I had an urge to make a proper chili. Not the kind made with ground beef and a thin red sauce, like a Bolognese pasta sauce with a little spice thrown in. I was after a rich and hearty stew with large chunks of soft beef, dark brown with caramelisation and layers of complex flavour.
Chili is the state dish of Texas. I’m sure there are people out there who have devoted their whole lives to making the stuff. There are competitions, chili-making clubs, secret techniques and many, many books devoted to the subject.
Two aspects of this Texas chili I knew I wanted before I began: larger pieces of meat, as I mentioned before, and I knew I wanted to make the sauce with beer. When you are trying to build layers of flavour in cooking, you go for nice things right from the beginning. So not using just any cheap can of lager, but a craft ale that tastes rich and malty.
I researched mainly from a meat cooking guru that I’ve recently found. His name is ‘Meathead’ so I don’t feel I need to say anything more. His website, Amazing Ribs opened my eyes to the ‘reverse char’, a technique of sealing a steak after it’s been cooked on indirect heat. I suppose its treating a steak in the same way you would a slow-cooked piece of meat, which takes a little longer but the result is amazingly tender, evenly cooked steaks that you would only dream of eating in a 5 star restaurant.
After looking around on a few sites and in books (I feel its important to be authentic when claiming its a Texas chili!) I decided on my own recipe. I’m always mindful of cooking for kids so I always opt for less heat than I find in some recipes and my husband and I tend to add jalepenos, tabasco and the like at the eating stage. Other great ingredients I love in this chili are a little smoked bacon, since I don’t have a meat smoker at home this easily adds a little background note of smoky flavour, some kidney beans for added texture and fiber, and the piece de resistance: some good quality dark chocolate.
Actually while I was making this recipe I realised that this would be a perfect meal for someone who’s just had a baby. All that iron from the beef, the whole bottle of good quality beer which really helps stimulate milk production, the added fiber in the beans and of course the dark chocolate. Plus just the good feeling that you get when eating rich and warming food like this. Spices are so nice when we need to feel restored. I’m definitely going to make this again this week for a good friend who’s just had a baby.
Here is your Texas chili recipe:
- 600g stew beef
- 5 strips of smoked streaky bacon
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 red capsicum
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 bunch chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves and stalks separated
- 1 tbsp muscavado sugar
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp fennel seed
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 star anise
- 1 tbsp ketchup
- 1 bottle of good quality, dark beer
- 1 can of tomatoes
- 1tbsp dark chocolate, chopped
- 1 can of kidney beans, drained
- Salt and pepper
- Freeze the beef for 1 hour then cut into smaller pieces. (partially frozen beef cuts much easier)
- Add the spices, sugar, salt and pepper to the meat and stir well. Heat some olive oil in a large dutch oven until hot. Seal the meat on all sides to get a dark brown colour. Set aside.
- Heat some more oil in the pan and add the onion, carrots, pepper and chopped coriander stalks. When soft, add the garlic and cook for another minute.
- Add the ketchup, can of tomatoes, beer and the meat back to the pan.
- Add the dark chocolate, star anise and stir.
- Bring to a low boil partially and let cook for an hour.
- Check to see how the liquid has reduced and stir well. Cover completely and lower heat to a simmer. Cook for another hour, checking occasionally for too much or too little evaporation. You want the liquid to reduce down by half at least. If it is going too fast, add a little more beer or water. If it is not reducing down enough, keep the heat at a boil and the lid off.
- Add the beans towards the end and stir to heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with a garnish of coriander leaves, chopped spring onion and sour cream.