I took enormous pleasure in cutting up a big piece of cow earlier this week. Sorry vegans, I know you’re out there in your hoards, but it’s true. I took part in a beef butchery class at The Ginger Pig in Marylebone and while I think the class itself could have been more comprehensive I still felt I learnt how to deal properly with a two and a half kilo piece of aged prime rib. I carefully cut away the chine bone, I tore back the cap and removed the paddywhack, French-trimmed the bones and tied it all back together. Back home I roasted it with nothing but salt and pepper and served it with roast potatoes, creamy courgettes and a salad of beetroot, sugar snap peas, rocket and balsamic and the most outstanding gravy made from the roasted bones and resting juices. It was absolutely epic.
Vegans, you don’t know what you’re missing, but then conversely all you adamant anti-vegans out there, you don’t know what you’re missing either. Because here’s something that you’d shun if offered I’m sure, though you’d be fools to do so. I think I’ve perfected my vegan Chilli Con Carne (a contradiction in terms I realise so hereafter called more accurately Chilli Sin Carne). It’s rich and oily and very spicy and it’s also bloody quick. I threw it together last night in less than twenty minutes (plus simmering time though it doesn’t need long like a beef one would).
(By the way, I’ve been informed that one of the ingredients on the list isn’t actually vegan, but see below for a slight alteration to the recipe that sorts this little problem out.)
Chilli Sin Carne
Olive oil and plenty of it
6 or 7 mushrooms (finely chopped)
2 onions (try finely chopped)
1 carrot (very finely diced)
1 celery stick (very finely diced)
2 cloves garlic (thinly sliced)
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
1 heaped teaspoon hot chilli powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tbsp normal paprika
2 red chillis (1 sliced, 1 left whole)
a scant handful of raisins or sultanas (chopped)
1 bag of frozen Quorn* mince
1 packet of TVP (soya mince) rehydrated
1/2 cup of cold black coffee
1 bottle of pasatta (about 700g I think)
2 tins red kidney beans, drained
a scant handful of picked jalapeño slices, roughly chopped
some sugar, honey, date syrup, molasses – anything sweet, even jam will do
about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of gravy browning**
*it’s been brought to my attention that frozen Quorn mince isn’t actually vegan as it contains some egg derivatives and I think some milk too. SO, if this is a problem (rolls eyes and shakes head a little bit) then simply use two packets of rehydrated soya mince instead. You may need to up the gravy browning (see below) too to get the required appetising appearance.
**yes, gravy browning is just brown food colouring but, ladies and gentlemen, we eat with our eyes and if your chilli looks deep and rich it’ll taste deep and rich too. Trust me.
Get a nice big casserole on your hob and bring the heat up underneath. Pour in a really generous amount of olive oil and then your mushrooms. Don’t move them around at all for quite a while because you want them to catch and to caramelise. When they’ve got a nice bit of colour on them throw in the onion, carrot and celery and give the whole lot a good fifteen minutes over a nice gentle heat. Again it’s colour and flavour you want to encourage. You can pop the cinnamon stick in now too, and the whole red chilli. the chilli will impart some flavour, but it’ll also look the business and if anyone’s feeling particularly brave at dinnertime they can eat the whole thing, which is a fun challenge after a few tequilas.
Once everything is nicely coloured add the cumin seeds, the raisins or sultanas (they add a lovely sweetness that’ll balance the heat beautifully), the other chilli chopped up small, the garlic, the Quorn mince, the rehydrated TVP*** and the chilli powder and paprikas and give it all a good stir and a fry. The spices might catch a bit and if they do add a splash of water.
Next pour in the coffee. It’s going to add a bitter note that’s not dissimilar to the flavour of charred bones you get from a good beef stock. Let it reduce down a bit before adding your pasatta and giving it all a really good mix together, season with lots of black pepper and about half a teaspoon of salt. But taste to check the balance.
Now, at this stage it won’t look especially appetising. In fact it’ll look a bit insipid, maybe even a little bit like sick, so here’s where you deploy your secret weapon – the gravy browning. This stuff is a VERY POWERFUL colourant, and as Raymond Blanc says, you can add but you can’t take away. Put a little bit in, stir, if it still looks too pale then add a little more. Bear in mind that the sauce will darken as it cooks and you can add more later if you want, so don’t overdo it. Get it looking a bit richer, bring it to a simmer and let it cook for about thirty minutes.
By now it should be rich, reduced, dark and oily and really meaty-looking, and tasting. If it needs a further boost you can add a bit of Marmite, or just some more salt and pepper. If it’s too acidic then put in a bit of brown sugar, molasses or honey. Add the beans and the chopped jalapeños. And if it’s too thick add a splash of water. Bring it back to a simmer and give it another ten minutes or so. When it’s done trickle on some more olive oil on top.
Serve it with rice, with baked potatoes, or just with a big hunk of bread. Trickle over a little cream, or a dollop of sour cream (unless you’re still a vegan in which case you can substitute the cream for water or ice – just kidding – maybe use some soya yoghurt). Sprinkle with fresh coriander, a big squeeze of lime and some fresh raw chilli and flakey salt. Oh and if you’re feeding it to a meat-eater, don’t tell them, they won’t realise.
***TVP is something I talked about in an earlier blog. It’s what we used at school Home Economics lessons instead of too-expensive meat. It’s a real throwback to the days of early vegetarianism but it really does the job.