Monday 17 February 2014

Chilli con Carne with cornbread topping

Chilli con Carne is one of our old perennials - a dish that appears on our menu again and again. It is nutritious, filling, tasty and warming, a winner in every respect. It is also a tolerant dish - one that requires no finnicky cooking techniques, keeps warm for ages without spoiling, warms-up readily the next day (great as a filling for jacket potatoes) and is a dish that almost everyone likes. What could be better?

When we make "chilli", we normally use minced beef, but I believe it is more authentic to use meat that is cut into pieces, so this time round I am using cubes of "stewing beef". I don't claim that my recipe is authentic, by the way, but I do guarantee that if you make it my way you will get a great-tasting dish!

A classic accompaniment for Chilli con Carne is cornbread (made with corn meal or polenta). My dish has a topping of cornbread, just like the layer of mashed potato on top of a Cottage Pie. If you want the recipe for my cornbread, you can find it here:- Cornbread recipe 

My not-so-secret ingredient is the Chipotle, a type of chilli that is not hot, but mellow and smoky. It adds a warm savouriness to any dish. Furthermore, it is authentically Mexican! It is a dried, smoked chilli and needs to be re-hydrated before using. I use about 4 or 5 of them for a dish of this size, soaking them in hot water for an hour or two beforehand.

Chilli con Carne with cornbread topping (serves 4)

Approx 400g diced stewing beef
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 tin (400g) chopped tomatoes
1 tin (400g) red kidney beans
500ml beef stock
4 or 5 chipotle chillis (re-hydrated, soaking water retained)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp dried Oregano
1 tsp hot chilli powder (NB: adjust according to taste and to strength of your chilli powder!)
1 large fresh chilli, de-seeded and chopped (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Approx 3 tbsp vegetable oil, for frying

Heat the oven to 150C
Using about 2 tbsp oil, brown the meat in a hot pan, then set aside temporarily on a plate
Use the remaining oil to cook the onion in the same pan, over a lower heat, ensuring it softens but doesn't go brown (approx 5 mins)
Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring gently to ensure it doesn't scorch
Add all the remaining ingredients except half of the stock; mix thoroughly
Cover the pan and place in oven
Cook until the meat is very tender (approx 2 hours), stirring occasionally and adding more stock if the consistency is too dry
Remove pan from oven
Remove and discard the whole chipotles
Set the dish aside to cool

Approximately 45 minutes before serving time, prepare the cornbread topping (see recipe HERE )
[By this time the chilli beef should have cooled and become fairly firm.]

Pour the cornbread batter over the beef and distribute evenly - it will be quite thick and you probably won't be able to pour it.

Cook at 200C (Fan 180C) for approx 30 minutes - until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
By this time the beef should have warmed up again, but if you judge that it is not sufficiently hot before the cornbread begins to get too brown, cover it with a piece of kitchen foil for the last few minutes.

Serve, accompanied with salad or hot vegetables.(Green beans are particularly good with chilli, as is Guacamole.)

I also recommend a robust red wine, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Shiraz - something that will not be overpowered by the spicy heat.

Note: I think I made the beef part of this dish too dry. It needed more moisture. I'll remember that next time.

P.S. The leftovers were used (as suggested above) as a filling for some jacket potatoes:-

I'm putting this forward as my entry for this week's Harvest Monday over on Daphne's Dandelions on the strength of the beans, which were home-grown ones from the freezer. Other than a few herbs I have no harvests to report this week.


  1. Yum. I use minced beef for chilli too, I've never made it with stewing beef so I'll have to remember this.

  2. This is something my sister makes regularly but not something I have ever mafe - I guess it's the word chilli that puts us off

  3. I can't for the life of me eat minced meat of any kind. A bit like you with fish childhood memories & all that. I either use quorn mince or stewing steak. Lately we have just been using mixed beans & almost always have cornbread with it. I have never tried it on top though so I will give that ago. If I don't have any Chipotle in stock I tend to put a spoon of smoked paprika in instead.

  4. Even though I can't eat chili anymore I still make if it for my husband. I've been making it with ground turkey (healthier for him) and beans, which is not authentic in the least. Real Texas chili has no beans at all and they would laugh at me for using turkey. I like it though as it is one of the easiest ways of all to get my husband to eat vegetables.

  5. what a wonderful idea to create the cornbread topping... that looks so wonderfully moreish and superbly comforting... I love this dish. xx

  6. I've never tried chipotles in chili but I love them in other bean dishes. I think they do add a lot of flavor without too much heat. And chili with baked potatoes is a classic combination too. Funny, but suddenly I am hungry after reading this!

  7. I love the look of this, we make chilli all the time but never with stewed beef. What are the variety of green beana you put with it? They look fantastic.

    1. Jenni, the beans were my old favourite "Cobra" - they are the best by far!

  8. Looks yummy, Mark. I am so glad you showed us this, as I make a dish quite like it, but with minced or ground beef, pinto beans and tomato soup, plus chopped celery and onion It is a quicker version, and has cornbread on top. I had forgotten about it for a long time!! So will be making it again soon. My recipe doesn't have the chili flavor, but that is an idea.

  9. My last batch of chili was far from authentic with the use of ground pork - gasp! But I used ground dried New Mexico chile peppers that I grew last year. It is a flexible and versatile dish. Chipotles sound
    like a delicious addition.

  10. Nothing like chili on a cold winter day. Corn bread is the perfect compliment to chili. I haven't tried making it on top of the chili. Actually real Texas chili has no beans, tomatoes, and possibly onions. Just meat and chili powder, but I make mine much like yours, with stew beef. Have you tried making your own chili powder? If you can get the dried chilis it's really quite easy, and the flavor is light years better than the commercial stuff.

  11. Can't beat chilli con Carne,...Great recipe, thanks for sharing....



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