• Whole spice chilli con carne

Whole Spice Chilli

It seems on a savoury kick at the moment; little sweet baking is going on in the Apple Chapel. I kinda have baker’s block – there are ideas for new bakes and countless recipes to do on my ever expanding list but I find myself not tempted enough to bake. Fortunately rumour has it there is more to life than cake and as we are trying to pinch the pennies at the mo to pay back the last of the student/wedding debt recipes like my whole spice chilli are being cooked in lieu of rows of beautiful friands, collections of cupcakes or delicious donuts.  A big pan of chilli con carne is a very economical dish and perfect to bag up and freeze in individual portions for days when you’re too tired to cook, too tired to shop or it’s simply nearly pay day and you’re just too broke for anything else!

Like my lasagne, this recipe has evolved over the years and being tweaked on many occasion. I will admit now that back in my early student days, I would only make chilli using a Schwartz packet mix (the hot and spicy one please) and it took some time to become confident enough with spices to make something thoroughly homemade and more wholesome. It has since graced the tables of mine and Hungry Hubby’s homes and also many a family party in it’s various renditions. Boiled rice, crusty bread, heaps of green salad, corn bread, sweet corn pudding, baked potatoes both sweet and white, even just cheese or guacamole have been the supporting roles to the star of the show chilli. Did I mention that it goes beautifully with a sweet potato and spring onion waffle or two?  A bowlful of plain yogurt is handy to have on standby in case you’ve lost the game of chilli roulette and it’s burning with the power of a thousand hell fires 😉


A brilliant recipe to have in your “homemade and wholesome” arsenal, a good chilli is an essential in my mind. It was certainly a regular in my student days, even if I did have a helping hand with the spice mix back in the day. I didn’t always have a glass full of red wine hanging around to slosh in the pan so in case you don’t either, add a little extra tomato puree and even a squirt of ketchup to enrich your dish. Whilst it clearly is a carnivore’s dinner as stands, the meat is definitely a minor part of this dish with the whole spices and vegetables really making it what it is. I find a great way of sneaking in extra veg. Depending on what is lurking in my veg drawer, store cupboard or deep freeze you may find cubed up carrots, diced broccoli, baby mushrooms, frozen mixed veg or extra cans of beans – cannellini, haricot, black and borlotti are all good. Which helps stretch each portion further both cost wise and nutritionally too. A win-win din dins if ever there was one! This is one dish I really do like to be hot and fiery so there is quite a bit of chilli in it. Do quench the flames if you must and remember, not all fresh or dried chilli is created equal and if you really can’t take the heat then please err on the side of caution and add more at the end! I’ll be back and baking something sweet if not something to go in your bread basket before you know it 🙂


Whole spice chilli con carne
Whole Spice Chilli
Servings: 6
Author: Just Jo
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 star anise
  • 5 cm cassia bark or 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 rounded tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 large onion finely diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2-3 fat red chillies finely chopped
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp chipotle chilli powder*
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 200 ml red wine approx
  • 500 g lean beef mince
  • 1 can of tomatoes approx 400g
  • 1 can kidney beans thoroughly washed and drained
  • 1 small can of sweetcorn approx 200-300g
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  1. Heat the oil in a large pan, stove top safe casserole or wide deep frying pan – it just needs a lid
  2. Add the whole spices (not the bay or herbs yet) and sizzle for a minute until they release their aroma
  3. Add the onion and cook until soft and browned well
  4. Add the garlic, chilli and bay and once again, cook until aromatic
  5. Add the beef mince and cook until the rawness has gone
  6. Add the chipotle chilli powder (*=substitute smoked hot or sweet paprika if you can’t get this – it won’t be the same but it will still be good) with the dried herbs and follow with the wine
  7. Once the wine has reduced by half, add the canned tomatoes and a full can’s worth of water plus the tomato puree
  8. Now bring to the boil stirring well then reduce to barely a simmer and partially cover. Cook on the stove top for at least 40 minutes, two hours would be ideal. If it looks dry add a splash more water and stir on occasion to ensure it’s not sticking.
  9. When the mince has cooked, it will be rich and the sauce thick – at this point you can add in your beans and sweetcorn heating them through for 5 minutes or so before serving. If you chose to add extra veg, just be mindful that frozen or large pieces may need 20 minutes to cook through in the chilli.

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