I seem to spend a lot of time searching for my ‘definitive’ take on classic dishes. Trying different variations and tweaking them until they are exactly how we want them to be. This is my current definitive take on Chilli can Carne, suitable for vegetarians and if you can find vegan quorn mince or similar it can also be made for vegans.
The key ingredients here are chipotle chillies to add smokiness, and raw cacao powder, which adds a hint of bitterness. I also like to use some liquid smoke to amp up the umami, it’s not vital but since I have it in my pantry why not use it? Browsing Amazon recently I spied a catering size can of chipotle chillies in adobo sauce, three or four of those in place of dried is delicious. I just froze the rest of the can in convenient sized bags.
RECIPE serves 4
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, cut to small dice
1 green pepper, cut to small dice
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
4 fat garlic cloves, crushed
500g Quorn mince (the vegan variety if you can get it)
1 heaped tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp ground cumin
4 dried chipotle chillies, rehydrated (keep the liquid)
1 tsp liquid smoke (optional)
200ml red wine
1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 vegan vegetable stock cube (or 1 tsp bouillon powder)
1 400g tin of kidney beans, with the water
1 tbsp raw cacao powder (or cocoa)
a small bunch of coriander, stalks finely chopped, leaves to garnish
the zest and juice of a lime, to garnish
In a large pan over a moderate heat, soften the onion, peppers and celery for between 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic for the last few minutes.
Add the Quorn mince, stir well then add the oregano, bay, cumin, chipotle chillies (chopped) and liquid smoke. Stir well so everything is well-coated, then add the red wine, turn up the heat and cook it off for a few minutes until there is almost no moisture left. Keep stirring it so it doesn’t catch on the pan.
Add the tomatoes, kidney beans (with the water from the can, there’s flavour there), the chipotle water and the stock cube or bouillon. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes, so the sauce is really thick.
Add the cacao powder and chopped coriander stalks right at the end, stir thoroughly so they are fully incorporated.
If you can make it a few hours before serving, so much the better. The flavours will deepen and mellow, and if you can make it the day before it will be even better.
To serve, garnish with the juice and finely grated zest of a lime and coriander leaves.