Friday, January 29, 2010


While this isn't as contentious a topic here in Southern Ontario as it would be in, let's say Texas, there are still set ideas about what chili is. For some it means pieces of stewing beef, simmered in a flavourful red sauce, with or without beans. For most of those I know it's all about ground beef. That's what I grew up with, and how I make it. Beans are not optional and must be red kidney. Heat levels vary (for us it's mild because of the kids). Some have green peppers. Mine never does. I think they overwhelm the dish. Some have mushrooms. Why? Seriously.

(As an aside, the worst thing I've ever been served by anyone was a bowl of "chili" made by a friend's mother. She began making it when we arrived. About an hour before supper. It consisted of browned ground beef, some chopped onions and green peppers, a can of spaghetti sauce, a can of mushrooms, and a can of baked beans. BLECH! It was so hard to be polite and choke it down. Right up there in ick factor with the Kraft sliced cheese pizza my friend and I made one day as teens when extremely hungry. But that's another post).

Anyway, chili. I have a pot simmering now. I'll share how I make it, and I'd love to hear how you make yours.

I start by "browning" the ground beef. It's not really browned. I just start cooking it in a heavy pot. I add a couple of tablespoons of chili powder (it's a very mild blend - I prefer to be in control of the heat myself), some cumin and a tablespoon or so of cocoa powder. Yep, cocoa powder. It adds depth, both in flavour and colour. Then I add the diced onion and garlic. Usually about 2 medium onions and a few cloves of garlic. Those got pulsed today in the mini bowl of my new Kitchen Aid food processor (hooray!) Once everything smells wonderful, I add a can of tomato soup (trust me, it adds body to the chili), a tin of whole or diced tomatoes and a tin of tomato puree. Then a splash of vinegar and a spoon of brown sugar go in, for balance, along with salt and pepper. The whole thing simmers all day long, and about an hour before supper I add a can of kidney beans, goo and all. I correct the seasoning as it cooks and we eat it with good bread.

Apart from the cocoa and cumin, that's how my mother has always made it. I like those additions. Today I added a star anise, having heard that it boosts the flavour of simmered beef dishes. We'll see. It's a pretty simple recipe, and the result is a hearty, balanced dish with a wonderful sweet and sour background and a rich tomato flavour. And of course it's better the next day. But since we're having it tonight, I made it around 10am. It will simmer all day and we'll probably have the leftovers for Sunday supper. Yum!


  1. Sounds good! We put dark chocolate squares in our chili, and usually a little beer, too.

  2. Thanks for visiting SippitySup. I got a laugh out of your friend's mom's "chili". Thanks for that too! GREG

  3. You can laugh. You didn't have to eat it. LOL

  4. I live in Texas and since we are having a Canadian winter this year I thought I would weigh in on your chili. You pretty much make it like someone would make it down here, although the ratio of meat to beans is pretty high in Texas. You might want to try the Mexican version which you can find here.

  5. Thanks for the link, Jeremy. That looks really interesting.