Unorthodox Chili

27 Jan

Chili is one of those American dishes where everyone and their mother has an opinion about how it should be done. From Texans who swear up and down that it’s not chili if it has beans in it, to Cincinnati chili served over spaghetti with kidney beans, there is one true recipe and all others are heretical deviations.

Being a Californian, I don’t have a dog in this particular fight, but I think my recipe for chili is quite tasty, orthodox or not. The original version from the magazine Bon Appétit uses turkey, but I prefer beef’s stronger taste. This is also even better after a day in the fridge to let the flavours round out.

A caveat: don’t eat this chili if you have an important presentation or a hot date in your near future. It results in a smaller version of the farting scene in Blazing Saddles.

White Bean Chili (adapted from Bon Appétit)

Serves 4

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
0.75 teaspoons dried oregano
0.75 teaspoons ground cumin
500g extra lean beef mince
2 tablespoons mild chili powder
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
0.25 teaspoon ground cinnamon
400g tin whole tomatoes
500ml beef stock
700g passata
2 400g tins cannellini beans, rinsed in a colander and drained

To serve:
1 medium onion, chopped
Plain low-fat Greek yogurt (or sour cream if you’re feeling indulgent)

Warm the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the onion and fry for 8-9 minutes, until it’s translucent and just beginning to turn brown. Then add the cumin and oregano and fry for one minute.

Add the mince and turn up the heat to medium-high. Cook until there’s no pink left, around 4-5 minutes. Then add the chili powder, bay, cocoa powder, salt, cinnamon, and whole tomatoes. Using your stirring spoon, crush the tomatoes against the side of the saucepan.

Mixing in spices and whole tomatoes.

Pour in the passata and beef stock, and bring everything to a simmer. Take the heat down to medium-low, and cook for at least 40 minutes and an hour at most. If you leave it for closer to an hour, the flavours have more time to blend.

Add the beans to the pot, and simmer for another ten minutes, until the beans are getting soft and absorbing some of the taste of the sauce. Serve up in bowls with the chopped onion and yogurt/sour cream.



4 Responses to “Unorthodox Chili”

  1. Erin January 27, 2012 at 5:32 PM #

    Wow that clip actually made me feel slightly queasy!! The fact that ‘The Wasp (Texas Radio And The Big Beat)’ by the Doors was playing in the background made it even funnier!!

    The chili looks amazing though!

  2. Lucy February 2, 2012 at 4:38 PM #

    Yummm…I could go for some chili. That looks delicious. I might try this out with Smart Ground (, since I am off meat.

    • tomatoesandradiowire February 2, 2012 at 4:58 PM #

      Sure, go for it! Vis-a-vis the beef stock, probably the best sub is veggie stock, as opposed to mushroom broth. Mushroom is a bit too strong and funky a flavour to play nicely with the other spices.

      • Lucy February 3, 2012 at 5:06 PM #

        Thanks for the suggestion! Veggie is what I usually do anyhow (since I don’t like mushrooms). I will report back on how the further unorthodoxification (that’s a word, right?!) goes.

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