Halloween Two-Heat Chile Con Carne

Some-like-it-hot, some not. This version of chile con carne has proper chunks of meat and Mexican flavours, including their dried chillies, or chiles, as they call them in Mexico. Just before the meat goes in the oven, you can divide it into two pots, one hot with chillies and the other with the great fiesta of Mexican flavours, but without the heat, or with less, to suit all palates. If possible, make the dish a day in advance of eating, as the flavours improve with time.


2-4 chipotle chilles (depending on heat levels & the number of people who want a hot chile

̈- 2 ancho chillies

̈- 2 tbsp dripping or 
good lard or 3 tbsp 
olive or vegetable oil

̈- 3 large red onions, 

̈- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

̈- 1.8kg shin of beef, cut into large chunks

–  a large bunch coriander, stalks & leaves separated & chopped

– 2 tsp dried oregano ̈

2 bay leaves

2 tsp ground cumin ̈

1 x 6cm cinnamon stick

700g passata

– 500ml beef stock (instant is fine)

–  1 tbsp cider vinegar

1 tbsp dark muscovado sugar

20g dark chocolate


1. Put the chipotle and ancho chillies into hot water (leave them whole and with the seeds in) and leave to soak whilst you get on with the rest of the dish.

2. Preheat the oven to 150°C/Gas 2. Heat the dripping, lard or oil in a large pan and cook the onions over a medium-low heat for
10 minutes, or until soft, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic, beef, coriander stalks, herbs and spices to the softened onions and give it all a good stir. Add the passata, stock and cider vinegar. Season with 1⁄4 tsp flaky sea salt, the muscovado sugar and chocolate, broken into pieces.

3. At this point you can decide how many of your guests like hot food. If some are unlikely to want chillies, then put their portions
into another pot. Cut open the soaked dried chillies and discard three-quarters of their seeds. Finely chop the flesh add to the ‘hot’ pot, along with the soaking water and seeds. I tend to add some of the soaking liquid
to the ‘cool’ pot to give it a bit of flavour
and buzz.

4. Put a lid on the pots, bring to the boil and put in the preheated oven for 3 hours. Check occasionally and stir, adding a little more water if necessary.

5. While the chilli is cooking, prepare your bits and pieces for serving. Cut the red onion into very thin slices and put in a small bowl with a pinch of salt and the cider vinegar. Leave for at least 1 hour to make a quick, pink pickle.

6. Serve the chilli with rice and a swirl of sour cream, a spoonful of pink pickle, the sliced avocados, a dollop of refried beans, a scatter of chopped coriander leaf, nachos and lime wedges.

The extras that you serve with this dish make it beautifully colourful, with whites, pinks and greens against the dark meat. The bits and pieces don’t take long to do and make the meat go much further. At its simplest you could just serve the chile with rice, sour cream, coriander leaf and a wedge of lime, though I would be loathe to miss out the quick pickle, which takes just a minute to make and looks and tastes great.

Mexican dried chillies can be bought from a specialist (www.coolchile.co.uk) and some supermarkets and delis. Chipotles are smoked jalapeños and have some heat. Anchos are milder, dried poblano peppers.


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