Sunday, 3 July 2016

Indian Style Chilli Con Carne

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When my husband (then boyfriend) lived in the UK, he was obsessed with Chilli Con Carne. In fact, it was our last meal together before he returned to India. Cooked from a can, and served with spaghetti, it was hardly the romantic meal I had envisaged, but there you go. Three years later we got married, and one of the first dishes he asked me to make was Chilli Con Carne. I was hesitant at first because I couldn't get the Schwartz's pre-mixed seasoning that I had come to rely on. But now I make it every other week, from scratch.

This dish has several things to recommend it. First, it doesn't use oil - the onions cook in the moisture from the beef. Second, it needs only one cooking pot. If you cook the beans from dried, as I do, then after they're done simply empty them into a bowl, give the pressure cooker a quick wipe inside, and cook the Chilli in it. Just remember that when you cook the Chilli, don't use the cooker's own lid - cover it with another lid or a steel plate. Third, this dish can be served with several different things: cumin rice and yoghurt, spaghetti, baked potatoes and cheese, chapatis, and nachos, to name just a few.

A note on the beans: You really ought to try cooking the beans from scratch at least once, because they become so deliciously creamy inside. To make 250g of cooked beans, you'll need approximately 120g of dried ones. Kidney beans and black eyed peas go particularly well together, but you can use one or the other. Soak them for 8 hours, or overnight, in 2 cups of water. Drain and rinse them, then cook them in a pressure cooker with 2 ½ cups of water for 12-15 minutes over a low flame. Not only will you save money, but you can use the cooking liquid in your stock.


1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds (see Notes) 
2  onions, thinly sliced
500g beef or buffalo mince
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 ½ to 2 teaspoons chilli powder
4 teaspoons ground coriander 
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
2 tablespoons plain flour
450ml vegetable or beef stock, made with 1 stock cube
3 tomatoes, chopped
250g cooked beans, such as red kidney beans or black eyed peas
3 tablespoons tomato purée
1 extra vegetable or beef stock cube (optional)
½ to 1 teaspoon garam masala powder


1. Heat a large non-stick pan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and toast them for 1-2 minutes. Add the onions, beef, and ¼ teaspoon of salt, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes until the beef is browned all over and the onions are soft.

2. Add the garlic, chilli powder, coriander, cinnamon and flour. Stir well, and cook for 2 minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes, kidney beans, tomato purée and stock. Stir well, and bring to a simmer. Check the sauce and, if necessary, crumble in the extra stock cube. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and leave to simmer gently for 45-50 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent it from sticking.

4. Once the mince is tender and the sauce is thick, remove from the heat and stir in the garam masala. Adjust the seasoning to taste.


  • Serves 3 to 4.
  • If you don't have cumin seeds, then add ¾ teaspoon of ground cumin in step 2.
  • Like many spicy dishes, this one benefits from being left for at least half an hour to allow the flavours to develop. 
  • Adapted from The Hairy Bikers' recipe.

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