Saturday, 15 February 2014

My amazing black bean chili con carne

Today I give you one of my all-time favourite “stews“ which I've been making for almost twenty years now: my chili con carne with avocado salsa. I'm sure all (or most of you) have your own recipe that you swear by (and here's a really interesting article from The New York Times on this topic this week) but please give my version a try: the combination of black beans instead of kidney beans, finely chopped beef instead of mince and a few squares of dark chocolate transport this easy casserole to another culinary level! I got the idea of using the beans and steak combo from Delia Smith's "Winter Collection" cookbook, but her recipe was bereft of any spices, so I added my own sumptuously deep and smoky combination - heavenly! (This was in the days when “Delia“ was still a trusted-if-staid-force to be reckoned with in the kitchen – before she inexplicably crossed over to the “other side“ with her mad promotion of kitchen shortcuts using frozen mash – and tinned mince...)

450 g dried black beans
900 g stewing steak, cut into very small pieces*
1 large bunch of fresh coriander
4 medium onions
2 garlic cloves
2 green/red chillies, de-seeded and chopped (optional)
1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika
2 heaped tsp ground coriander
1 heaped tsp ground cumin
4 tablespoons oil
1 rounded tbsp plain flour
4 tins (400 g) chopped tomatoes
15g dark chocolate, chopped
1 red pepper
juice of ½ lime

1 ripe, firm avocado, diced
4 tomatoes, de-seeded and diced
½ red onion, finely chopped
juice ½ lime

crème fraîche or plain yoghurt to serve

Either pre-soak the beans overnight or start this recipe 3 hours ahead of time and begin by placing the beans in a large saucepan, covering them with cold water and boiling them for 10 minutes. Then turn the heat off and let them soak for 3 hours.
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan oven. Strip the leaves off the coriander stalks and set aside.
Chop the coriander stalks, onions, chillies and garlic finely (I use the food processor).
Heat half of the oil in a large casserole and cook the onion mix together with the spices gently for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a plate.
Heat the rest of the oil on high, add about a third of the beef and brown it well. Then remove and brown the rest in two batches.
Add the onion mix to the casserole and sprinkle in the flour, stir it in to soak up the juices, then add the drained beans and tomatoes. Add the chocolate, stir well and bring it up to simmering point. Don't add any seasoning at this stage – just put the lid on and cook in the oven for 2 hours.
Meanwhile de-seed and chop the pepper into smallish pieces. Then, when the time is up, add to the casserole, stir well again, put the lid back on and cook for a further 30 minutes.
Before serving add the lime juice and seasoning if necessary.

For the salsa combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Serve the chilli with plain white rice or baked potatoes and the coriander leaves sprinkled over.

(serves 8 - 10)

*It really doesn't take long to chop the beef by hand, but you can, of course, do this in a food processor - just pulse for a few seconds each time (so as not to turn it all into a mushy pulp).
Like any other stew or casserole this is even better when prepared a day (or two or three) in advance as the flavours just keep improving in the fridge!

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