Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Chili Con Carne (WCJO - DS)

The British, it seems, are just as enthusiastic about chili con carne as America normally is. Why else would Heston Blumenthal include it among his dishes for the second In Search of Perfection series?

So it naturally follows that Jamie Oliver would have a version, which he included in What's Cooking with Jamie Oliver for Nintendo DS. And what's it like? Well . . .

Ingredients. You know that old saw about beans in chili being a hanging offence in Texas? Well, if such people were to see Jamie's recipe, they'd draw and quarter him too.

You see, in addition to red kidney beans, there's sweet potato in Jamie's chili.

Sweet potato?!

I had to check around about this, and yes, there are recipes around for chili with sweet potato. Usually, though, they're for vegetarian versions of chili. And since this one uses ground beef it's definitely one for the unusual, "not quite the done thing" type of dishes.

Variations? Well, the recipe here called for ground cumin. I have cumin seed; if you bruise it with your hands by rubbing vigorously it'll work just fine. Cilantro and green chile pepper are listed for a garnish; I didn't bother with the former but got the latter. I didn't have smoked sweet paprika, but Hungarian hot struck me as being more appropriate for a chili anyway.

Techniques: Well, this is a "cook on the stove-top / bake in the oven" cooking style dish. Meaning the perfect opportunity to try out my new Corningware Stovetop 3-litre casserole dish.

This is the old-fashioned Corningware, the type known as pyroceramic cookware that works on both direct heat (stovetop) and oven without cracking. And, as it turns out, 3 litre is just enough room for everything to go in.

None of the steps are too intricate, and apart from the sweet potato (which go in cubed) none are surprising, with one exception: I had thought the green chile would be going in as part of the cooking process. Turns out it's a garnish. Oh well.

One last thing. Although it's not listed in the ingredients, the recipe calls for the chili to be served on top of rice. (Which leads me to suspect that somehow Mr. Oliver may have confused chili with gumbo.) It probably would have helped matters if Jamie were a bit more specific about the type of rice to be used.

Results: Over calrose rice, with a dollop of sour cream, this chili was -- well, it was okay. Over converted rice, with green onion chopped and sprinkled on top of the sour cream, it was much better. The sweet potato didn't really clash; in fact, it came out with a very nice texture. But I'm still not convinced that it adds anything, any more than adding a regular potato to chili.

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