Monday, 30 January 2012

Beef Chili with Jalapeno Cornbread

When I was younger my parents had a cookbook called 'A Dinner a Day: Complete Meals for Every Weeknight of the Year' which, for a few short weeks we followed fanatically. It was a fantastic concept for family on-the-go; at the start of every week you bought the listed ingredients, stuck the menu on the fridge, and essentially cooked what the book told you to cook, each day a new meal, for the entire calendar year. The whole thing worked brilliantly for a little while, but we soon noticed the fatal flaw in the design - what do you do when you really love a recipe? Whether it be spaghetti bolognese, bangers and mash, or even a lovingly prepared beans on toast, there are some comfort foods that you simply cannot go much longer than a fortnight without enjoying. For my family, it's always been a good chili, and we were damned if we were going to let some book dictate the one day out of 365 when we could be cowboys. So we took the sensible route, held an intervention with ourselves, burned the book*, stuck patches on our arms and decided to go off-piste instead. I'm glad we did, because chili sure tastes good. (*it's still on the shelf in my parents' kitchen - don't burn books)
Chili is a very difficult thing to get wrong but, in my opinion, equally difficult to get dead right. It's something that I've been trying to perfect over a decade of cooking and I'm only now just about absolutely satisfied with my recipe. I've found, if you want to make that perfect chili, the one that doesn't just satisfy but actually wows people then you need three crucial elements; good meat, good chilis, and a good few hours. Once you've got that trifecta in your back pocket you can't go wrong, everything else just falls into place. 
As it is with 95% of the meals I cook, start off with a chopped onion and a few cloves of minced garlic softened in a bit of oil. Ditch the mince and go in with a couple of lightly floured stewing steaks - sear on both sides before hitting the pot with your spices.
At this point, it's a bit of a free-for-all and everyone has their own blend of herbs and spices they use, quite often dependent on what's sitting in the cupboard at the time. I try my best to stick as near as possible to the following; a teaspoon each of cumin, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, paprika, and celery salt, 2 of chili powder, and a good pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Grind it up in a pestle and mortar if you have one (I have two because I'm a kitchen dork) and add it all to the pan with a bit more oil, coating the meat on both sides. 
Once the meat has browned off nicely, throw in a good mug of quality coffee. Yeah, for real. The coffee gives the chili a really deep, rich flavour and since nicking the idea from a certain pukka TV chef several years ago I haven't looked back. At this point go in with your chopped tomatoes and about 400ml of beef stock. Turn the heat down, stick the cover on and set the timer for 3 hours - at least.
It was an old schoolfriend of mine who initially suggested the chili idea for the blog, requesting a 'blow your head off hot chili' that he could make at home. Challenge accepted. So, Saturday afternoon whilst I was busy watching the football I sent my girlfriend off into town on a chili pepper mission and she did not disappoint. I chose one of the scotch bonnets, scraped out the seeds (tiny little fire bombs) and blended it up with a clove of garlic and a decent glug of oil and red wine vinegar.
 Blended scotch bonnet pepper or, as I like to call it, 'napalm death juice'. Things not to do after handling this stuff; touch your eyes, touch your lips, touch your genitals, pick your nose, pick your friend's nose, touch your friend's genitals, change your contact lenses...the list goes on. If you get any of this on you just make sure you wash your hands. Again and again and again. Pour this into your chili, add a chopped up sweet red pepper, stick the lid on and try to forget about it.
After handling those chilis, you deserve a hops-based reward. Delicious beer this one, it had a surprisingly fruity peach taste. Not that I minded, but I felt surprisingly fruity myself drinking it.
I never used to like cornbread too much, but this recipe has truly converted me. Apart from being delicious, it is the easiest thing in the world to make. 380g of plain flour, 220g of cornmeal or polenta, 110g of sugar, 4 tsp of baking powder, a pinch of salt, 2 eggs, 480ml of milk and about 120g of melted butter. Mix it all together, stir in some sliced jalapenos, bake for about 20mins at 200C and you're good to go. This stuff is even better the next morning with some eggs and a tall cup of coffee.
With chili in mind and all that time to kill, try to get in as many cowboy-related activities as possible. Lasso a horse, round up cattle, wear a bad-ass hat. If none of that is at all achievable then sit down in front of a roaring campire (TV) with a packet of beef jerky. Try to get away with spitting on the floor.
After a good few hours of cooking, stick a few forks in and separate all of the meat - it should come away so easily, you'll wonder what you were ever doing with mince in the first place. Tip in a tin of kidney beans and let them heat through whilst your rice cooks. Chop up some spring onions, ready your sour cream and get stuck in. Yee-haw. (sorry, I couldn't resist)



  1. Massive fan of adding strong coffee to my chili too. Got the idea from the same chap! Guna try this bread methinks...

  2. yessir! i'll pretty much do whatever that man says! cornbread couldn't be it.

  3. Instead of adding the cup of coffee grind the beans/coffee granules down (heaped teaspoon would do nicely) add a little chocolate too, a little dark or some cocoa powder too this will blow your mind, add these two when you are browning the steak or mince!!!

  4. good shout on the chocolate, i'll give it a go next time!

  5. Fantastic blog! Great pictures and very funny writing. The absolute best things in life, food and funny :) I´ve been meaning to try a chili recipe for a while, maybe I´ll go for yours, it looks seriously tasty.

  6. Thank you very much, that's very nice of you to say! You can't beat a good chili and I highly recommend this one! Like my facebook page or follow me on twitter @fatboys_kitchen for new recipes!