Thursday, February 21, 2008

Chilli is the Spice of Life

About 2 weeks ago, something happened to me that does not happen very often but is serious when it does... I ran out of chilli powder! Now, I know that several of you who read this blog know about me and my chilli con carne.
For those who don't know, chilli con carne is my 'trademark' recipe. Now, I'm not saying that it is a very good recipe or that it is particularly delicious. It is simply a recipe that I know how to do very well, is cheap, very flexible and I can cook & serve it in less than half an hour. I try to always have the ingredients to serve 4 in the house to cook at short notice, although that doesn't always work out.
So, the other week, I was making chilli for tea. I was part way through and well beyond the point of no return, when I added the all-important chilli powder... and a very light dusting came out - and that was it! I looked at the tub and it was indeed empty! I was amazed firstly that I had managed to use a whole jar up, and secondly that I hadn't noticed that it was getting so low. I managed to make up for it with alternatives, but still!

So, I hear you wondering (possibly so quietly that even you can't hear it), what is this amazing recipe? Well, Marie once asked me what goes into chilli and I said that you needed: minced beef, some sort of beans and something spicy as a minimum. However, here is the slightly more advanced version...

Serves 4 hungry people (easily feeds 5) - can be doubled/trebled/halved as needed, ~100g meat per person.

You will need:

  • 500g/1lb minced beef/ground beef
    (I use lean/low-fat because it comes out less greasy and more tasty)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • a small amount of flavourless oil, eg. vegetable.
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped (any colour, though I think red looks best)

  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed/chopped very finely (optional)
  • 1 can (~400g) kidney beans in chilli sauce (in brine works, but doesn't taste as good)

  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • Tomato puree
  • 1 beef oxo (stock) cube
  • Chilli seeds in oil (comes in a small jar or a tube, usually in spice aisle)

  • and of course... Mild chilli powder (using mild gives more control over the strength)

  • A big wok or frying pan to cook it in!

What you have to do:

  1. Heat the oil in the pan over a medium heat (I usually put a tiny piece of onion in - when it starts to sizzle it's ready). Fry onion and garlic with 1tsp of chilli powder, until soft (2-3 mins).
  2. Add beef and fry until brown, stirring frequently.
  3. Sprinkle oxo cube over meat, add a good squirt of tomato puree (1-2 tsp), a good sprinkling of chilli powder (maybe 2tsp) and about 1 tsp of chilli-in-oil and stir in. Taste and add more powder/chillis as desired.
  4. Add beans and tinned tomatoes and stir in. Heat for a few minutes, until hot through. Add chopped pepper, stir in and simmer for a few minutes.
  5. Serve with rice (or pasta). Also good with sour cream or grated/shredded cheese on top. Nachos work well with it too.

There you go. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Ok, well, this is a little late, as we are now over a week into Lent.
In an attempt to become a more reliable blogger, however, I am going to write about it anyway.
This year, I have become more aware of Lent than I have in previous years. That may be connected to attending a 'higher' church this year (full bells & smells). Last Wednesday, we attended an Ashing Service. This was a normal communion service (except it was Wednesday) but it also included the vicar/priest putting ashes on our foreheads in the sign of the cross. This was to remind us that 'from dust you came and to dust you shall return' and as an outward sign of inward penitence/repentence (I think!).
The church is running a series of weekly Lent talks entitled 'Walk the Walk', focussing on different aspects of the Christian journey. This week's was by Margaret Sentamu (wife of John, Archbishop of York... the one who cut up his dog collar in protest against Mugabe). She spoke on 'Excess Baggage' and on the things that are holding us back from a fuller walk with God/Jesus. Her main quotation was 'Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives us something to do, but doesn't get us anywhere'.

In terms of what I've given up for lent... I have given up chewing my fingernails and have taken up having a proper breakfast everyday. So far, it's going well.

I have a couple of other posts planned... Watch this Space!