Is it Chilli? Or is it Me?
Chilli con Carne, still a favourite for me, in English, chilli with meat, so is it Spanish? Or is it Tex/Mex? In my house it’s an English dish! Chillies, tomatoes and for my dish, chocolate, are all South American. Something like 3 thousand years of Mayan history involved in chocolate and chillies, chocolate was only ever made into a drink, and was flavoured in various ways but mainly with chillies. The conquistadors brought chocolate, chillies, peppers and tomatoes back to Spain. Most prized was chocolate, worth its own weight in gold and was kept secret in Europe for 200 years. Confusingly the beans were called cacao, the rest of the world still calls it this. We English misheard or misspelt this and called it cocoa. There is a record of an English privateer (pirate ship really) hauling in a Spanish Galleon, killing all the crew for the gold, but all the holds were full of black beans, mystified they could only imagine it was worthless ballast and scuttled the ship! Chocolate as we know it didn’t actually appear till the late 19th century, and rose to fashion in the early 20th
Chillies, the bad boys of the fresh produce and spice rack, they should be given an ASBO. I wouldn’t mess with the real thing, I would lose. I stick to mild chilli powder, and use it carefully, I know some like it hot, but if I wanted my head blown off, I would suck on a 12 bore, it would be a lot less painful. Chillies cause pain, because the molecules of the active ingredient are the chemical equivalent of barbed arrow heads, they enter the taste buds and stay, causing irritation, water or lager only causes more irritation, fat will soothe it. After a while they dissolve.
So, why would I consider my chilli to be English, some years ago I was making some while drinking lager and I thought a can or two in the pot would improve the flavour, and it did. I’ve tried various beers and the very best for this is Black Sheep, second best is Old Peculiar. It doesn’t get more English than good Masham Ale lad.
My Chilli con Carne
In a large pot fry off 6 diced onion, in small batches fry off in a sauté pan 3 kg of mince beef, add 2 dsps of plain flour and stir pot, drain 6 cans of red kidney beans and add to pot, add 2 bottles of Black Sheep or Old Peculiar, add a whole tube of tomato puree, add 4 cans of chopped tomatoes, add a head of garlic skinned and crushed with salt, add 2 by 100g bars of chocolate 72% or more cocoa solids, Chilli is up to you, but I use half a pot of Swartz mild chilli powder, bang in the oven for at least3 hours.