I think at this time of the year, spiced foods really come into their own. There’s nothing more satisfying than coming in from the cold after raking leaves or watching a football match to a bowl of something hot with a bit of a kick to it.
With the vast array of pastes, spice blends and tinned beans on the market it’s not difficult to throw together a chilli. But I believe you need to invest a bit time to make a really good chilli. Many of us wouldn’t bulk at creating a masala or paste from scratch for a curry so why should the humble chilli fare any differently? It really is worth seeking out the dried chillies. They provide a far more intense smokey and fruity flavour that you really don’t achieve with a shop bought paste or even fresh chillies. Don’t be alarmed about the quantity of chillies in this recipe – the seeds are removed from the dried chillies before they are added to the paste. You can also control the heat through the amount of cayenne you add. Yes, there are a lot of ingredients in this recipe but once you’ve got it underway it pretty much looks after itself. All it requires is a bit of forward planning.
The main benefit of this recipe is that it makes quite a substantial amount so is great for feeding a crowd. Alternatively any left overs can be frozen. It’s not a meal that can be pulled together in 30 minutes but I promise you it is worth the effort and the wait. This recipe is largely inspired by The Complete Mexican Cookbook by Lourdes Nichols.
Ingredients for the beans
- 225g dried black beans
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 1 onion, peeled and halved
- 2 green chillies
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- To begin, you need to prepare the beans by soaking them over night. The following day, put the beans in a large saucepan with the garlic, half the onion and one whole chilli. Just cover the beans with water (say by 1cm) and bring to the boil. Boil rapidly for 10 minutes then reduce the heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the beans are just tender (add a little more water if the beans look like they are getting dry)
- Whilst the beans are cooking, chop the remaining half of onion. Deseed and chop the other chilli. Fry the onion and chilli in vegetable oil until tender.
- Remove the garlic, onion and chilli from the bean pot. Add the salt, sugar and fried onion/chillies. Return to a boil and continue to cook for 10 minutes or so until the bean liquor has reduced (the beans should just be bathed in liquid rather than swimming around in it). Reserve until you are ready to add them to the chilli.
Ingredients for the chilli
- 1 each of the following dried chillies ancho, mulato, pasilla and chipotle (these can be ordered from companies like Mex Grocer or Sous Chef)
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp dried epazote or dried oregano
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 3 cloves
- ½ tsp cumin seed
- ½ tsp aniseed
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- ¼-1 tsp cayenne pepper (it depends on how hot you like it – don’t forget about the dried chillies!)
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 100g tomato puree
- 2 tbsp raisins
- 175ml chicken stock
- 1 tbsp cider vinegar
- 3-4tbsp vegetable oil
- 500g minced venison or minced beef
- 1 x 390g tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 red, 1 green and 1 yellow pepper, deseeded and chopped
- 25g finely grated pure unsweetened chocolate or 85% coco solids dark chocolate
- A squeeze of lime plus salt and pepper to season
- Chopped coriander to garnish
- Soak the chillies in boiling water for at least 15 minutes or longer if you have the time. Remove the seeds and any membranes or tough stalks before roughly chopping and putting them in a food processor.
- Put all of the dried spices and herbs in a spice mill or coffee grinder (I’d start with ¼ tsp cayenne pepper – you can always add more later if it’s not hot enough). Grind to a fine powder then add to the food processor along with the garlic, onion, tomato puree, raisins, chicken stock and vinegar. Blitz until combined to a thickish paste.
- Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large lidded frying pan over a high heat. Brown the minced meat in the oil breaking up any clumps that have formed. Once the meat is browned reduce the temperature slightly then add the chilli paste (if the meat seems to be really sticking you can add another tablespoon of oil). Fry until fragrant before adding the tomatoes and the beans with their reduced cooking liquor. Cover and bring to the boil then simmer for 40 minutes stirring occasionally. If at any point the chilli seems dry, add a little more boiling water but not too much as you don’t want the end result to be too soupy.
- Whilst the chilli is cooking heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a different frying pan. Fry the pepper pieces until just beginning to take on some colour. Add to the chilli at the end of the cooking time along with the finely grated chocolate and continue to cook for a few minutes. Add a squeeze of lime juice and more salt and pepper if required (plus more cayenne if desired). Serve with plain boiled rice, salted tortilla chips, guacamole and a bit of grated cheese.