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How to make the perfect chilli

Do very little, get all the credit

How to make the perfect chilli
17 February 2011

Any meal that involves throwing everything in a pot and then leaving for a couple of hours is going to remain a definite kitchen favourite here at ShortList. Not that we're lazy mind, but if minimum effort still produces a decent meal, we won't be complaining.

Because there's only so much help we can source from Old El Paso, we spoke to Thomasina Miers, Co-Founder of Mexican eatery Wahaca ( and she gave us this incredibly easy way to make a meal that's far too good to spread over nachos.

The joy of this recipe is that it takes half as long to prepare as most other chile con carnes. By quickly searing a few, large chunks of beef you skip that horrendously boring job of browning batches of mince and avoid the risk of stewing the meat instead of caramelising it. It is fast and easy and the meat gently braises in the oven until it is soft enough to pull apart.

This should feed 6-8:

  • Cooking time: 3 ½ hours
  • 1kg beef, cut into 4 pieces (use stewing steak, silver side or another cheap cut)
  • 3 onions
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • olive oil
  • 300g spicy cooking chorizo, cut into chunks
  • 2 teaspoons each of ground cumin and allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 large cinnamon stick
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried
  • 2 ancho chillies, deseeded
  • 2 chiles de arbol
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • black pepper
  • 3 table spoons cider or balsamic vinegar
  • 2 x 400g tins plum tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons muscovado or dark brown sugar
  • 2 x 400g tines borlotti beans, drained or 600g cooked

Preheat the oven to 120 degrees C,/ 225 degrees F/ gas 1.

Take the meat out of the fridge to de-chill. Pulse the onions and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large casserole and sear the meat on all sides until golden. Set to one side and add another small slug of oil to brown the chorizo. Remove and add the onion and garlic, spices, herbs and chillies, then cook until soft in the chorizo oil.

Season with salt and pepper and add the vinegar, tomatoes, ketchup and sugar.

Put all the meat back into the pot with 400ml water (or red wine if you prefer), bring up to a simmer and cook, covered in the low oven. After 2 hours, check the meat and add the beans. Cook for a further hour and just before serving, pull the meat apart with a pair of forks.

Try serving with fresh tomato salsa, grated cheese, sour cream and a simple cabbage salad.

Mexican Food Made Simple is out now, published by Hoddder & Stoughton