La Chatte Gitane (or The Gypsy Cat) was the name we chose for our cottage in France. We chose it while on the road, moving home, from Ireland to France with 2 dogs and 7 cats in the car.
This blog began its insignificant life as a recipe book for friends and family who would ask me repeatedly for a recipe of this, that and the other.
Since then it has taken many different directions, like gypsies tend to do. Sometimes making a U-turn and revisiting familiar roads and taking a break when necessary.
You'll find recipes here, but also musings about the places we've called home, the gardens that we've established, not always successfully, the homes we've improved and the environments we've lived in. Currently, that is back in Ireland.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Little Sunshine in the Dark Days of Autumn - Chilli Con Carne

Warm, glowing, deep red, spicy..... Comfort food to a tee. 
How is it that certain foods which have their origines in warmer climes can give us so much pleasure on a cold autumnal day.  I do think it goes further than reminscing about sunny summer days.  Like a bowl of soup or a great stew, it can give you a lovely hug and warm the cockles of your heart.

Anyway, there are as many recipes for chilli con carne as there are for ragu bolognese and here is mine.
I prepare it one day ahead, easy to reheat and the flavour gets better.


  • 1,5 kg of stewing beef  ( I like to use big chunks of meat on the bone, shin is best as it contains the bone marrow, but you can use boneless of course)
  • 3 onions
  • 3 or more cloves of garlic
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne or chilli powder
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, pounded
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 bell peppers (mixed colours)
  • 1 large Habanero pepper (if you want more heat, use more.  I have to take into account a person that goes all red in the face with the slightest bit of piquancy)
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree (concentrated variety)
  • 1 liter of good quality beef stock
  • Sunflower oil
  • Kidney beans 2 tins of 400 gr each approx. (I used dried ones, soaked overnight in cold water and cooked for about 1,5 hour -  300 gr dried beans)
  • Sweetcorn 1 tin ( optional, it doesn't really add to the flavour, but gives extra texture and colour)
  • Dark chocolate  50 gr
  • Seasoning : salt and a pich of sugar to taste.
  • Chopped fresh coriander

  • In your Dutch Oven (or any cast iron contraption with lid that works on the hob as well as in the oven) heat the sunflower oil and brown the meat.
  • Take the meat out and set aside.
  • Sautee the peeled and roughly chopped onions, garlic and finely chopped habanero in some oil.
  • Add the meat, all the spices and tomato paste. 
  • Cook out the tomato paste for a couple of minutes.
  • Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer.
  • Put the lid on and put it in a preheated oven 200 °C
  • After 1 hour turn the heat back to 170°C and cook for an extra hour.
  • Take it from the oven and carefully take off the lid (HOT, HOT, HOT)
  • You can check on the tenderness of the meat and if it falls apart into shreds you are on the right track.
  • At this point you can add the roughly chopped peppers and the beans.
  • Put back into the oven for about 30 minutes.
  • When ready, take it from the oven, remove the bones that might still be in there, add the sweetcorn and season to taste.
  • Put the chocolate on top and let it melt into the chilli.  Stirr.
  • Add a good measure of chopped coriander on top.

I served it with roasted butternut squash, sour cream and grated gouda (but I like mature cheddar better)

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