Friday, June 16, 2006

The vagaries of Chilli Con Carne

Ok so first off is it 1 L or 2? Americans appear to use 2 and, as the dish is generally agreed to have originated there, I am guessing they are right. It's difficult to drop that extra L though, so I will stick with it for now. Oh and yes, it would appear to be a common myth that it originated in Mexico, certainly in it's popular form.

Anyhow. My Chilli Conks are fairly simple affairs involving Tomatoes, onions, Kidney beans, steak mince, chillis, chilli powder, tabasco, tomato puree, garlic, cumin, sometimes beef stock, Marmite (trust me people) and salt. And about 2-3 hours cooking time.

I cook mainly in a Wok, which is great for Currys and OK for chilli, my Wok is vast. However I don't have a lid and both my friend Mike and my Mum appear to have the same 'arse end' of old pressure cookers that serve as brilliant chilli pots. They are really big and have a dense base, which prevents burning over long cooking periods and just make ideal chili pots. I have 1 good pan. It's my Wok, and the fella is getting on a bit having suffered a few too many 'fill it to the brim with curry' sessions. Along with various drunken stir frys, noodle dishes, fried rice experiments, potato and spinach side dishes and anything else you care to imagine.

So I have decided that I need a good dedicated Chilli Pot. I have a few options in mind but am tempted by the vaunted pressure cooker option. To justify the purchase of a new Pressure cooker, I would need to use it as such. Which would be novel as I have no idea how one is supposed to pressure cook something. I am guessing it doesn't involve shouting 'FASTER, or the bunny gets it!' at it.

So either I try to locate a good retailer of dedicated dense based pots of immense capacity, buy a pressure cooker or locate an 'arse end of an old pressure cooker' option.

Once I have my new specialised equipment (I already have a wooden spoon) he will need to be named. My options are:

1) Bernie.

2) Trogdor : The Burninator - a tribute to one of my favourite sites Homestarrunner. In particular this particular Strong Bad email : How to draw a Dragon

I also found a great website, home of the International Chili Society!. The great thing is that they post recipes of past winners of the World Championship Chili Cookoff. So I plan to sample new recipes! I am gonna try some of them non minced meat recipes. I might even try the one that has sausage in it. Seriously check them out!

This is were my American friedns coem in! :D You can help by translating those weird American ingrediants into something I can understand. Like Wesson Oil - that's just vegetable oil right? Tins of tomatoe sauce, that like puree? It's all very confusing. So come people, pull together so I can make international championship standard Chilli Conk!


lunaliar said...

First, it's "Chili" to eat, but "Chilly" when slightly cold, but in Spanish it's "Chile" for the use of "Chile peppers" and yes, it did originate in Mexico. Chile con carne means "meat and chili." Pressure cooking is termed as such because the steam is captured, and does not escape as the water in the food is evaporated, which will expand, which will result in increased pressure. The pressure makes meats tender and chili more dense and creamy, cooked throughout without stirring.

I don't think you should buy a pressure cooker, but if you want to cook good chili, get a nice Dutch oven, cast iron is preferable. It will never die no matter how much you mistreat it and you can use it to make some breads in the oven.

Best kitchen investment ever.

lunaliar said...

Wesson Oil is just a brand, you can use whatever oil you like. However, once I rinse my turkey (I often make 5 bean turkey chili) I add just a touch of expeller pressed canola oil to the Dutch oven to sautee my onions, garlic and mushrooms, and chile if I'm using the really spicy stuff.

Tomato sauce is puree, yes, but a very viscous puree. I like to use crushed tomatoes.

MattJ said...

I was aware of the use of the word Chilly :P, I am British afer all and we have to use the word a lot lol!

Chilli appears to also be an acceptable spelling of Chili according to the dictionary as a 'variation on Chili', so I am therefore allowed to keep using it lol!

Mr Wikipedia and the International Chili Society appear to disagree that it originated in Mexico, everyone seeming to think that it originated in Texas which surprises me as I would have thought Mexico too!

The Dutch Oven thingy doesn't appear to be available here, though it looks just to be a cast iron pot? Which agrees with my 'Big Heavy pan' theory lol! Just need to find a suitable recepticle!

Cheers for the igrediant translation! look out for more qyuestions int he near future lol! ;)

Olivia said...

Ah well, Luna said most of what I was going to say - and we are both Texans (I'm honourary).

Yes, chili originated in Texas. I would say on the ranches and on long cattle drives. Easiest thing to cook on the range.

Wesson is corn oil. (Too bad we don't have canola in the UK, Luna. But Matt it is a nice light mix of corn and rapeseed oils.)

Of course normal or light olive oils are perfect subs!

I'd use crushed tomatoes too, and you can get all sorts in tins here as well.

You might enjoy a turkey mince chilli, I'd like to know what you think. It's tender. Also good for spaghetti bolognese.

You can get a dutch oven here, my mum did 20+ years ago, just go to John Lewis and ask, the older ladies there will know. Maybe it has another name now.

MattJ said...

hmmm. I am nearly 30, this now gives me the right to fear change! turkey chilli smacks of Witchery to me!

Cows belong in Chillis, and no matter how many texan recipes I see with chicken and other bridies in 'em - this shall always be the way! hehe.

However, Chillied turkey/chicken is a different matter and clearly an entirely different dish :p

lunaliar said...

Well, since in Europe you don't have GMOs and beef inundated with antibiotics, hormones and steroids, I'm sure that the cow there is relatively pleasant to consume. But here, I wouldn't dare touch any kind of beef. I'm worried of all that crap interfering with how my body metabolizes toxins or naturally functions. Besides that, it has three times the cholesterol of any other kind of meat.


Olivia said...

LOL Luna I've just remembered the Ro-Tel ads. That was good stuff - all the seasoned canned tomato here is Italian style. No jalapenos, no way.

"Just Ro-Tel it!"

lunaliar said...

Liv, you wouldn't believe how many cans of Ro-Tel tomatoes and chiles I have in my cupboards. They were 10 for $5 recently, so I stocked up! It's so good. You can make guacamole, chile con queso, Mexican cornbread and all sorts of stuff by just adding a can of these frabjous toemayters! Ahhh... The joys of being a Texan... :)

MattJ said...

Well I made another chilli last night and it was vast in its hugeness. Also nice and tasty, bizarrely I added nutmeg and cinammon sticks and it seemed to work (along with bell peppers). I don't have the burninator yet so not tried a yank recipe!

Had a go at squooshing the tomatoes in with all the spices before cooking, seemed to work quite well. Anyway, cheers for the help, keep it comin! :P

Olivia said...

OMG 50 cents for a can of anything...!

*missing US prices*

*internal struggle*

Nooo! I am not going back!

Der Ozzman said...

Ah Ro-Tel is good stuff. You can't go wrong with Spicy.

I'm not sure I can trust you on the Marmite though Matt, that's some vile stuff.

Olivia said...

Oh yea, I forgot to comment on the Marmite. Wouldn't Worcestershire sauce do just as well?

lunaliar said...

Oh Liv, you're wise not to want to move to the US. The prices are low, the pollution is high and the people are morally void. Reason enough to run away, right?

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