Slow Cooker Chilli con Carne

I cooked last night's Halloween tea in the slow cooker.

I had presumed that I would take my standard chilli recipe and just leave it blipping away in the slow cooker until tea time.  But, as ever, I made a few tweeks as I went along.  The result was a beautifully rich chilli.  So much so I resolve to cook it this way every time in future.

1) Use cubed shin of beef or ox cheek.  This tough meet tenderises beautifully and the connective tissue, gristle, and fat (yep, you need this) melts with the slow cooking into a thick rich sauce.

2) Possibly a personal foible, but forget celery or carrots.  Whilst I happily add them to stove top chillis I have a personal grudge against slow cooked vegetables as they taste overly stewed. 

3) Add a stock cube.  Slow cooked dishes tend to be a bit watery.  A stock cube adds an additional depth of flavour.

4) Tomato paste is a great thickener, and more added flavour, stirred in right at the end.

Serves 6
500g cubed shin of beef or ox/beef cheek
1 large onion
1 large clove of garlic
1 red pepper
1 tbsp sunflower oil
3 tsp cumin
3 tsp oregano
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 tin of kidney bean cooking water (if available)
2 tins kidney beans or 250g beans, soaked and pre-cooked
1tbsp red wine vinegar
1 beef stock cube
1/4 - 1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp sunflower or olive oil
2 tbsp tomato paste
Salt & pepper

Finely chop onion and garlic and fry gently in large frying pan with the oil.  Cube the meat if not already cubed.  If using ox cheek, slice off as much of the fat off in one piece as you can.  You should cook this with the meat, but leaving it as a large piece makes it more easy to remove it at the end of cooking!

When the onion has softened a little, push it to the side of the pan and add the beef in small handfuls.  Leave it as long as you can to brown, only moving it to make room for a later handful of beef.  Add the fat too. Dice the red pepper and stir this into the meat to fry for a few minutes.  Next time I might  chop this finely in a mini food processor as the red blobs were the only thing my kids grumbled about

Add the tomatoes, beans, 1 can full of bean cooking water or just plain water, cumin, oregano, vinegar, chilli, stock cube and bring to the boil.  Do not add salt or tomato paste until just before serving.

Tip everything into your slow cooker and cook on high for 6-8 hours. When ready to serve, add tomato paste to thicken a little and season to taste.  And whilst this has arguably taken a long time to cook already, we discovered last night that the flavour is better still if left to stand for an hour or so after the first helping was served to the kids.

I usually serve ours up with rice or baked potatoes.  And a generous handful of grated mature cheddar cheese.