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Chilli con carne is a dish with nearly as many variations as there are cooks who cook it. With a name that translates to “chilli with meat” and no single established recipe considered “the one”, the ingredients and preparation of chilli con carne are left very open to the interpretation of individuals and regions. Many of us below a certain age in the United Kingdom probably grew up eating chilli in one form or another as a fairly frequent staple. I have fond memories of freezing cold Bonfire Nights in pub gardens, watching a firework display with a hefty be-chillied jacket potato and a hot chocolate. I don’t suppose that the aficionados in Texas and North Mexico would recognise a 90s pub-garden chilli as an authentic take on their beloved dish, but the British take on it, when done well, is as delicious as any.  

This particular recipe takes its inspiration from several sources. I feel it’s important to give a nod to the Mexican roots of the dish by using Mexican chilli powders if possible, in this case ancho and chipotle, but the inclusion of both tomato and beans might trouble some purists, even if they are commonplace in American and British chilli con carne. I would urge you to think of this recipe as a foundation on which you can build according to your own preferences. If you want to swap ingredients out or add more ingredients and make the flavours more complex, feel free. This is not a mandate for the way chilli con carne should be done, just a look at how one person makes it based on plenty of experimentation.  

Whether you follow this recipe to the letter or disregard it entirely and embark on your own personal chilli con carne journey, we’d love to see your efforts. Be sure to tag us on social media whenever you cook.  

Chilli con carne 

  • 1 whole boneless beef shin
  • Rapeseed oil
  • Smokey Carter ancho coffee rub
  • Smokey Carter smokey chipotle rub
  • 2 tbsp ancho powder
  • 2 tbsp chipotle
  • 2 tbsp cayenne
  • 1.5 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 200ml strong black coffee
  • Duck fat/beef dripping/cooking oil of choice
  • 6 rashers smoked streaky bacon
  • 1 onion
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 sweet pointed red peppers
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 660ml beer of choice (we used Sierra Nevada American pale ale)
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 green chilli
  • 1 tin pinto beans
  • 800 ml beef or chicken stock or a mixture of both
  • 30g chopped coriander
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • Salt 

Garnish 

  • Soured cream
  • Onion and coriander
  • Fresh and pickled chillies
  • Lime
  • Grated cheddar
  • Salt 

Method

  1. Set your barbecue up to cook fairly low and slow, around 130c to 150c. We used a Weber 57cm Master Touch set up using the snake method.  
  2. Chop your beef shin into cubes around 2” square. Place them in a bowl, coat with rapeseed oil and then liberally apply your rub/s of choice, giving the beef a good mix to ensure everything is fully coated.  
  3. Place your beef on the cooker and smoke until it is a beautiful dark mahogany colour. Expect this to take around 2-3 hours. 
  4. While your beef is cooking, prepare the ingredients for your stew. You can chop everything as finely or coarsely as you like. Be sure to have your spice paste ready so that everything can be added fairly quickly – you don’t want to be prepping while things burn over the heat!  
  5. About 15-20 minutes before you think your beef will be done, light about 2/3 of a chimney starter full of good quality briquettes, if using a charcoal barbecue.  
  6. Once the beef is the right colour, remove it from the cooker and put it aside. Set your cooker up with a direct heat that can go roughly beneath the pan in which you’ll cook your chilli.
  7. Carefully cut the beef into still smaller cubes. You want these to be around 1/3 to 1/2 inch squared, but you can choose to go smaller or bigger depending on your preference.  
  8. At this point, there should be no more prep to do except chopping the coriander and juicing the limes to finish the stew, as well as preparing garnishes. If you’re ready with all the stew ingredients, let’s get building our flavours!  
  9. Place your Dutch oven or pan over the heat on your barbecue and melt your cooking fat of choice. We used duck fat in the video because we had some to hand, but any cooking fat will do provided it has a nice high smoke point.  
  10. When the fat is hot, fry off your streaky bacon for a few minutes until it is starting to crisp and brown.  
  11. Toss in the onion and the garlic and stir, before adding the peppers and allowing the rawness of these ingredients to cook off. You’ll want to stir fairly constantly at this point.  
  12. When the veg is sweated down a little, add the tomato purée and your beautiful spice paste and again cook off the rawness with a few minutes of stirring over the heat.  
  13. Add the smoked beef shin and stir everything thoroughly to ensure it is properly incorporated. 
  14. Add the beer, give it all a stir and reduce the liquid down to cook off some of the bitter alcoholic notes. 
  15. When your beer has reduced, add the stock, give everything a good stir then add your pinto beans and the fresh red and green chillies.  
  16. Leave this to come up to a simmer with the Dutch oven lid off but the barbecue lid on, then give it a stir, return the lid to the Dutch oven and let it cook away, checking and stirring every 10-15 minutes, adding water if the sauce becomes too dry.
  17. Cook the chilli until the beef is falling apart with no resistance, which you can expect to be several hours. If you’re in doubt, just try a mouthful and you’ll know it’s ready according to your own tastes. 
  18. Any time before the chilli is ready, prepare your garnishes of choice. In the video we used a fair number of garnishes, but you should go with what you like.  
  19. Just before serving, stir through the handful of coriander and juice of two limes, taste your chilli and salt to taste. Remove from the heat and allow to rest for anything from 10 minutes to half an hour, ensuring the lid is kept on.  
  20. Serve on rice or a buttered jacket potato and top with the garnishes.  

 

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