November 5, 2015 — Family Food

Quick and Cheap Chilli con Carne

  • 1 hour
  • 4 PEOPLE
  • easy

‘… This is a great family recipe we should all know. The perfect solution to use up leftover meat or spicing up basic sausages… the vegetarian version is just as good.’

'With meat or vegetarian, everybody loves Chilli Con Carne don't they..?'

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Follow us on Instagram — @WhatDadCooked

What you need

400-600g cheap supermarket sausages – or 400g-600g minced meat (beef, pork, lamb, turkey) cut fresh or left over chicken, pork or lamb into small pieces

1 large red or white onion chopped

1 stick celery chopped

2 garlic cloves chopped

1 red or green chilli – more to taste. De-seed and chop

1 tbs red wine vinegar (optional)

1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

1 x 400g tin kidney beans

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp un-smoked paprika (optional)

½ stick cinnamon (optional)

300ml chicken stock

1 tbs dried oregano

2 bay leaves

½ tsp sugar

Olive oil


Dad's Recipe Tales

A traditional Mexican recipe

Or is it? My Diana Kennedy cookbook, The Art of Mexican Cooking does not list a recipe for chilli, an inauspicious fact given she is regarded as the ultimate authority on authentic Mexican cooking. Chilli is probably a Tex-Mex homogenisation of classic Mexican ingredients and spices – the outcome of which, has been widely adapted and planted in many cuisines around the world. It exists in endless themes and variations, sparking debates about what constitutes a real chilli: does it includes beans with meat or meat without beans or just beans? The answer is that it doesn’t matter – either is good. In fact, it is no doubt possible to cook-up any ingredients in a pan, add some chilli seasoning and call it chilli.

Cheap as chips

I had a pack of ‘economic’ supermarket sausages that needed cooking. They make an acceptable basic sausage but I decided to use the sausage meat in the chilli. Meanwhile, we’d been to the Pick-Your-Own farm and brought back a bag of sweetcorn (45p/ear). It occurred that the other ingredients were also not very expensive. I did a quick calculation: without store cupboard herbs and spices, this nutritious and filling dinner can be made for around £3/person (when cooking for four). We had some leftover (for a couple of lunches), so make that £2/person…


How Dad Cooked It

Minced meat of any type can be used. Leftover meat from a roast or ragu is also good. Judge the quantities for the number of people. This is easily made vegetarian by omitting meat and substituting half a tin of beans person (serve with lots of grated cheese).

  1. On a medium high heat, fry the onions and celery in a tablespoon of olive oil for 5 minutes in a large pan, then add the chilli, garlic and pepper. Continue frying until soft and tender, transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  2. Squeeze the meat from the sausages and fry using the same pan as the onion mixture. Mash with a wooden spatula to break the meat into crumbs.  Continue to fry and stir until the meat is well browned. Drain the fat from the pan. (For other types of mince follow the same procedure – cooking in batches if necessary – adding more oil if required.)
  3. When the meat is browned add the cumin, cinnamon and bay and fry for a minute then add the vinegar sugar and bay leaves, frying until the vinegar has all but evaporated. Add the tomatoes and fry, scrapping the pan – when this is bubbling add the paprika, onions, celery, garlic, chillies, beans and stock. Let this cook on low heat for 20 minutes. Ten minutes before the end of cooking add the oregano. Season with salt and pepper. NB: If more time is available let the chilli cook for longer, say an hour in total. It also benefits from resting and improves if left for the day after.
  4. Serve with rice or jacket potatoes and with sides such as salad, grated cheese and Greek yoghurt. Or if it’s autumn and corn is in season – serve with corn on the cob and cooked green veg.
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