I know what you’re thinking, ‘What the bally heck has a leaf and a stick swimming in a sea of orange, got to do with chilli?’
Well, this is the thing, chilli is a funny old foodstuff if you ask me. It’s one of those meals everyone seems to learn to cook as soon as they fly the family nest to pastures new and independent. Consequently there are a plethora of recipes out there, not just on paper, but in people’s heads, about how to cook a chilli that will satisfy all on a cold, dark, night.
However, it’s not until you begin to look at other people’s recipes that, in my opinion, you begin to see a pattern emerging. There are certain ingredients that are a given. And then, every so often, up pops a little surprise and you think,
‘Well I never, I’m going to give that a go’
And so it was for me, with adding a bay leaf and stick of cinnamon to chilli. Which is what the leaf and stick, are. I would never in a month of Sunday’s thought that was a good idea, but I tell you what, I recommend it all the time now.
As for the other ingredients, I put in the following:
Onion, garlic, ground cayenne cumin and coriander, meat (or today, meat free soya alternative) tomatoes, tomato puree, stock cube (usually beef), boiling water and thyme. Salt and pepper to taste if necessary.
Then add the leaf and stick, and simmer.
Just before I wax lyrically about beans, just a little note regarding meat. I often cook this with minced beef, but occasionally use the soya alternative and sometimes just use vegetables. Whatever you decide to put into your chilli, what I do recommend is that you let everything sit in itself for a while. You know the thing, make it, turn it off and leave it, then come back to it later that day or the next, and just reheat. There is something about a chilli, like so many other one pot dishes, that improves with time.
Onto beans. For years I religiously tipped a tin of kidney beans into the chilli after twenty minutes or so, and thought nothing of it. However, recently a lovely friend of ours made us a chilli and put in haricot beans. The very same beans that are in tins of baked beans. And do you know, it was lovely. It was only then that himself admitted that actually, he wasn’t that keen on kidney beans in chilli, so ever since then I have used haricot.
It takes a while getting used to the different colour, but a sprinkling of fresh coriander always helps brighten any dish and compensates for the anticipated deep aubergine flecks.
Meanwhile, we have a new addition to our household. A thing of utter beauty who sounds as mellow as the maple tree she was made from. Yes, we have added to our increasing musical instrument collection and now have Bessie the double bass, lounging elegantly in a corner. I shall, of course, endeavour to keep you updated on progress as the year unfolds, but for now I must return to the chilli…