Unsurprisingly, chilli con carne — like so many other popular, one-pot dishes — is peasant food. Its original are not clear, but it is thought to originate either from Aztec Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City), or from the Spanish conquistadors, who were also responsible for propagating red peppers around their empire. The dish was first described in 1529 as a stew spiced with peppers.
Regardless of its exact origins, chilli con carne took hold in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly in Texas, where it was served in dozens of saloons and restaurants. Chilli con carne became a staple food among cowboys and ranchers. In fact, chilli con carne was so popular among cowboys that it became known as ‘cowboy chilli.’
The Great Depression of the 1930s further popularised chilli con carne as it was an inexpensive and filling meal that could feed a large family. It also became a favourite food of the American military, and was served to GIs fighting in World War II. Chilli con carne is distinct from Texas chilli, which is made in a completely different manner.
Chilli con carne
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 red pepper, deseeded and finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 heaped tsp hot chilli powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 500g minced beef
- 300ml beef stock
- 400g tinned chopped tomatoes
- 0.5 tsp dried marjoram (or 1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp tomato pureé
- 410g can red kidney beans, drained
- Couple of pieces of dark chocolate, roughly chopped
Saute the onion in the oil until soft. Add the peppers and garlic and cook for another minute.
Add the spices and mix through. Add the beef and stir until browned.
Add all the other ingredients except the chocolate. Simmer on low for 40 mins.
Finally add the chocolate, melt and serve (see notes).
Serve with boiled rice, some soured cream and a wedge of lime. Garnish with chopped coriander.