Help! I’m overwhelmed! I think I’ve gotten myself in over my head when even my notoriously good organizational skills are breaking down. It’s because of all good stuff—my column, this blog, Christmas preparations, college applications etc.—but I’m clearly falling down on the job here by not posting frequently enough….do I hear a new year’s resolution coming on?
Anyway, earlier this week, the snow was the final blow to my well-laid plans. And, when the going gets tough, what am I likely to do? Head to the kitchen, of course! I find that at this time of year, it’s very comforting to know there’s a big pot of something or other hanging around that can make a great lunch, soothing dinner for whomever may appear, or just pinch hit if I get carried away on something and a meal sneaks up on me, my family resembling baby birds cheeping away, “feed me! Feed me!”
Thus, I decided it was the time for Christmas week chili. Now I’ve had various obsessions with various chili recipes through the year. This one is especially good I think, because of the “secret ingredient” which makes it deep, dark and delicious. It’s my own take on one of Nigella’s recipes, and, while the original is very good, mine is even easier and more highly spiced. Not to say it’s hot, because it isn’t! Someone here doesn’t groove on heat—and he knows who he is—but the savory richness of this makes me forget my previous love affair with the ole’ widow maker.
Clare’s take on Nigella’s Chili Con Carne
2 large onions, chopped but not too finely
3 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
A dollop of olive oil
2 teaspoons chili powder
3 teaspoons ground coriander
3 teaspoons ground cumin
6 cardamom pods, bruised
3 red bell peppers, chopped but not too finely
3 ½ lb. coarsely ground beef
228-ounce-cans of diced Marzano tomatoes
½ cup ketchup
1 small can, tomato paste
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (aforementioned secret ingredient)
1 large can of dark red kidney beans
Sauté onion and garlic in a large, and I mean large, pot in some olive oil. Once they begin to soften, add the chili powder, coriander, cumin and cardamom pods and stir well. Add chopped red peppers and stir well. When all of that is nicely softened, but not browned, add ground beef and stir constantly as it browns. It’s not going to get but so brown because it’s such a lot, but don’t worry about it.
Add the tomatoes, kidney beans, ketchup, tomato paste and enough water to make it the correct consistency—i.e. as thick as you like it to be. When it starts to boil, sprinkle the cocoa powder in, stir well and simmer partly covered for 1 ½ hours. It’s ready then to serve or freeze, but lasts beautifully in the fridge for several harried days.
Nigella makes a corn bread topping for hers, which I don’t because it distresses me on subsequent days. What I DO do, however is make cornbread muffins in which I put tons of cinnamon and corn (frozen and lightly cooked is fine) which doesn’t upset me the next day when they are NOT a yawing, corny hole peaking into a chili abyss. Anyway, serve it with sour cream, cheddar cheese grated on the large side and chopped scallions and boy, oh boy, you won’t even CARE that you’re not accomplishing anything you set out to do!