Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Heston Blumenthal's Chilli Con Carne with Spiced Butter

This is my second foray into the world of Heston Blumenthal recipes. I recently made his bolognese recipe as a lasagna with great success so I decided to go for the other recipe I felt I could do at home: chili or "chilli", depending where you're from.

I used some ideas from this fella's blog as he had some suggestions that he would do the next time he made the chili, but I wanted to stay as true as I could to the original recipe so that I knew where Heston was coming from.

I experimented a little and took the extra steps so that I know when I make this the next time, which steps I can cut and which ones are important. The beans, for example. 12 hour brine and cooking for over 2 hours and steeping with a tomato vine? Next time I'll just use canned beans and skip the vine. Maybe my palate isn't that sophisticated, but I don't think I'll be able to tell the difference next time. I also marinated some of my beef in beer overnight, but I don't think it translated into the dish past the initial browning stage. I won't do that next time either.

The beans and marinade aside, the chili ended up very good as expected and really didn't take that much more prep or work than any other chili I've ever made. The spiced butter was dynamite and made the whole dish.

Heston Blumenthal's Chilli Con Carne with Spiced Butter
(from here and here)

Spiced butter:
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp cayenne pepper (to taste)
3 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp tomato ketchup
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
½ cup unsalted butter (one stick), at room temperature

Kidney beans: (or just use a 14oz can with the tomato sauce)
3 ½ tablespoons salt
2 cups of water
6 oz dried kidney beans
8 oz can tomato sauce

Olive oil
1 pound ground beef (ground stew meat is nice)
1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
2 star anise
2 large carrots, peeled and finely diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 jalapeƱo, de-seeded and diced
1 Anaheim chile, roasted, peeled, de-seeded and diced (sub a small 4 oz can of green chiles)
2 tablespoons tomato paste 
2 cups red wine
3 medium tomatoes, diced
16 oz beef stock
~3 tablespoons spiced butter (or more if desired)

To serve:
the remaining spiced butter
8 oz jar roasted red bell peppers drained and roughly chopped
Sour cream
Cheddar cheese, grated
Grated zest and juice of 3 limes


I started by brining the beans overnight.

Just weigh them out and get the brine in the bag.

3 ½ tablespoons salt.

2 cups of water.

Shake well to combine.


The next morning:

They were still nearly rock hard, so I started them going before I did anything else.

Just drain the beans and pop them into a sauce pan over medium heat.

Add the can of tomato sauce.

If you choose to just use a can of kidney beans, still cook them in tomato sauce until they are tender. 

Give the beans a stir and add a little water to cover.

Cover and let simmer until they are tender. This took nearly 3 hours for my beans before I added them to the chili.


Next, make the spiced butter.

Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small pan over medium/low heat.

This goes pretty fast and you don't want to burn the spices. We're basically going for a spiced oil, not necessarily frying the spices.

Add 3 tsp ground cumin and 2 tsp cayenne pepper (to taste) to the oil and stir constantly for about 30 seconds. 

Once you really start to smell the spices, kill the heat and remove the pan from the burner. If your oil is too hot this may only take 10 seconds, if it's not hot enough, maybe a minute. I wouldn't go longer than 60-90 seconds over direct heat on this.

While the oil cools get your butter and spices in a small bowl.

3 tsp smoked paprika, 2 tsp tomato ketchup, 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce and a stick of room temperature butter cut in small cubes.

Add the oil and stir to combine.

I ended up using my stick blender to get is super-combined.

Store the butter in the fridge to firm up.


Meanwhile -

Prep your veggies.


Green chile & jalapeno
By the way, I would really suggest roasting your own green chile as the smokiness seems to be key to this dish. But sub a can if you're in a rush.


You can use standard ground beef for this recipe. In fact, Heston actually calls to use regular beef from the store.

I just happened to have some chuck and shank in my freezer and wanted to do it myself.

I just made "ground" beef by hand. I've never actually done it before and I actually enjoyed mincing it.

Just dice up your nearly frozen beef and go to town with a heavy, sharp knife.

1 pound of hand minced beef.
Brown the beef in a hot pot in small batches. You're looking for the maximum amount of contact with the face of the pot.

Cook until brown.

I did it in two batches:

Drain the beef and set aside for now.

Get your star anise together. I use a coffee filter for my spice bags. I think they work well and are a lot easier to work with than cheesecloth or muslin.

Toss a little oil in the pot and add your onions over medium heat. Season with some salt and cook for about 10 minutes.

When the onions just start to brown add the carrots, green chile and jalapeno.

Cook for another 5-10 minutes or until the carrot softens. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute.

Add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and stir well to combine.

Cook for about 5 minutes or until everything starts to thicken up considerably.

Slowly add the wine and scrape up any of the bits in the pot.

Give it a stir and turn the heat to high.

Reduce the wine by two-thirds.

Once you're wine has reduced, add the beef back into the pot.

Stir well to combine and keep the heat on high.

Add the 2 cups of beef stock and the diced tomatoes and stir well to combine.

My beans were about done, but the recipe calls to add them at the end. I debated adding them at this point, but he also calls to steep the tomato vine in the beans, so I turned off the heat and added the vine and let it sit for an hour or so. I don't think it made any difference in the chili. If I ate the beans on their own, maybe, but not in a stew.

Once your chili reaches a boil, drop the heat to low.

Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of the spiced butter, cover and let it go for about 6 hours. 

I added the beans to the pot after about 2 hours. I wanted them to get integrated.


When you are about an hour out of dinner, give the chili a stir. 

If it's too runny, let it go with the lid off until it tightens up to where you like it.

Get your serving stuff together:

Chopped roasted red peppers, cheese, lime juice, lime zest, sour cream and spiced butter

If you are so inclined, cornbread muffins are a nice addition:

You can serve the chili with rice, but I'm a purist and skip that part. I like a big ol' bowl of it, straight up.

The butter is kind of the point of tis whole dish. Where American chili has the spices added beforehand, this version allows the effect in any amount you want. It gives a depth to the chili that frankly it seriously lacks without it. I added tablespoon of the spiced butter off the bat. I ended up adding even more in my second bowl.

Go easy on the lime as it will quickly overpower the chili, but a small pinch of zest really does a nice job of balancing out the richness of the spiced butter. I didn't really get the red peppers but the cheese and sour cream will help cool down the bowl if you get too much heat going on. The creaminess also helps balance the smokiness of the butter.

Overall, this dish was pretty time consuming. It took me well over an hour just to get the thing on the stove to wait 6 hours for it to cook. It did end up being a fine bowl of chili in the end and most of all, I really enjoyed making it, so that's it's own reward.



  1. Wow! Only just discovered this. What a beautiful set of photos and fantastic looking version of the dish.

    We've been meaning to return to Heston's Chilli Con Carne recipe for a while now, and we'll definitely be using your post as a reference. Fantastic stuff :)

  2. Excellent! I'm glad to see you found my version and really appreciate you taking the time to comment. I did his Chicken Tikka a while back and it was involved (as expected) but outstanding. I need to do another Heston recipe soon! I'll be checking your site for inspiration. (http://www.insearchofheston.com for any Heston Blumenthal fans out there)


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