Friday, February 29, 2008

February 29, 2008: Chili

Cindy and I must have watched at least one episode of Nigella's slightly creepy cooking show, because we chased down her chili con carne recipe for future reference. The visit of my brother on a quick detour from his life in Japan was a good enough excuse to have a crack at it ourselves.

Obviously we had to make some changes: the recipe seemed designed to feed about thirty people, so we cut things right down; out went the ground beef and in came some TVP; and we decided to change the plan from the cornbread topping, to our trusty cornbread muffins. I think the main reasons we got a bit excited by Nigella's chili were the preponderance of spices and the addition of cocoa to the mix. We were expecting something a bit more exciting than our previous efforts, with a more complex set of flavours. Unfortunately, the cocoa was barely discernible and the combo of spices really didn't add much to our simpler Moosewood recipe. It wasn't bad by any means, but it didn't really improve on our previous efforts and was thus a little on the disappointing side. Having said that, when Matt finally arrived at 10ish he wasted no time in wolfing down a spicy bowl of tomato-y mush. And he looked pretty happy with it.

Our recipe really did end up quite different from Nigella's, so I'll reproduce it here.


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 finely chopped onions
5 dried chillies, crushed
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
10 cardamom pods, bruised
2 red capsicums, finely chopped
2 cups tvp, rehydrated with 2 cups of hot water
800 grams canned, crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon cocoa
400g canned kidney beans

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion and garlic for about five minutes, until it softens.

Add all the spices and stir everything together thoroughly.

Add the capsicum and the TVP and fry for a few minutes.

Add the crushed tomatoes, the tomato paste and stir everything together. If the mix doesn't look saucy enough, thin it out with a little water.

Bring the pot to the boil, and sprinkle in the cocoa. Add the beans, stir everything together and then simmer for as long you need to make the cornbread.


  1. Hehe, I find Nigella's newer programs to have that slightly creepy edge too. She smiles a LOT, don't you think? Her first show seemed a lot more natural and less forced, IMHO. And I say that as a massive Nigella fan!

    I love the idea of cornbread muffins! Yum yum.

    xox Sarah

  2. Yeah, Sarah, I love the way Nigella writes (at least in the one book I have, Domestic Goddess), but her manner with the camera is just a bit... weird. Neither smouldering nor sexy, IMHO.

  3. I found this recipe curiously and disappointingly bland. In order to counter the absence of umami I added a Massel's vege beef stock cube and was also tempted to drizzle in some treacle or molasses, as I would normally for recipes of this type, but didn't. Was the seasoning inadvertently left off the list of ingredients?
    I liked the 'mole' feel which the cocoa adds to the dish but it seemed to stand as a separate flavour rather than melding with the natural sweetness of the tomatoes and capsicums.
    I should point out that I used Quorn mince which is generally much tastier than TVP and was surprised at how bland the recipe in its unadulterated form was.

  4. Hi Stez - if you click through to the original recipe, you'll see that there was no extra seasoning. And as Michael stated above, we were a bit disappointed by the blandness of this chili too! Adding a stock cube and molasses are great ideas for improving it.