Both my husband and I love a good chilli con carne. It was, I think, the first thing he ever cooked me. Those were in the early days when I thought that he could only cook items made with mince (chilli, spag bol and shepherds pie were the first three meals he made - much as I loved them, I was relieved when a beef and ale stew made an appearance).
The only problem with our love of chilli is the eternal debate as to what makes a really good chilli. We have quite different opinions on this matter. For him, chilli must be made with minced beef. Whilst I will concede that minced beef is the more traditional option, I actually prefer mine to be made with actual chunks of meat. Slow-cooked casserole-style.
We also disagree about what else should go into a chilli. My husband is keen to add whatever may be in the fridge/cupboards. This often involves sweetcorn. Much as I like sweetcorn, I do not like it in my chilli. Nor do I want carrots. Or mushrooms. Or courgettes. For me, onions, garlic, kidney beans and bell peppers are all I require.
Our final chilli dispute erupted one evening when I dared to served jacket potatoes alongside my chunky meat chilli. This was a step too far for my beloved. For him only rice will do. We do agree on the toppings though - guacamole, soured cream and a little grated cheese.
Last week, whilst taking stock of the surfeit of jars occupying 2 full shelves of my fridge, I spotted a half-used jar of chipotle chilli paste. This was last used to great success in my chipotle chicken stew. I decided to adapt my regular chilli recipe and use the paste to add a smoky richness to the dish. The result was something of a triumph - the flavour was fantastic and it was, I think, one of the best chillis I've ever made. A couple of squares of good dark chocolate added at the end also added an extra dimension as did the long, slow cooking. I couldn't help feeling that it would be rather good made with diced venison too. Another time, perhaps?
I can only apologise about the terrible photos - there must have been a smear on the camera lens...
Chipote chilli beef
Based on this BBC Good Food recipe
2 bell peppers (one red, one green)
2 heaped tbsp chipotle chilli paste
1 tsp ground cumin
500g diced stewing beef
1 400g tin tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried marjoram
410g tin of red kidney beans (or feel free to use other beans - black beans are good too)
2 squares good quality dark chocolate
To serve: your choice of soured cream, guacamole, fresh coriander, grated cheese, rice, tortillas etc...
1. Pre-heat oven to 170C*. Roughly chop onions and slice the peppers.
2. Heat a little oil in a casserole and then gently fry onions until they are transluscent and soft. Add the peppers and crushed or finely chopped garlic. Set to one side.
3. Add a little more oil to the pan if necessary and brown the meat on all sides. You may need to do this in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. Set meat to one side and put vegetables back into the pan.
4. Sprinkle over the cumin and marjoram and spoon in the chipotle paste. Give a good stir to combine and cook for a minute or two before re-adding the meat and stirring to combine.
5. Pour in the tomatoes and stock. Add sugar and plenty of salt and pepper and give it all a good stir. Bring up to simmering point.
6. Place lid on casserole and pop in the oven. Cook for at least forty-five minutes, but preferably longer at a lower temperature* if you have the time. Check on it every now and again and add a little more water/stock if it is drying out. After this time, add the kidney beans and cook for a further 15-20 minutes with the lid off if the sauce needs reducing somewhat.
7. Before serving, check the seasoning and add salt and pepper as required. Stir in the dark chocolate and sprinkle with fresh coriander before serving.
*As with many beef casseroles, this is better the longer and slower it is cooked. I brought mine to the boil on the boiling plate of the Aga and then tranferred to the simmering oven for 2 1/2 hours.