The ultimate basic chilli recipe (and how to spin it five different ways)

Comforting classics with a fiery kick, just right for now – take one basic chilli recipe and spin it five different ways.

Big basic chilli

Chris Alack

SERVES 6

VEGETABLE BASE
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion peeled and finely chopped
1 celery stick halved lengthways and thinly sliced
2 red peppers cut into 1cm-2cm dice (seeds and cores discarded)
3 garlic cloves peeled and finely chopped
1 heaped tsp finely chopped medium-hot red chilli

BEEF
1kg lean minced beef (look for about 10 per cent fat)

SPICE MIX
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 heaped tsp ground cumin
1 level tsp ground cinnamon
1 heaped tsp dried oregano

POT INGREDIENTS
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato purée
150ml red wine
1 bay leaf
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Best-ever chilli stew

Chris Alack

SERVES 6

Assemble the ingredients as for the Big Basic Chilli, replacing the minced beef with braising steak (cut into 5cm-7cm cubes) and omitting the tomato purée. Using a large lidded casserole, follow steps 1 and 2 of the Basic recipe but without colouring the meat. Continue with steps 3 and 4. To cook, preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Put the lid on the pot, place in the oven and cook the chilli for 2 hours. For a drier chilli to serve with tortillas or tacos, simmer the stew uncovered on the hob until excess juices evaporate, then crush the meat into shreds using a spoon or fork.

Vegan chilli (fit for carnivores)

Chris Alack

SERVES 6

Assemble the ingredients as for the Big Basic Chilli, omitting the meat and tomato purée. Trim and thinly slice 400g mushrooms of your choice. Cut 400g aubergine into 1cm dice. Have ready 1 x 250g pack ready-cooked Puy lentils (for example, Merchant Gourmet brand) or cook 150g dried lentils from scratch. Follow steps 1, 3 and 4 of the Basic recipe. To cook, simmer the contents of the pan over a low heat for 15 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking. At the same time, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan over a medium-high heat and fry half the mushrooms for about 5 minutes until golden, stirring frequently. Season, transfer to a bowl and repeat with remaining mushrooms. Fry the aubergine in two batches in the same way. Stir the cooked vegetables and lentils into the main pan, bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 5 minutes or until heated through.

Chicken chilli

Chris Alack

SERVES 6

Assemble the ingredients as for the Big Basic Chilli, replacing the minced beef with 900g chicken fillet (cut into 3cm cubes) and omitting the tomato purée. Using a large casserole, follow steps 1, 3 and 4 of the Basic recipe. To cook, simmer the contents of the pan over a low heat for 15 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking. At the same time, toss the diced chicken with 1 tbsp olive oil in a large bowl. Heat a large nonstick frying pan over a high heat and lightly brown the chicken pieces in about 4 batches, adding them to the main pan as you go. Check the seasoning, cover the pan and bubble over a high heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and done to your liking.

Feed-a-crowd chilli pie

Chris Alack

SERVES 6-8

Make up the recipe for the Big Basic Chilli (if you like, include any or all of the mystery flavourings from the hot tips and tricks below, but don’t add beans). Transfer the chilli to a shallow 4-litre ovenproof dish, for example a 53cm x 25cm roasting tin. Peel and cut up 1.5kg medium or large waxy potatoes (such as charlotte) and cook in boiling salted water until tender (about 15 minutes). Drain using a colander and leave for a few minutes for the surface moisture to evaporate. Return to the pan and mash very coarsely, partly chopping them with the side of the masher. Stir in 3 tbsp olive oil and some salt, followed by 5 tbsp coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley. Spoon the potato on top of the chilli (leaving it loose and craggy-looking). If not cooking the pie straightaway, leave it to cool, then cover and chill for up to a couple of days. Preheat the oven to 210C/190C fan/gas 6½. Bake the pie for 45-60 minutes (depending on whether cooking from chilled) or until the top is golden and the potatoes are crisp at the peaks.

Hot tips and tricks

Add some beans
Drain and rinse 1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, kidney, cannellini or butter beans (or a mixture), add them to the pot 5 minutes before the end of cooking your chosen chilli, to heat through.
And a little mystery…
Every chilli aficionado has their favourite secret ingredient that adds a special flavour note, leaves everyone guessing and sets their chilli apart. Try adding: 2 tbsp espresso (with the red wine); 20g chopped very dark chocolate or 1 tbsp pickle juice (from a jar of gherkins) 5 minutes before the end; replace the cinnamon with freshly grated nutmeg; fry 60g diced chorizo sausage with the celery and onion. And why stop at one? Use as many as you want – but don’t add coffee or chocolate to the chicken chilli.
And all the sides
Serve the chilli of your choice with warmed taco shells, guacamole, very finely sliced romaine lettuce, sour cream or crumbled feta (or vegan alternative) and chopped coriander. Alternatively, serve with fluffy white rice, sour cream (or vegan alternative), chopped coriander, sliced spring onion and lime wedges.

Super sides

Chris Alack

ALL SERVE 6

SWEET POTATO CHIPS
Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Line the base of a couple of large roasting dishes with baking paper. Cut 900g sweet potatoes (ends trimmed) into chunky chips 6cm-7cm long and 1cm-2cm thick. Toss these in a bowl with 4 tbsp olive oil, the finely grated zest of 2 limes and some seasoning. Spread the chips out in the dishes without touching. Roast for 40-45 minutes until dark at the edges and blistering. Serve with the chilli of your choice.

AVOCADO SALSA
Prep 1 level tbsp finely chopped red onion, 1 tbsp finely chopped coriander and ½ tsp finely chopped medium-hot red chilli. Cut the flesh of 2 avocados into 1cm dice and scoop into a bowl. Add the prepped ingredients followed by 1 tbsp lime juice, 1 tbsp olive oil and a little seasoning. Stir gently to combine and serve, scattered with extra coriander, with the chilli of your choice.

CAESAR SALAD
For the dressing place 150ml olive oil, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tsp worcestershire sauce and ½ a garlic clove in a blender. Boil 2 medium eggs for 1 minute, then submerge in cold water to cool. Working over the blender, crack in the still runny eggs (use a teaspoon to scoop out the thin layer of cooked white lining the shell). Whiz briefly until you have a pale and creamy dressing. Use this to dress a salad of romaine or cos lettuce and rocket. Scatter over plenty of shaved parmesan and finish with croutons or crumbled toasted baguette crostini. Serve with the chilli of your choice.

Recipes by Annie Bell. Food styling by Clare Lewis. Styling by Sue Radcliffe.