Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Chilli con Carne

My Mexican inspired feast was shared with my friend, Em, who came up to Sydney from her southern coast home. I cooked chilli con carne, horchata (ground rice drink) and torta del garbanzo (chickpea cake).

I have always thought of chilli con carne as comfort food, even though I haven’t eaten it in some time since the “con carne” part isn’t really conducive to my vegetarian lover’s diet.

I really miss chilli con carne, although Jonas makes a good vegetarian version which we named chilli sin carne. Mexican Robot laughs hysterically at this and wonders what’s in it without the meat! To answer that intriguing question, Jonas uses a soy sausage sliced into thin rounds – otherwise the recipe is pretty much the same as the carnivorous one.

Still, nothing beats the food of your childhood.

I remember Dad would make chilli con carne all year round, a wonderful warm and filling meal that seemed to take forever to my young eyes. I used to watch him making it, smell the frying beef and the stewing tomatoes and grow increasingly hungry with anticipation. The time it took to simmer always seemed like hours and when making it for the very first time this weekend I was shocked at how fast it actually took.

The traditional recipe probably calls for stewing beef so that the chunks will flake apart after the long simmer, but I used my father’s own mince based recipe, devised from the Tex Mex he grew up on in California (the US state not Baja).

I made some slight alterations to my father’s recipe. I substituted a teaspoon of sugar for the sweet, smoky flavour of a chipotle; I added more lemon juice and a garlic clove and I garnished my food with sour cream and coriander (cilantro), which is a herb my father cannot stomach ever since, as a teen, I made him a Thai style tomato and coriander salsa that was so overloaded with coriander he swore off the stuff forever. Sorry Dad!

Chilli con Carne
Paul's recipe. Serves 5-6 people if served with rice.

500g minced beef
500g can crushed tomatoes
750g can kidney beans
Packet of Mexican style power (eg Old El Paso chilli, taco or burrito powder)
1 onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 chipotle chilli (from a can in adobo), chopped
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon oregano
Juice of ½ lemon
½ teaspoon cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper
JalapeƱos, chopped (to taste)
Sour cream and coriander to garnish

1. In a large pot, fry the garlic, chipotle and onions until soft.
2. Add the mince and cooked until browned.
3. Add the Mexican powder and stir through.
4. Add all the remaining ingredients except the lemon juice (including the juices from the bean can) and let it simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add the lemon juice and simmer for 5 more minutes.
6. Garnish with some sour cream and coriander. Serve with rice, flour tortillas or corn chips.


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