Food cooking and eating – stories and ideas from a passionate foodie

Chilli Con Carne

I’m just guessing all of you will have seen those signs at roadside restaurants, usually in the USA, saying ‘Hottest Chilli Ever – free if you finish the plate!”.  I always think this is the ultimate in macho stupidity – I can never imagine a woman contemplating the challenge at all (please reply if I am wrong!)  But it is one of the difficulties with the species that is ‘chilli’.  It is hard to know how hot they are before you cook them.

Why are they hot?  BBC food site suggests the evolutionary pressure was to stop mammals eating them.  Birds are not susceptible, so eat the pods, and then disperse the seed far and wide, with a lump of ready-made fertilizer.  Ain’t nature grand!

A substance called capsaicin gives the hotness, but amazingly it stimulates our skin and tongue sensors for pain and heat – so a bit of fooling really.  The higher the dose, the hotter it feels to our brains.

When a friend gives you some tiny home-grown chillies, you have no idea of their provenance or growing conditions.  Thanks to Peter Cook (The Rock and Roll Business Guru’s Blog – see 
for these. And see photo of Peter in Chilli Stetson below! (Go and see hs blog – you might find what he really looks like…)

Now, I can stand fairly hot food – don’t mind at all (and have been out with Indian work colleagues who have asked me to have a go at eating what they describe as a green pepper to see my reaction – and I passed the hot chilli test every time!), but my wife doesn’t.  Faced with this unknown level of strongness, what do you do?  I put two in, and scraped out the seeds first.  (The capsaicin concentrates in the seeds, so this is a sensible precaution. Now – recipe:

  • 1lb low-fat minced beef (about 450g)
  • 5 button mushrooms
  • Tin of Red Kidney beans (you can get them with mild chilli sauce, which helps)
  • Tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 de-seeded and chopped chillies from Peter Cook
  • One large finely chopped onion
  • 1 crushed clove of garlic
  • Olive oil – table-spoon – for frying

Serve with white hunky bread or Perfect Rice (see previous blog)

Start the mince off in frying pan over medium heat.  break it up as it warms with the back of a wooden spoon – you want the mince to end up like equal sized breadcrumbs, really. While it is browning, chop your onion (again, in previous blogs and on-line at You Tube (may need to cut and paste into your browser bar)

Keep it all stirring around – wash and chop mushrooms, and put them into the mix.  About 5 minutes to 7 minutes should see all the meat equally brown with no pink bits left.  And now the finely chopped chillies – but for less than a minute – the longer you heat them the hotter the taste will be. Now stir in the two  cans – beans and tomatoes – and the crushed garlic. (I never fry garlic, just warm it at water boiling point – it is the main reason why it is bitter in most cooks hands, i think – keep it cool, don’t fry!)  Stir a lot, add salt and pepper to taste and leave over a low heat.  20 minutes is enough – but one hour and a slight cooling period (5 minutes with the lid on) is good to develop flavours.  Serve with fluffy rice, and a dollop of creme fraiche if it is too hot!  Enjoy.

Peter Cook on stage


Comments on: "Chilli Con Carne" (1)

  1. If you want some of those chillis, mail me at – we have a chilli surplus!!

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