Texas Chili Con Carne & Chili Con Cauliflower

Chili con carne and cauliflower

One of the highlights of my London homecoming was a delightful housewarming dinner, loosely Southwestern themed as a tribute to warmer days to come and the shared appreciation of cacti (and succulent-derived tequila) amongst my wonderful flatmates. We just might end up being those girls who rigidly enforce themed dinner parties once a month. After all, any excuse is welcome to ensure maximum culinary undertakings in this luxuriously open kitchen, armed with gas stovetops and three windows to let in obscene amounts of natural light. Could it be that the days of grim, fluorescent-lit college dorm kitchens have passed?

Chili con carne and cauliflower

Chili con carne is one of those dishes that has been so widely and liberally adapted that the original version is often unrecognisable to those who have their own idea of what chili is. Though it bears a spanish name meaning “chile pepper with meat”, it was a recipe of resourcefulness conceived on the American frontier, where settlers pounded and preserved dried peppers, dried beef, suet, and salt into portable blocks to boil in pots for meals along the trail.

Chili con carne and cauliflower

Nowadays it’s the official dish of Texas, where chili aficionados tend to be strict and unforgiving about what qualifies as chili at all. Texans insist that true chili consists of little else aside from dried chili peppers and meat, but of course there are many debates amongst regions and families—particularly about the inclusion of beans and tomatoes. It’s sometimes hard to find a balance between authenticity and sensible, creative, and seasonal substitution, but I’ve done my best to build off the spirit of those frontier forgers.

Chili con carne and cauliflower

I think the key is soaking and pureeing a beautiful variety of dried chiles, as opposed to dumping spoonfuls of pre-ground and pre-mixed chili powder or spice mixes into the pot. This was my first time trying it, and I can attest that the depth of flavour and lack of grittiness really is worth the bit of extra time. The dark chocolate and coffee are certainly not standard additions, but I think they both compliment the complex semi-bitterness of dried chiles exceptionally well. Where beef chuck is usually used, I’ve substituted wild venison from the small organic butchers down the road. The queue was out the door, effectively and comically epitomising the spirit of East Dulwich: sustainably-aware, young, middle class families bustling happily about in a gentrified but well-meaning and independent neighbourhood.

Chili con carne and cauliflower

Actually, this marks the first time I’ve included non-seafood meat in a recipe on this blog. It’s true that I very rarely eat meat, but my hesitation lies with the livestock and meat production industries as opposed to the question of morality when it comes to eating things with faces. Whereas I disagree massively with the sheer amounts of blind consumption and overarching attitudes of entitlement running rampant in cultures that can afford to be careless, I have no qualms about naturally acquired, sustainably sourced, (and tastily-prepared!) meat… game meat fits the bill quite beautifully and appeals to me for many of the same reasons that foraged greens do. I’m of the opinion that responsibly hunted animal protein can be a wonderful addition to human diets; it’s not explicitly farmed for consumption, is generally leaner and happier from romping around in the wild, free from the cycle of agricultural waste and chemical impurities, evoking a more primal and self-sustainable mode of existence, and is the epitome of local eating—tasting uniquely of whatever land it roams upon. Edible terroir!

Chili con carne and cauliflower

In case that preachy run-on sentence left a bad taste in your mouth, here is a lovely meatless alternative because the last of my intentions in writing this blog is to force personal beliefs upon unsuspecting readers. This version should certainly not be dismissed in favour of meaty chili, but does taste markedly different despite similar ingredients—sweeter, and lacking that spiced umami of traditional chili. So without further ado, the second and very deer-free pot of chili sin carne I’ve christened chili con cauliflower, grating a small head of cauliflower before its season’s end. No doubt the recent boom in cauliflower trending has alerted you of the vegetable’s versatility, and grating it creates nice granules of texture without the slightly-off chew of processed vegetarian substitutes like TVP. I’ve also chopped up a sweet potato to counterbalance the bitter notes and lend some body to the sin carne version. If I’m going to force-feed (!) any opinions, it’ll be my firm belief that everything is better when sweet potato gets involved.

Chili con carne and cauliflower

Texas Chili Con Carne (with Wild Venison)
(serves 5-8)

  • 5-6 dried chiles, variety of (sweet fresh: Costeño, Anaheim, or Choricero / small hot: Arbol, Pequin, Cascabel / rich fruity: Ancho, Mulatto, Negro, Pasilla / smoky: Chipotle, Guajillo, Ñora)
  • 2 t ground cumin seed
  • 2 t dried oregano
  • ½ t ground cinnamon
  • 1kg wild venison, timmed and cubed
  • 1 small onion, chopped finely
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 250ml (1 cup) coffee
  • dark chocolate
  • 2 T masa harina
  • 1 t freshly ground black pepper
  • kosher salt
  • 1 T sucanat/turbinado sugar
  • 1 T white vinegar

Toast chiles gently in a skillet for a couple minutes on each side, being careful not to burn. Cover with boiling water and let them soak until soft. After removing stems and seeds, blend or puree them with cumin, oregano, cinnamon, and just enough water until smooth.
Heat oil in a heavy pot or dutch oven, browning the meat on two sides, making sure not to overcrowd the cooking surface to avoid steaming (you may need to do it in batches). Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
Cook onions until softened, then add garlic, stirring until fragrant. Re-introduce the meat along with the chili puree and coffee. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Add more liquid if it becomes too dry at any point.
Add sugar, vinegar, and season to taste, adjusting spices and salt before whisking in enough masa harina (be careful to stream this in without clumping or mix with a small amount of hot water before adding into the pot) to achieve desired thickness.
If time allows, allow chili flavours to develop overnight before reheating to serve the next day.
Serve garnished with an array of toppings, which can include (but are never limited to!) raw chopped onions, fresh cilantro, scallions, grated cheese, avocado, sour cream, and tortillas.

Chili con carne and cauliflower

Chili Con Cauliflower & Sweet Potato
(serves 5-8)

  • 5-6 dried chiles, variety of (sweet fresh: Costeño, Anaheim, or Choricero / small hot: Arbol, Pequin, Cascabel / rich fruity: Ancho, Mulatto, Negro, Pasilla / smoky: Chipotle, Guajillo, Ñora)
  • 2 t ground cumin seed
  • 2 t dried oregano
  • 2 t smoked paprika
  • ½ t ground cinnamon
  • 1 small onion, chopped finely
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 250ml (1 cup) coffee
  • 1 small head cauliflower, grated
  • 1 large sweet potato, chopped roughly
  • 350g (2 cups) cooked kidney beans
  • 25g dark chocolate
  • 2 T masa harina
  • 1 t freshly ground black pepper
  • kosher salt
  • 1 T sucanat/turbinado sugar
  • 1 T white vinegar

Toast chiles gently in a skillet for a couple minutes on each side, being careful not to burn. Cover with boiling water and let them soak until soft. After removing stems and seeds, blend or puree them with cumin, oregano, cinnamon, and enough water until smooth.
Heat oil and cook onions until softened, then add garlic, stirring until fragrant. Add the raw vegetables and cooked beans along with the chili puree and coffee. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Add more liquid if it becomes too dry at any point.
Add sugar, vinegar, and season to taste, adjusting spices and salt before whisking in enough masa harina (be careful to stream this in without clumping or mix with a small amount of hot water before adding into the pot) to achieve desired thickness.
If time allows, allow chili flavours to develop overnight before reheating to serve the next day.
Serve garnished with an array of toppings, which can include (but are never limited to!) raw chopped onions, fresh cilantro, scallions, grated cheese, avocado, sour cream, and tortillas.

Chili con carne and cauliflower

Chili con carne and cauliflower

Chili con carne and cauliflower

Share on FacebookShare on TumblrTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Email this to someone
This entry was posted in America, Fish & Game, Main, Personal, Soup and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Texas Chili Con Carne & Chili Con Cauliflower

  1. I add sweet potatoes to chili all the time, but haven’t tried cauliflower – great idea. You’re right that a true chili con carne is basically chile peppers and meat. But that doesn’t stop me from making other types! They’re all good. And yours looks terrific – thanks.

  2. Trixpin says:

    What gorgeously rich and indulgent recipes! I’m not a big meat eater either, but the look of the venison con carne is amazing. I’d love to try the cauli version though – a bit more frugal as well as appealing to my vegetable adoration ;)

    I’ve heard of adding cocoa to this kind of dish but never coffee, although it makes sense now you’ve mentioned it. Very exciting combination of ingredients!

    And, as ever, you have beautiful photos.

  3. Lindsey Cook says:

    This was quite enjoyable to read! I appreciated the historic notes about chili con carne and how you were able to make a vegetarian version as well. And a great reminder to implement a themed dinner every month! Looks like some amazing flavor going on =)

  4. tombo says:

    I think I might like bigger chunks of the cauliflower better and will try it with our version which includes decadent amounts of bottom round corn fed good old American beef. You never said how the final product tasted to you.

  5. What a great chili recipe, Irina! Love that table setting, too! I just used a heap of chocolate in one of my chili recipes and it makes it so rich and mole-ish! Yes, i know it’s not a word!

  6. I am totally in love with that cauliflower and am going to pin it to cherish it! Can’t wait to pick our cauliflower in the Spring and make this!

  7. Trisha says:

    such pretty photos as always!!! Look delicious. Happy Weekend Irena! x

  8. shuhan says:

    100% agree with your take on meat. I eat meat, I don’t think it is wrong to, but I don’t feel I have to eat a whole steak at a meal. I like to think of meat as the way to punctuate a dish with flavours- a whole plate of vegetables fried with a handful of thinly sliced pork belly for instance, yum! And always always from happy animals. I had a friend who used to pooh pooh the concept, because “they all die anyway right?” but the way I see it, we humans die too, but the way we’ve lived our life and been treated before we leave, matters, so why shouldn’t it for animals?

    The chilli con carne looks amazing Irina. Stunning photos as always. Love all your feasts! And lol about that bit about middle-class East Dulwich ;) (How on earth do you get to college on time?! It’s miles away!)

  9. liz says:

    Happy New Year
    Thanks for giving the history and background of Chilli con Carne. At least now I know it means Chile Pepper with Meat (in spanish). I don’t speak any spanish. This version is very unique with addition of coffee and chocolate…mmm. I would love to taste it for sure. Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful weekend!

  10. Pingback: Blood Orange & Clementine Marmalade // .wandercrush.

  11. Mmm, this chili looks delicious! I miss red meat since my husband doesn’t like it…though I wouldn’t eat it very often anyway. This chili is giving me a craving tho.

  12. Pingback: Birthday Mayonnaise & Curried Egg Salad // .wandercrush.

  13. Pingback: Lamb Shank Pie with Swede & Chestnut (Root+Bone) // .wandercrush.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify via Email Only if someone replies to My Comment