Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Glamping, and a bowl of hot chilli

My boyfriend and I returned to Edinburgh from our respective family Christmases to true Scottish Hogmanay celebrations. Spending the last days of 2012 together with friends, and seeing in 2013 in the crowds on the Meadows, we were keen to have a few days just for ourselves. The search for somewhere to go began early in December and we ended up with a destination in the north of England, two hours’ drive from the Scottish capital. The area, Kielder Forest & Water, attracted with its remoteness, natural beauty and of course, the observatory. We found our haven at Wild Northumbrian, tucked away by Greenhaugh some 15 min drive from the actual Kielder Water, and stayed without electricity or running water in the secluded Merle Yurt. I have not done much camping in my life, while my boyfriend has camped a lot so this glamping weekend was a way of getting me into the camping spirit. It worked.

Knowing we would only have a wood-burning stove and a twin gas camping stove for cooking, we thought we would bring a couple of meals that just needed heating. I prepared a chilli to take along, which we ate by candlelight before going to an event at Kielder Observatory. The event, Shooting Stars, with the purpose of looking at the meteor shower of the Quadrantides, had to in the light of the atrocious weather conditions be changed to be a general lecture on astronomy.

I cook my chilli slowly and preferably in the oven. I like it smoky, rich and with a lot of chilli heat; those who are a bit careful with their heat may wish to add smaller quantities. For smokiness I use smoked chilli, smoked paprika and smoked bacon. No half measures here!

This is how I make it.

Two bowls of chilli, enjoyed by candlelight. Photo: Helene Frössling

Smoky chilli with beans for three hungry (or four modest) people

1 red pepper
1-2 smoked chilis of chipotle type (I get mine by online order from South Devon Chilli Farm)
One mug of hot coffee, around 250ml (not instant coffee!)
1 onion
2 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 garlic clove
1-2 fresh red chilli pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp hot chilli powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
400 g minced beef, lean if you can find it
2 can of tinned tomatos, 400g each
1 tsp muscovado sugar
1 can of black-eyed beans

Turn on the grill. Rehydrate your dried chilis by submerging them in the hot coffee for 20 minutes or so.

Half the red pepper and remove seeds and stalk. Place with skin-side up on a baking tray and place under the grill until the skins blacken. Remove from the grill/oven and place in a bowl covered with cling-film for five minutes. Peel off the blackened skins and chop the peppers. Adjust your oven to 160C, remembering to switch the grill off.

Finely chop the onion and cut the bacon rashers into fine strips. In a cast-iron casserole over a medium heat fry the chopped onion and the bacon for 3-5 minutes until the onion is soft. Chop the garlic and fresh chilli(s) and add to the casserole, and cook for another minute. Now add in the minced beef, the smoked paprika, cumin and chilli powder, and stir regularly to cook through. Take the rehydrated chilis from the coffee and add around 100 ml of the by now luke-warm coffee to the casserole. Let it bubble away for a couple of minutes. Coarsely chop the rehydrated chilli and stir in together with the roasted pepper, canned tomatoes and sugar. Bring it back up to a simmer, then put on the lid and place in the oven. Check the progress every 20 min or so, stirring in more of the chilli coffee if it appears dry. If you want a leaner chilli, take the opportunity to skim off any fat on the surface every time you check on progress. After 1 h 20 min, drain the can of beans and add to the casserole, check the liquid level and return to the oven for 20-30 minutes.

Season with lemon or lime juice, salt and pepper.

Serve with your favourite sides: brown rice, tortillas, corn chips, soured cream.. I recommend crunchy iceberg lettuce leaves for scooping up hot chilli and adding a cooling factor. This chilli improves by being stored in a food container in the fridge for one or two days and reheated. 

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