Paulo and I have been making our famous chilli con carne for years but this is the first time we tried it on our new Big Green Egg. The recipe already adds smokiness by griddling whole red chillies but using hickory wood chips in the Big Green Egg gave the chilli con carne an even more smoky flavour.
It’s not essential to have a Big Green Egg to make this recipe so I’ll provide the stove top and EGG versions. However, if you are considering getting a Big Green Egg I heartily recommend it (I’m not getting paid to write that!). It’s more of an oven than a barbecue and can be used year round. So on a crisp winter’s day, Paulo and I donned our Aabelard aprons and fired up the Big Green Egg. They helped keep us warm too!
Aabelard aprons are top quality (again, not getting paid for this recommendation). Made with waxed cotton, double-faced Italian leather (it’s like butterrrr) and antiqued brass buckles, it’s the only apron I’ll ever need and the cross back strap makes it super comfortable. I initially got one thinking that I would share it with Paulo but it became apparent that we each wanted our own apron, so I bought Paulo one in his favourite colour and even got it personalised with his initials. And besides, there’s nothing like a bit of brass and leather to spice up our culinary experiences! Ooo-err!
We used Big Green Egg’s Dutch Oven but you can use any cast iron pot, even an enamelled one. You won’t need the lid for this recipe.
3 red chillies
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 star anise
800g beef mince
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried oregano
1 cinnamon stick
175ml beef stock
400g can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Fresh coriander, chopped
I recommend toasting the red chillies on a griddle (or on the Big Green Egg grid) for a few seconds, which releases their oils and heat and adds that all-important smokiness, particularly if you’re not using the Big Green Egg. However, you can skip that stage if you want to take a short cut and just add the red chillies directly to the food processor / hand blender that you will use later.
If you have toasted the red chillies, soak them in a bowl of boiling water for about 10 minutes. Remove them from the water (keep the liquid), cut off the ends and slice the chillies lengthwise. Using a food processor or hand blender, blitz the red chillies, tomatoes, garlic and cumin. I prefer blitzing these ingredients but if you don’t want to, you can simply finely chop the red chillies and mix them in a bowl with the tomatoes, crushed garlic and cumin.
Stove top method: In a large, deep frying pan or pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
If using the Big Green Egg, coat the bottom of the Dutch Oven with oil and heat on the grid directly over the coals (direct cooking) at 200°C. You will not need the lid.
Add the onions and star anise. Cook for about 10 minutes until softened.
Crumble the mince in gradually, stirring to break up the chunks of meat, and cook until browned.
Remove the star anise, which infused the onions and beef with its sweet aniseed-like flavour.
Stir in the tomato mixture and cook for 5 minutes.
If using the Big Green Egg, you will need to switch to indirect cooking. Remove the Dutch Oven and grid. Add some pre-soaked hickory wood chips to the charcoal then add the plate setter (convEGGtor) in the inverted position (legs up). Put the grid back on. Return the Dutch Oven to the Big Green Egg. Keep the EGG’s lid closed and open occasionally to stir the chilli con carne.
Add the tomato purée, sugar, oregano, cinnamon stick, beef stock and a handful of coriander. The beef stock really adds depth of flavour.
Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer. Stir occasionally and add a little of the soaking water from the red chillies if the mixture looks dry.
After 30 minutes, stir in the red kidney beans. Simmer for another 10 minutes.
Scoop the chilli con carne into individual bowls. Sprinkle with more coriander, if desired. Serve with grated cheddar and tortilla chips. It’s fun to eat with your hands and use the tortilla chips to spoon the chilli con carne!
Makes 4 to 6 servings. Leftovers will have an even more spicy, smoky kick from the wonderful melding of flavours.
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