Here is a proper recipe for chilli con carne: ‘proper’ not necessarily because it’s authentic but because it takes time, uses good quality ingredients and avoids the convenient shortcuts (tinned beans, minced meat) that make chilli such a popular meal with students. You need to plan ahead, soaking the beans overnight and setting aside enough time to chop the meat by hand. My recipe for both the chilli and the avocado salsa – a contrasting cold garnish added at the end – is based on Delia Smith’s version in her Winter Collection (1995).
500g braising steak, cut into very small pieces
250g black beans
40g fresh coriander (leaves reserved for salsa)
4 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions
2 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
2 large green chillies
1 tbsp plain flour
2 tins chopped tomatoes + ½ tin water
2 large red peppers
1 lime, juiced
For the salsa
3 large, firm tomatoes
2 ripe, firm avocadoes
1 small red onion, finely chopped
Reserved chopped coriander leaves
1 lime, juiced
1 red chilli, finely chopped
A few drops of Tabasco sauce
Salt and pepper
6 tbsp crème fraîche
You will also need a large oven-proof casserole with a lid.
Cover the beans with water and soak them overnight. When you’re ready to start cooking, pre-heat the oven to 140 fan.
Strip the leaves off the coriander stalks and set aside. Chop the stalks very finely. Heat 2 tbsp oil in the casserole and cook the onions, garlic, coriander stalks and chillies gently for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate, add the rest of the oil to the casserole, turn the heat up high and brown the meat in two or three batches. Return everything to the casserole and sprinkle in the flour, stir it in to soak up the juices, then add the drained beans, followed by the tomatoes + water. Stir well and bring up to simmering point. Don’t add any salt at this stage (it prevents the beans from softening) – just put the lid on and transfer the casserole to the oven to cook for an initial 1½ hours.
Towards the end of that time, de-seed and chop the peppers into smallish pieces. Stir into the meat and beans and return it all to the oven for a further 30 minutes’ cooking.
To make the salsa: skin the tomatoes by pouring boiling water over them, leaving for 1 minute and then slipping off the skins. Halve each tomato, extract and discard the seeds, then chop the flesh finely. Chop the avocados into very small dice and do the same with the onion. Combine everything together, along with your finely-chopped red chilli, in a bowl, adding seasoning, lime juice (to taste), half the chopped coriander and a few drops of Tabasco.
Before serving the chilli, add salt to taste. Stir in the rest of the coriander leaves and lime juice. Serve with rice, salsa and crème fraîche.