13/04/2006

Chili con Carne

(serves about 4)

500g (1lb) mince - meat or vegetarian
1/2 cup red lentils, washed and drained (optional)
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed, or 1 tsp garlic powder
1 chopped green or red bell pepper
1 400g can crushed tomatoes, or equivalent fresh/frozen
1 200g (approx) can or packet of tomato puree
¼ - ½ tsp chili powder, depending on strength
1 tsp turmeric (optional)
125g (4 oz) dried pinto or other red beans (or 1 medium can, drained)

Method:
If using dried beans, soak them overnight in cold water, boil rapidly for at least ten minutes, then simmer gently for half an hour until softened.

Cook the mince with the pepper, onion and garlic in a large pan, stirring until the mince is brown and the onion transparent. Add the lentils with a little water if it starts to stick, or about a tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in the rest of the ingredients with the drained beans, and a little extra water if the mixture looks too dry. Simmer for about half an hour, adding extra water if necessary.

Alternatively, use a slow-cooker. If you have a large one, you may need to double the ingredients, but this freezes well. You can do the pre-cooking as in this recipe, or you can simply dump everything in the slow-cooker, stir well, and leave to simmer on medium for 5-6 hours or longer.

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This is a quick and easy recipe for the whole family which is almost infinitely flexible. You can adjust the ingredients to suit your family's tastes. We usually serve with rice, and perhaps some cabbage and peas; we also like it with baked potatoes and a selection of vegetables.

Use any kind of mince: ground beef is my preference, but other kinds can work; you could even use vegetarian mince. The lentils are optional, but we find they make the consistency better, and they add to the protein content inexpensively.

Use chili powder sparingly, as a small amount goes a long way, or leave it (and the beans) out altogether for a basic mince and tomato meat dish. 

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