Thursday, 20 September 2012

Heston's Chilli Con Carne

Cool Chile Co. do a fantastic range of ground and dried whole chillies, and are very reasonably priced.

Now, there are more recipes for chilli than I care to imagine and most home-cooks, never mind chilli cook-off veterans, have their own special additions. What I'm getting at is:  Heston's chilli recipe might not be to everyone's liking, and it's not the definitive chilli (as if such a thing existed), but it's a very good place to start. Plus, I'm not going to argue with a chef who's spent a good 20 years more than I have obsessing about food. Add chocolate, more spice, chipotle chiles, pinto beans, a splash of bourbon if you want - but follow the basic tenants of this recipe and you'll always have a great-tasting dish.

The keys to making a superior chilli are as simple as getting really good colour on your mince, brining the beans, and giving it a long cooking time. I remember not at all fondly the grey meat in a watery sauce with over-cooked beans and peppers that masqueraded for chilli in my childhood. Learning to cook the individual components so that they taste best is the key to creating a satisfying meal - and Heston's obsession with this fact is a great one to bring to your cooking.

It is quite an involved recipe - the addition of the store-bought peppers removes the need to char and de-skin peppers. The spiced butter can be omitted and you can instead fry the spices with the onions and add the ketchup etc. to the tomato and bean mix.

My recipe differs ever so slightly from Heston's (can't be too careful in the current climate):

For the kidney beans

10% Brine (e.g. dissolve 50g salt in 500g water)
150g Dried Kidney Beans
500g Cherry tomatoes w/vine attached

For the chilli

Oil (olive or groundnut)
500g Beef mince
1 Large Onion, peeled and diced
2 Star anise
1 Large carrot, peeled and diced
3 Cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed to a paste
2 Green chillies, de-seeded and finely chopped (add more if you wish)
2 tbsp Tomato Puree
375g Red Wine (optional, add more stock/water if leaving out)
3 Medium Tomatoes, diced
500g Beef Stock, good quality store-bought or homemade
Jar Piquillo peppers

Spiced Butter
2 tbsp Olive oil
1tsp each of chilli powder (ancho), cumin, chilli powder, ketchup
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, Marmite
125g Unsalted butter, at room temperature

-The night before, make the brine and soak the dried kidney beans for 12 hours. Remove from brine and drain.

-To make the spiced butter, heat the olive oil and fry the dry spices in it for a few seconds then pour over the butter. Mix in the Marmite, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce. Refrigerate. 

-Cook the cherry tomatoes in a pressure cooker (if you have one) for 20 minutes under full pressure with a splash of water. Remove from the heat, let the pressure cooker cool and wait for the safety plug to lower. Uncover then reduce the liquid by half over a high heat. Remove from the heat and add the vine to infuse. (If you don't have a pressure cooker, simmer covered until the tomatoes have disintegrated).

- Add the beans to this mixture (with vines removed) and cook in the pressure cooker for 20 minutes as per the tomatoes. Stir into the chilli at the end to warm through.

Pressure-cooked kidney beans
- Heat a thin layer of oil in a large saucepan until just smoking, then brown the mince in batches until a deep brown colour. Remove and drain of excess fat. Deglaze the pan with a little water and scrape with a wooden spoon to remove any stuck bits of meat. Add this to the mince.

Browned mince
- Add a little olive oil to the pan then add the star anise and onions, frying until the onions take on some colour. Then add the carrot, chilli and garlic. Cook until softened. Add the tomato puree and cook out (you can tell by the smell). Pour in the red wine (if using) and reduce by two-thirds.

-Add the cooked mince, diced tomatoes, and stock then simmer for 2-3 hours. Check seasoning, stir in the piquillo peppers, bean/tomato mixture and the spiced butter. Top with cheese, sour cream and lime zest .

The end result (minus garnishes).