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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Chilli Con Carne

I have had a surprising winter crop of capsicums that have even ripened to the crimson red shade.  I would have expected that my plants would not have fruited until spring or even summer as I know they are heat loving plants.  Perhaps, it is because the variety I have planted in my vegie patch is Californian Wonder and the fruit are on the US season mode.  Now while the capsicums harvested are not huge they are certainly flavoursome.  I found the smaller size capsicums do not grill to well in a hot oven, because by the time you remove the skin there is not much flesh left.  I needed to find a way to use my capsicums that highlighted their flavour and did them some justice.  For this I turned to the big US state of Texas where Chilli Con Carne is a staple.  While the dish has a Hispanic origin and the name is derived from the Spanish – chilli with meat – the Tex-Mex influence is where my recipe hails and it takes a sharp turn into Italian territory with a Pepperonata (Chilli Pepper Stew) style base.  My Chilli con Carne packs a punch of flavour from the fresh veg and spices and these ingredients are further resonated by the long slow cooking of the dish.  I left this recipe out for my dad (a big curry cook) and he was able to cook it perfectly (probably better than I would have…).  He even made some quick flour tortillas - whipped up with a mix of plain and wholemeal flour, a little sugar and hot water – and these went down a treat.
750g x Capsicum, seeds and membrane removed then diced
2 x medium onions, diced  
2 x large carrots, diced
4 x Garlic cloves, crushed
1kg x Mince Beef
1tbsp x Cumin powder
1tsp x Cayenne Pepper (or more if you like it hot…like me)
2 x Thyme sprigs, leaves removed
1tbsp x Dried oregano
½ cup White Wine
½ cup Red Wine
1tbsp x Dark Soy
1tbsp x Chilli Paste (Sambal Olek)
2tbsp x Tomato Paste
2 x Large Tomatoes diced (or ½ can Tomatoes)
1-2 cups of Chicken Stock  
400g x Kidney Beans, drained    
Prepare a mixture of the soy sauce, chilli paste (sambal olek), tomato paste and diced tomatoes.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot (dutch ovens are great for this)
Add the onion and brown gently then add crushed garlic, carrots and capsicum.  Cook gently, sweating down the vegetables.
Now add the mince and brown all over until there is no more pink visible. (You may want to brown the mince separately and dry up as much water as possible then add to heavy pot with vegies)
Turn the heat up slightly and sprinkle in the ground cumin, cayenne pepper, thyme and oregano and combine well, dry frying for about a minute.
Pour in the wines and allow the liquid to be reduced by a third.
The prepared soy and tomato mixture can be stirred in now.
Depending on how much liquid is in the dish at this point add stock accordingly. 
I suggest, start with 1 cup and add more if required  after a ½ hour of cooking.  You do not need an overly saucy finished dish.
Turn the heat to low and cover the pot.  Cook for at least an hour  This long slow cooking will ensure the ingredients are perfectly combined in harmony.
In the last 10 minutes of cooking stir in the drained Kidney Beans and allow to heat through.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream on top and guacamole and pickled jalapeños on the side.  Chilli con Carne can be eaten with rice or tortillas.  You can even go the Tex-Mex route and have a serve on a hot dog – you have a “Chilli Dawg” then.  

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