Chilli con carne is a fairly regular meal in many house holds as it ticks all the boxes; cheap, quick, tasty and relatively easy to cook. Here in the UK however our version wouldn't pass as chilli if you were to present it to a Texan. Chilli is such a big deal in Texas that they have hundreds of cook-offs every month around the state. Each town has their own methods and frown upon different regions styles. Whether it's cooked with brisket, shin or short rib, the length of time it's cooked and the particular blend of spices used. Rustling up a quick chilli when you get in from work is perfectly fine but if you really want to eat something truly special you need time! For my chilli I used shin of beef which can't be cooked in a hurry. Beef shin is a muscle that works hard on the animal meaning it's tough with lots of connective tissue (think the opposite of a fillet steak) but when cooked low and slow it falls apart into a sticky tender and truly flavoursome cut of meat. Marry that with ballsy spices, sweet cherry tomatoes and the smokiness of the bacon and paprika and you will produce a dish that is dark rich and packs a punch.
To serve 4/5
- Beef Shin 1.2kg
- Smoked back bacon
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Bell Peppers 2
- 4 small red onions
- Tomato puree 2 Tablespoons
- 1 Tin Chopped Tomatoes
- 4 Jalapeno Peppers
- 2 dried chipotle chillies
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 6 squares dark Chocolate
- 7 Cloves Garlic
- 1 chicken stock pot
- BBQ Sauce 2 Tablespoons
- Water 3 cups
- 3 splashes of Worcester Sauce
- Handful of Parsley
- Olive Oil 3 Tablespoons
For the Spice Mix
- 2 Heaped Teaspoons of Chilli Powder
- Smoked Paprika 2 Heaped Teaspoons
- Cumin 1 Heaped Teaspoon
- Garam Masala 1 Heaped Teaspoon
- Dried Oregano 1 Heaped Teaspoon
- Sea Salt 2 Teaspoons
- Black Pepper 1 Teaspoon
- 2 Cinnamon Sticks
The cooking process has a number of simple steps but unlike the name suggests the prep and initial cooking only takes around 15 minutes. As described I used beef shin but you could also use brisket/ short rib or any cut that lends itself to slow cooking, if unsure just ask your butcher. Firstly you need to brown the beef as this will produce the first layer of flavour. I placed it on a red hot BBQ for 3 minutes per side which added an extra element of smokiness but a normal pan will also do the trick. Once browned remove and place in a slow cooker or oven proof dish.
Now on to the veg, slice the onions and fry in 2 tablespoons of oil until soft then add the spice mix. You need to fry the spices to encourage them to release their flavour but ensure the pan isn't too hot otherwise the spices will burn and cause an acrid taste. Also be aware the longer you toast the spices the more pungent they become. After 30 seconds of frying the onions and spices add the tomato puree crushed garlic, chopped peppers, jalapenos and cherry tomatoes and fry for a further 5 minutes. Add the contents of the pan to the slow cooker along with the beef and that's the active cooking done !
Now for the last layers of flavour. The dark chocolate may raise a few eye brows but its slight bitterness and velvety texture adds to the decadence of the chilli. The BBQ sauce will provide excellent colour and the sweetness will help tame the hotness of the chilli powder and jalapenos. The chicken stock will help enrich the dish and the chopped tinned tomatoes and water will be the liquid in which the beef will braise in. Lastly add the bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, cinnamon and chipotle chills. No kidney beans you say? Add them if you wish but personally I don't think they add anything to the chilli. I presume they were probably only used in times were meat was scarce as a filler but it's totally up to you.
Put the slow cooker on high (if using the oven temp 200c) and cook for an hour before turning to the low setting (150c for the oven) and cook for a further 7 hours. Half way through the cooking turn the beef and give it a stir to ensure all the ingredients have mixed well.
After 8 hours of cooking the chilli should end up with a dark and rich appearance and the beef should easily pull apart. Again mix well and you should have something that looks like this:
I served with basmati rice, tortilla chips, grated Cheddar cheese and sour cream which helps cool the palate!