19 March 2011

A magnificent Chilli con Carne

Slow cooked, oven baked, Chilli con Carne
You'll recall from my last post, my dilemma in the butcher's when they didn't have any ham hocks, so I rapidly changed tack to Beef Shin.

At that stage, I didn't really have any idea what I was going to do with it - I just knew that the ingredients for the Ham Hock dish were fairly compatible with Beef Shin in one way or another, so I didn't need to buy anything else.  Which is good on two counts - one because I could do without spending more money and anyway, my back had run out of it's ability to support me when standing up.  So, having limped back to the car, I began to work on what I could use the shin for.

Shin of beef : before trimming
We'd had various stews of one sort of another just lately and I didn't really want to conjur up another stew-type thing (although the idea of dumplings did occur to me and, tempting as they are, were rejected on the "too much fat" front).

It was when the beans came to mind, that I considered doing a Chilli con Carne.  I knew that I had a tin of red kidney beans in the cupboard, chilli powder in the spice rack together with crushed red chillis and in the fridge, fresh red chillis.  I also remembered that I'd bought two tins of cherry tomatoes on the offchance that I'd need them.  It's always good to grab a couple of tins when you see them, as they are quite the best tinned tomatoes, I've discovered.  Yes, chilli con carne was the way to go.

We'd been wanting to try the more authentic way of making Chilli con carne - that is, with pieces of meat, rather than with mince, for a very long time - so this was my chance.  I even had a block of dark chocolate in the fridge, specifically for this sort of recipe.

Shin of beef - after trimming
Being shin, the meat would require long slow cooking in order to render out the fat and have it tender enough to be cut with a spoon.  The only sensible way to do this was to oven cook it in a casserole dish.  Now, I've done oven cooked chillis and bologneses this way in the past and find that the sauce tends to amalgamate better with less likelihood of it splitting, so that all made sense.

So having sat and thought about the recipe for a while, I set to with making it.

Dustbin 1
The shin really is glorious stuff, but it is essential that you have a sharp knife (and two eager hounds to act as dustbins) when trimming it up.  Without a sharp knife, I dare say I'd have lost patience with it and a good percentage of it would have gone into the dog, rather than into the casserole dish.

It's not difficult to trim of its fat and gristle, it's just a wee bit fiddly.  Still, you can see that once trimmed, you still have a good quantity of meat left from your 700g - and two happy dogs.

Dustbin 2
I began by sweating down one large chopped onion, the garlic and the chilli, then setting aside to keep warm, whilst I sear the meat.  That's the opposite way around to most people, but I think that the flavours of the onion, garlic & chilli get into the meat before they've all been introduced, that way.

It didn't take long to assemble, then it was into the oven, back out to be stirred and the moisture levels checked - I had to add a little water later on in the cooking - and add the beans at the last minute.

I served up with white rice and a dollop of greek yoghurt because it really was blisteringly hot flavour-wise.  The yoghurt isn't traditional but it was there as a survival technique for both son and myself.  We also like to sprinkle on a little grated cheese and some sultanas - but then I think we may be bit weird that way.

Searing the beef

Hubby's verdict, after the second mouthful, was that it was a magnificent chilli.  In my opinion, I'd consider it to be the best chilli I have ever produced - which considering the amount of chilli's (in their various forms) I have produced over the years, is definitely saying something!

Ready to go in the oven


Ingredients :

2 tbsp olive oil
700g beef shin, trimmed and cubed
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 red chilli, chopped, seeds left in
2 tsp hot chilli powder
tin cherry tomatoes
2 beef oxo cubes
200ml water
half a tsp of dried sage
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper
can of beans of your choice, red kidney or haricot are good
1-2 squares of very dark chocolate

Method :

1.  Pre-heat oven to 140deg C.

2.  In a deep sided frying pan, fry the onion in a tablespoon of olive oil until softened.  Add the chilli and continue to fry gently until the onion is beginning to brown.  Add the garlic and fry for another minute.  Keep aside in a warm place.

3.  Heat the remaining olive oil until very hot and gradually introduce the meat, until it is all seared and brown.  Remove to a casserole dish and replace the onions in the frying pan.

4.   Add the chilli powder and fry for a minute or two, stirring, to ensure it is all mixed in and moistened.

5.  Add the tomatoes (and turn the heat up), oxo cubes, water, sage, tomato puree, tomato ketchup and Worcestershire sauce and stir until all is combined.

6.  Taste for seasoning – you may need to add a little salt.  Restrain yourself from adding any sugar at this stage, for the chocolate (which is added later) may well do that job for you.

7.  Add to the casserole dish and cook at 140deg for 2 hours.

8.  After the hour, add the beans and chocolate – stir gently until the chocolate is dissolved – then replace and cook until the meat is butter-like and tender which should be around a half hour to an hour later.

Serve with white rice, grated cheese and sultanas over.  If particularly chilli-hot, serve with an additional tablespoonful of greek yoghurt.



  1. Looks absolutely delicious Jenny.....Wonderful.
    And, Oh! yes, must have the yogurt.
    I've just finished off the curry pot, so, l'll see what they've got to give away in Morrisons tomorrow. And, away we go again.
    Looking forward to the ham hock, if you do one.
    I did one in the New Year, soaked it overnight in Coco-cola. (Sorry, can't spell marinate):) And then cooked in cider.....! Lovely, meat fell off the bone. They have become quite popular now, hence the increase in price. Used to buy them on Wimborne market for £1:20.(cooked). Now there up nearer £3. But, there still a cheap dish.....!

  2. Well....Well....Well.....
    I read through your Blog, twice, wrote the above comment.......Read through it again, and the two pics of Jonty and Basil, have appeared.
    So....Must leave a comment, here goes.......Ah!xx

  3. This looks great.
    I have a big hunk of beef shin in the fridge - I might do something similar tomorrow :-)

  4. Willie : I'll definitely do a ham hock, as I've got what sounds like a lovely recipe - and we've always wanted to do the "Boston Baked Beans" thing with one. How funny that the two dustbins were hiding on the blog there! You didn't have a biscuit with your lemon tea, that brought them out of hiding, did you? LOL That'd do it!

    Miss Whiplash : you could certainly do worse! Do let me know what you thought, if you give the recipe a trot out.

  5. Can you actually taste the chocolate in it jenny..Jed

  6. It's far from being an obvious flavour, Jed, but it is apparent. As you're making it, if you taste before the chocolate and after, you'll notice a very big difference. Coming to it directly with the chocolate, you won't notice such a big chocolate flavour. It is, after all, just one square of the Lindt chocolate - which really isn't much, when you look at the overall quantity. It acts much the same as putting in a teaspoon of sugar - except with a much rounder flavour.

  7. Woooo.... and chocolate with beef - I can't decide what to try first.


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