chili but rather on nachos. It's me, in the past, who has used it on a black bean vegetarian version of chili. When we finally understood each other she mailed back the necessary info.

Here it is, in case you fancy nachos rather than - or as well as - chili...

Ahhhh.... the salsa and guacamole I used to put on nachos!

Fresh corriander, lime juice, tabasco, tinned tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, spring onions, 1 clove garlic - salt & pepper.... chop/mix in food processor - not too fine...
Leave a bit in the blender/bowl - add chopped/mashed avocado..... extra lime juice/tabasco.
I used to stand the nachos chips up in refried beans on their end (like hedgehog spines) and put a mix of mozarella & cheddar on top - crispy in oven - put salsa on one end - guacamole on the other - dribble with sour cream.... best nachos in the world!

Chili Con Carne

2 onions, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 small chilli, finely chopped - deseed it first if you're looking for mild heat
2 sprigs thyme, leaves picked off
3 tbspns olive oil
500g beef mince
1 tspn ground cumin
2 tbspns hot paprika - use sweet if you're looking for mild heat
1 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 cans of chopped tomatoes - use the other half to make the salsa
200ml of chicken stock or water - please don't use stock cubes they are disgusting
3 tbspns tomato purée
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
400g tin of kidney beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly

Sour cream to serve

Heat the oil in a large pan and sweat the onions, garlic, chilli and thyme for about 20 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the dried spices to the onions and stir for a few minutes. Add the beef and mix well, then cook over a high heat till the meat is browned.

Add the tomatoes and bubble for about ten minutes, then add the stock and the tomato paste. Drop in the cinnamon and bay leaf and bring the pan to the boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and let it cook gently for half an hour or so.

As the sauce starts to thicken add the drained beans and season well. Continue simmering for another 20 minutes.

Check the seasoning then serve over plain boiled rice and a dollop of coriander salsa and sour cream on top for an utterly satisfying meal.

Total cost with rice and sour cream and coriander salsa is about £8 and it will easily make 6 generous servings. We had it for dinner Monday night and I have two tubs in the freezer for other nights - making for an easy time another night.

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