So hot right now

[Recipe 1] MIXED BEAN and BEEF CHILLI CON CARNE transforms into
I’ve just returned from a conference thingo in Sydney. I missed my boys madly, but it was such a treat being all by myself for two days. I totally cleared the cobwebs; strolling the streets of Surry Hills, perusing little galleries and bookshops and reading the *entire* paper in bed from cover to cover. Had some ace food too – will post photos soon.
Thought I’d dish up a couple of super-simple, super-tasty recipes ‘I prepared earlier’ (man I love saying that). First up is good old Mixed bean and beef chilli con carne, a recipe originally given to me by an ex work colleague (thanks Marisa!) and which I’ve heavily tweaked over the years – mine features cooked dried beans instead of tinned, extra spices and a good dash of blackstrap molasses. It’s one of our favourite family dinners.
Chilli con carne freezes well. It’s perfect served simply with steamed rice, and you can create an entirely different meal later by spooning it into soft tacos (see recipe 2). Enjoy!

Chilli con carne[Recipe 1] Mixed bean and beef chilli con carne

Ingredients (serves 4 for 5 meals – recipe can be halved if you don’t have the freezer space):
250g (1¼ cups) dried red kidney or black (turtle) beans, soaked 8 hours or overnight
250g (1¼ cups) dried borlotti (Roman) beans, soaked 8 hours or overnight
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 brown onions, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 kilos (4 lb) minced (ground) beef (not too lean)
3 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons smoked paprika (pimentón)
4 x 400g (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 cup (250ml) beef stock
¾ cup (210g) tomato paste (tomato concentrate)
1 teaspoon dried chilli powder (or more – see notes below recipe)
1 large red capsicum (bell pepper), de-seeded, finely chopped
2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses*
½ cup fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, chopped, plus extra to serve
2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
To serve:
Steamed basmati rice
Chopped avocado
Corn chips (optional)

Drain soaked beans and place into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cover with water. Bring to the boil. Simmer for 50 minutes, covered, until tender. You should be able to squish a bean easily with your fingers. If still a little firm, simmer an extra ten minutes and test again. Drain and set aside.
Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Add mince and cook over low heat, stirring often, for about 10 minutes or until brown. Break up the mince with a wooden spoon now and again. Carefully drain off most of the excess fat.
Add the cumin and paprika and stir until aromatic, about 1 minute.
Add tomatoes, stock, tomato paste and chilli powder and simmer, covered, over a low heat for 30 minutes. Add cooked beans and capsicum and continue cooking, covered, for about 30 minutes. Stir often. Remove lid and simmer for a further 15–20 minutes, or until thick. Stir in molasses, salt and coriander and mix well.
♦ Reserve 4 cups (1 kilo/2 lb) Mixed bean and beef chilli con carne for the Chilli bean and beef soft tacos.
Divide the remainder of the Mixed bean and beef chilli con carne into labeled plastic containers (see storage tips below).
Serve warm Mixed bean and beef chilli con carne over steamed basmati rice, scattered with extra coriander and chopped avocado.

  • The Chilli con carne recipe will yield approximately 5 serves of about 1 kilo (2 lb) each (1 kilo will serve four), depending on whether you’ve used cooked or canned beans. I love making a massive vat of chilli con carne, but if you don’t have the freezer space, it’s easy to halve the ingredients. Chilli con carne can be stored in the fridge and should be used within 3 days; or it can be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • If unavailable, dried borlotti beans can be replaced with cannellini (white kidney) beans, navy beans or black-eyed beans.
  • Cooking dried beans is not as painful as it may seem – I often cook mine in the morning while we’re having breakfast, so they’re ready to use at dinner time. If you’re really pushed for time though, you can replace the cooked dried beans with 2 x 400g (15 oz) cans cannellini (white kidney) beans and 2 x 400g (15 oz) cans red kidney or black beans, drained and rinsed. Canned beans will become a bit mushy after simmering, but the finished dish will still be delicious.
  • *Blackstrap molasses is available from health food stores and from the health section of large supermarkets. It contains high levels of calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium; and lends a rich sweet taste to savoury dishes. It’s commonly used in baked beans and licorice! You can also use it in BBQ sauce which goes beautifully with pulled pork. If unavailable, it can be replaced with dark brown sugar or even maple syrup, with an extra dash of black pepper to counter the sweetness.
  • You can dial up the chilli for more heat. I find one teaspoon of chilli powder is just the right amount for children. Chopped fresh birdseye chilli or a dash of hot sauce can be added to adult serves. Very young children may like a spoonful of natural yogurt or sour cream stirred through.
  • Baby tip: You can make a little pot of ‘Baby con carne’ at the same time. It freezes well in ice-cube trays. Use a small amount of onion, minced beef, chopped and de-seeded fresh tomatoes, grated carrot and cooked beans. You can also add chopped liver for an iron boost! Add water (or home-made chicken stock) and simmer until thick. Puree until completely smooth, or mash it up for older babies. Older babies may also like a dash of cumin added and grated cheese on top.

[Recipe 2] Chilli bean and beef soft tacos

Ingredients (serves 4):
10–12 white corn tortillas

♦ 4 cups (1 kilo/2 lb) reserved mixed bean and beef chilli con carne
To serve:
Sour cream (optional)
Lettuce or very finely shredded red cabbage
Diced tomatoes
Chopped avocado or guacamole
Hot sauce  

Heat and lightly oil a char-grill plate on the stove-top. Warm the tortillas until lightly charred.
♦ Heat reserved bean and beef chilli con carne in a saucepan. Spoon into the warmed tortillas. Fold over to enclose.
Arrange the suggested sides in sharing bowls on the table. Serve soft tacos immediately.