Simon’s ‘hootin tootin’ fenland-style chili con carne!


• A whole supermarket brisket chopped up into cubes.

• A pack of 6 bacon slices (smoked).

Two large onions and a half head of garlic.

• Chili powder (2tbs) cayenne powder (1tbs), paprika (1tbs), and cumin (1tbs).


Garlic and onion salt.

Beef stock (or one Oxo cube).

Optional: Hot chillies, kidney beans, and jalapenos.

I have been quite ill the past couple of days and for some bizarre reason I have a strange compulsion to cook a chili con carne every time I feel under the weather. So today, I thought I would keep up my little tradition by experimenting with something I’ve been playing around with in my head for some time.

This chili is a little different from my usual spicy mince beef and jalapenos. This aims to be more like a spicy beef stew which focuses on tender meat, deep flavour, and getting as much out of your ingredients as possible.

You are welcome to make this as hot as possible, so factor in whatever chillies you like throughout the recipe (if that is your goal). The fundamentals of this dish however, are very basic, and you’ll be pleased to see a short list of ingredients and measurements which you can pretty much eye ball – it really doesn’t matter if the measurements are slightly off. It’s an easy going recipe which is fun and lazy.

First, I start with frying a pack of smoked bacon on a low temperature to release all the smokey bacon fat into the pot. You don’t need much oil, in fact, I didn’t use oil in this example.

Once it’s fried, I take out the bacon and add the onions and garlic together into the bacon fat. This makes the onions a really nice golden colour as the fat is soaked up.

While the onions and garlic are frying in the pot, I rub my chopped brisket with garlic salt. I wanted to use onion salt too but could not find any in the supermarket, so I had to make do.

Once the onion and garlic is nice and golden with bacon fat, I throw in the brisket and fry them together to seal in all that flavour. A table spoon of golden sugar can be a good addition here but is not essential.

Once the meat is thoroughly golden I add chilli powder, cayenne powder, cumin, and thyme. Let it fry for a bit longer to spread across the pan and seal more into the meat. Make sure the meat of thoroughly singed.

After, add some beef broth. Personally, I like to use a beef Oxo cube which comes to about 2-3 mugs worth of water. Let that cook for 5-10 minutes.

I then added two cans of tinned tomatoes. I prefer not to use chopped but peeled plum… But either will do.

Let that cook for another 10 minutes.

I then add the bacon which was put to one side earlier. The bacon really makes a big difference in this dish. It not only makes that lovely smokey fat to fry the beef and onions but doubles up the smokiness at the end which brings out the smokiness and makes the dish pop.

Leave to simmer for 30-45 minutes. Once its lost some liquid I recommend putting it into a slow cooker as it will make the meat very tender, bring out the flavour, and is a good way at keeping in the moisture.

In this example I used it in the oven for 2 hours, which can also work, but be careful as it can dry out the dish.

Take it out after an hours and stir then put it back in. I will often add some chili powder in at this point and stir further depending on the colour.

Enjoy! This can easily feed a family of 4 with very generous portions and only needs some rice to go with it.

Don’t forget to visit the Cambridge Foodies and let me know how you got on with this dish!

Thanks for reading.

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