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Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Chili con carne (Tσίλι με κρέας και κόκκινα φασόλια)

Whenever I can, I cook the midday meal (which could be eaten any time from 1pm to 4:30pm, depending on work and school committments) the evening before. I really hate my daylight hours stuck at home cooking a meal. It's not the preparation time, which, for Greek food, is usually a brief but busy period cleaning and chopping; it's the waiting time for the pot to boil, and the meal to cook through. You can't leave the house, and there is always work to be done. That's why I usually cook in the evenings. This kind of cooking routine is well suited to cooking on the stove top rather than the oven; some oven-baked meals may dry out, but this is not a problem with saucepan-based food - they just get better the next day. Pastitsio is an exception - that too just gets better as it ages.

chili con carne

I made this chili just recently on a Friday night, to have the first day of the weekend free to go shopping. Here's an easy chili recipe for a cold day's meal. When I served it up the next day, the flavours of the chili had blended well and it was an unforgettable meal.

You need:
a piece of beef about the size of a big palm, partially frozen
an onion
2-3 cloves of garlic
a few tablespoons of olive oil
1 small glass of wine
1 teaspoon of chili pepper (I only had the powdered form)
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (ditto as for chili pepper)
1 teaspoon of oregano
1 teaspoon of cumin
1-2 tomatoes, pureed (I used my home-made tomato sauce)
salt (and black pepper, if you wish)
2-3 cups of shredded cabbage
1 can of red kidney beans

When beef is partially frozen, it cuts more easily into thin slices or small cubes. I cubed the meat into dice-sized portions. Saute the chopped onion and garlic in the oil, then add the meat bits and let them brown well. When the meat is done, add the wine and mix well. Let the liquids come to boiling point, then add the tomatoes and spices, including the salt. Place a lid on the pot and let the meat simmer away at the lowest heat point until it is almost done - we like the meat to be very tender in this stew, which means I cook it for at least 80-90 minutes.

Check the pot occasionally to see if the liquid needs to be topped up until the meat is done to the preferred texture (I added up to a wineglass to get the right consistency). Just before the meat is cooked, add the cabbage and drained red beans. Let the stew cook till the meat is done, and the meal is ready.

I've made a similar chili meal using minced meat instead of meat cubes. Funnily enough, I made it at the same time as I am cooking it now - the seasons play a big role in our daily meals. Serve the hot chili served on top of a plate of plain rice, with chilled yoghurt or guacomole dip to cool things down. Make sure you have some cold beer available too!

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