Chili con carne with a mexican twist

The temperatures drop, the sun decides to take a leave of absence for a couple of days and raindrops play a symphony on the window and I instantly crave the things my mum used to makes on such cold winter days. You see thunder storms remind me of being in my mum’s kitchen watching her make awwameh. Rain brings back memories of soups stews and the smell of cinnamon and toasted almonds.

When I was a kid, my mum used to make something very similar to the chili con carne recipe I am sharing today only she used to use green pepper and add mushrooms to it. We used to call it red bean stew, it was a favorite on cold rainy days with a bowl of rice.

Now I use this recipe and I still occasionally add mushrooms to it just for old times sake. I love telling friends and company that this chili con carne has two secret ingredients in it, chili fans quickly guess the chocolate one but the marjoram is rarely on the guess list. You really can’t taste either secret ingredient but they do add a depth of flavor to the finished dish. Speaking of flavor,this is actually one of those recipes that tastes better the next day, time allows all the flavors to mix and develop beautifully so you may want to make extra to enjoy the next day . You can also freeze any left overs and you have instant comfort food at your disposal, just defrost heat and enjoy.

Chili con carne

recipe from BBC good food 

3 tablespoon oil

1 large onion finely chopped

1 red pepper finely chopped

2 garlic cloves , peeled

1 heaped teaspoon hot chilli powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

500g lean minced beef

400g can chopped tomatoes (I used fresh chopped tomatoes)

½ tsp dried marjoram (I used 2 teaspoons)

small piece of chocolate (about the size of your thumbnail)

2 tablespoons tomato purée

410g can red kidney beans

soured cream, cheddar cheese and plain boiled long grain rice , to serve


  1. Start cooking. Put your pan on the hob over a medium heat. Add the oil and leave it for 1-2 minutes until hot (a little longer for an electric hob). Add the onions and cook, stirring fairly frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are soft and slightly translucent.Tip in the garlic, red pepper, chilli, paprika and cumin. Give it a good stir, then leave it to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Brown the mince. Turn the heat up a bit, add the meat to the pan and break it up with your spoon or spatula. The mix should sizzle a bit when you add the mince. Keep stirring and prodding for at least 5 minutes, until all the mince is in uniform, mince-sized lumps and there are no more pink bits. Make sure you keep the heat hot enough for the meat to fry and become brown, rather than just stew.
  3. Making the sauce. Add the chopped tomatoes. Tip in the marjoram, and add a good shake of salt and pepper. Squirt in about 2 tbsp of tomato purée and stir the sauce well.
  4. Simmer it gently. Bring the whole thing to the boil, give it a good stir and put a lid on the pan. Turn down the heat until it is gently bubbling and leave it for 20 minutes. You should check on the pan occasionally to stir it and make sure the sauce doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan or isn’t drying out. If it is, add a couple of tablespoons of water and make sure that the heat really is low enough. After simmering gently, the saucy mince mixture should look thick, moist and juicy.
  5. Bring on the beans. Drain and rinse the beans in a sieve and stir them into the chilli pot and add the chocolate. Bring to the boil again, and gently bubble without the lid for another 10 minutes, adding a little more water if it looks too dry. Taste a bit of the chilli and season. It will probably take a lot more seasoning than you think. Now replace the lid, turn off the heat and leave your chilli to stand for 10 minutes before serving, and relax. Leaving your chilli to stand is really important as it allows the flavours to mingle and the meat.

Other ways to enjoy chilli

Serve it on a bed of plain, boiled rice, with a spoonful of soured cream on top.

Pile it on tortilla chips and sprinkle it with grated cheddar.

Wrap it up in a tortilla with shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes and guacamole for a great burrito.