Monday, 13 February 2012

It’s chilli! Con carne

                                Chilli pepper garden            photo: Karen Cheng

I am starting to get to the end of my tether with Winter, the freezing temperatures, the amount of layers, the frozen hands… I am definitely a creature of the heat. I’ve been living in the UK for 20 years and my body is still not used to the cold weather. Today, I woke up craving chilli con carne. I am sure that the ayurvedas would agree with me that my tropical blood needs a lot of spicy and warming food right now.

On my way back from dropping Nina at school, I went to my butcher Patrick to buy some grass-fed minced beef. I had all the other ingredients at home, including a can of aduki beans, which I chose instead of the red kidney beans. I love its nutty and sweet flavour and I always have a tin in my pantry for those days when I don’t have time to cook them from scratch.

I made my chilli con carne adding some dark chocolate, which gives the dish an earthy and rich flavour. Yum!

The ingredients
Sautee onions, garlic and red peppers. Add spices
Stir in the plum tomatoes, tomato puree and stock. Let
it simmer then add the aduki beans
After 1 minute add the chocolate pieces

My chilli con carne! Serve it with a dollop of yoghurt,
coriander and lime wedges

Chilli con carne and chocolate 

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp olive oil
2 small onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red pepper, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp chilli powder (or 3 dried chillies)
500g lean beef mince
1 x 400g can of plum tomatoes
1.5 tbsp tomato puree
125ml red wine
200ml beef or chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 x can aduki beans, rinsed and drained
40g of 70% chocolate (I used Valrhona)
1 large bunch coriander leaves, roughly chopped
200ml natural organic yoghurt
Wedges of lime to serve

METHOD

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Fry the onion and garlic until softened. Add red peppers and spices. Increase the heat and add the mince, cooking quickly until browned, breaking down the chunks of meat with a wooden spoon.

Stir in the canned tomatoes, tomato purée and the stock. Pour in the red wine and boil for 2-3 minutes.

Season well. Bring to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook over a gentle heat for about 40-50 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the aduki beans, stir for 1 minute and then add the chocolate pieces. Sprinkle with fresh coriander. Cook for a further ten minutes, uncovered, before removing from the heat, adding extra seasoning if necessary.

Serve with rice, a dollop of yoghurt and a wedge of lime.

Some of the ingredients and their functional properties

Aduki or adzuki beans (Vigna angularis): They are originally from China and are very popular in Japan. Adzuki beans are a very good source of minerals such as magnesium, iron, potassium and zinc; vitamins B3 (niacin, which helps reduce high levels of blood cholesterol) and B9 (folate, which helps reduce levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood). Studies have shown that aduki beans can help reduce blood pressure. They provide high quality protein, are rich in soluble fibre and have properties that support kidney and bladder function.

Dark chocolate/cocoa (Theobroma cacao): what’s not to like about chocolate? It tastes good, stimulates endorphin production and contains serotonin. I am talking here about the real chocolate with at least 60% percent or higher cocoa content. It’s loaded with flavonoids (a compound found in plant pigments). The particular compound found in cocoa, called flavonol, makes blood platelets less likely to stick together and cause clots. It therefore prevents heart diseases. Another key flavonoid found in cocoa is proanthocyanidin (similar to those found in grape seed extracts, berries and apples).

The fats found in chocolate come from the cocoa butter and do not increase LDL (“bad” cholesterol). Cocoa butter contains oleic acid (the same found in olive oil), stearic acid (it has a neutral effect in the body), and palmitic acid (the same found in palm oil). Because cocoa butter is expensive, cheap chocolate brands replace it with milk fats or hydrogenated oils. Make sure you read the labels of your chocolate bar before buying it. In the future, I shall come back to chocolate and the many more nutritional benefits associated with it.

Till next week!

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