An Homage to
Chilli con Carne
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23rd November 2012 was the first Homage Day in praise of Chilli con Carne, a truly British institution and another of the most popular dishes in the country.
Chilli is one of a select group of dishes we Brits have really taken to our hearts, even going so far as to honour it with a full culinary makeover.
In these islands, "chilli con carne" is traditionally served bursting out of microwaved baked potatoes, or in a neat pile atop a ring of basmati rice, like so much minced meat curry. Red kidney beans and copious amounts of cayenne are obligatory as are tomatoes and often other ingredients such as mushrooms and even hot pepper sauce for an added kick.
This is a far cry from the origins of the dish. Does the British version of chilli con carne have its own merits, or is it an affront to one of the southwest America's proudest pieces of culinary heritages? Do tomatoes add anything to the dish - and what about the vexed question of beans(neither are in the original Texas dish)? And what do you serve it with: rice, tortillas, or a big plate of chips?
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall includes pork shoulder and chorizo, plus a cinnamon stick, Nigella not surprisingly uses chocolate and cardamom pods, others use cumin and Mexican oregano even Marmite - everyone has their own idea of the perfect Brit dish.
1.Prepare your vegetables. Chop 1 large onion into
small dice, about 5mm square. The easiest way to do this is to cut
the onion in half from root to tip, peel it and slice each half into
thick matchsticks lengthways, not quite cutting all the way to the
root end so they are still held together. Slice across the
matchsticks into neat dice. Cut 1 red pepper in half lengthways,
remove stalk and wash the seeds away, then chop. Peel and finely chop
2 garlic cloves.
However there are many others that say the dish has nothing to do with Mexico. Charles Ramsdell, a writer from San Antonio in an article called San Antonio: An Historical and Pictorial Guide, wrote: "Chili, as we know it in the U.S., cannot be found in Mexico today except in a few spots which cater to tourists. If chili had come from Mexico, it would still be there. For Mexicans, especially those of Indian ancestry, do not change their culinary customs from one generation, or even from one century, to another."
If there is any doubt about what the Mexicans think about chili, the Diccionario de Mejicanismos, published in 1959, defines chili con carne as (roughly translated): "detestable food passing itself off as Mexican, sold in the U.S. from Texas to New York."
The first verified written reference to the dish was in a book by S.Compton called The Camp and the Field 1857. Even in America recipes vary. New Mexico has mutton not beef, there are no kidney beans in the Texas version but yes in Cincinnati. By 1977 it became the Texas State Dish.
The International Chili Society, an organisation devoted to the "promotion, development and improving of the preparation and appreciation of true chilli", observes that ever since "the second person on earth mixed some chile peppers with meat and cooked them, the great chilli debate was on &ldots; the desire to brew up the best bowl of chilli in the world is exactly that old".
Although, as they generously allow, the combination of meat and peppers is almost as old as cooking itself, the ICS's official history of chilli credits the emergence of the modern bowl of "red" to southwestern cattle drivers, who subsisted on the raw ingredients they found along the trail. Jesse James (1847-1882), outlaw and desperado of the old American West, refused to rob a bank in McKinney, Texas because that is where his favourite chilli parlour was located.
Texas-style chili contains no beans or tomatoes and may even be made with no other vegetables whatsoever besides chili peppers. President Lyndon B. Johnson's favourite chili recipe became known as "Pedernales River chili" after the location of his Texas Hill Country ranch. It calls for eliminating the traditional beef suet and adds tomatoes and onions.
Tomatoes are another ingredient on which opinions differ. Wick Fowler, north Texas newspaperman and inventor of "Two-Alarm Chili", insisted on adding tomato sauce to his chili - one 15-oz. can per three pounds of meat. He also believed that chili should never be eaten freshly cooked but refrigerated overnight to seal in the flavour.
RECIPE Red Texas
3 lbs beef chuck , boned and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
and trimmed of fat
The Cincinnati Style Chili was created in 1922 by a Macedonian immigrant, Tom (Athanas) Kiradjieff. He settled in Cincinnati with his brother, John, and opened a hot dog stand with Greek food called the Empress, only to do a lousy business because nobody there at the time knew anything about Greek food. So, it is said, that they called their spaghetti chili.
He created a chili made with Middle Eastern spices which could be served a variety of ways. His "five-way" was a concoction of a mound of spaghetti topped with chili, then with chopped onion, then red kidney beans, then shredded yellow cheese, and served with oyster crackers and a side order of hot dogs topped with shredded cheese.
Organiser : Peter Grove
P.O. Box 416 Surbiton Surrey KT1 9BJ Tel : 020 8399