Chilli con carne

Chilli con carne

Man Food
Billy Law

One of life’s great mysteries: should chilli con carne have beans or not? Personally, I prefer the Texas-style chilli that omits the beans and focuses on the meat. But no matter how many times I make this dish, the end result tastes different every time. Beans or no beans, the secret to making a good chilli is to use actual dried ancho chillies (which you can find at Mexican food specialists), avoiding the powdered form which can be old and flavourless. This is a little controversial, but I love to add a block of dark chocolate to the chilli, which adds a new level of complexity to the dish.


Quantity Ingredient
2 avocados, stoned
1/2 lemon, juiced
sea salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
16 tortillas, warmed
large handful coriander leaves
3 spring onions, sliced
500g cheddar cheese, shredded
200g sour cream


Quantity Ingredient
3-4 ancho chillies
2 tablespoons oil
1kg beef chuck, cut into big cubes
1 onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
345ml dark ale
400g tinned diced tomatoes
salt, to taste
2-3 tablespoons masa harina, (optional, see note)
50g dark chocolate


  1. To make the chilli, soak the ancho chillies in hot water for 30 minutes, or until softened. Drain then remove the stalks and seeds, blend the chillies in a food processor to a fine paste and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large heavy-based casserole dish over a medium–high heat. In batches, cook the beef until browned on all sides, remove and set aside.
  3. In the same dish, sauté the onion until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the ancho chilli paste, tomato paste, cumin, oregano, cinnamon and allspice and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  4. Add the ale to deglaze the dish. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the base of the dish to dislodge all the caramelised bits. Return the beef to the dish and add the tomatoes, stir to combine and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, partially cover with lid and braise for 2 1⁄2–3 hours, or until the beef is fork tender. Season with salt and whisk in the masa harina (if using), then stir until the stew is rich and thick. Add the chocolate, stirring until it melts into the stew. Remove from the heat.
  5. For the best result, let the chilli cool to room temperature then refrigerate overnight for the flavours to develop before reheating the next day.
  6. Just before serving, mash the avocado flesh with the lemon juice and season to taste.
  7. To serve, place spoonfuls of chilli con carne on warm tortillas and top with coriander, spring onion, cheese, avocado and sour cream.


  • Masa harina is a corn maize used for making tortillas, tamales and many other Latin American dishes. You should be able to find it in any gourmet grocery store.
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