Cooking Disaster Class – Heston’s Chilli Con Carne

Since we finished our kitchen renovations a couple of months ago, I’ve had the intention of spending most of the Christmas break cooking. So what would be a suitable dinner for the middle of a run of 40C days? – chilli con carne, of course. In the past I’ve used a quick recipe from Nigella Express, but I wanted to try something new (and use the new cast iron pot I picked up in the boxing day sales) so I hit the web and found this interesting recipe from Heston Blumenthal on the website of upmarket UK supermarket chain Waitrose.


Recipe: Heston’s rich chilli con carne with spiced butter

Serves: 4


  • For the chilli:
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 450g Aberdeen Angus minced beef (10% fat) (I used premium supermarket beef mince)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 green chilli, deseeded and diced
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • Half a bottle of red wine (375ml)
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 500ml beef stock
  • 400g can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 230g jar Fragata Pimiento Piquillo peppers, drained and roughly chopped (I used roughly half of the jar below that I found in my local supermarket. These also come in a hot variety which I suspect would have been better.)


  • For the spiced butter:
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp tomato ketchup
  • ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ tsp Marmite (I was born in England so always have this in the pantry; no doubt Vegemite would work instead)
  • 125g butter, softened to room temperature
  • To serve:
  • 100g sour cream
  • 60g Cheddar cheese, grated
  • Grated zest and juice of 3 limes


  1. Start by making the spiced butter. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and lightly fry the cumin and chilli powder for approximately 1½ minutes. Pour into a bowl and add the rest of the spiced butter ingredients; mix together and once cool, place in the fridge until needed. (I was expecting some nice looking butter, much like when you mix it with herbs; instead it looked like a Christmas present from our cat, Buster) 


  2. Add 3 tbsp olive oil to a large sauce pan and heat over a high heat until smoking hot. Add the mince, in batches if necessary, and cook until evenly browned. Remove and drain the meat. Add a little water to the same pan to deglaze it and tip the water and bits in with the drained meat so none of the flavour is lost.
  3. Turn the heat down to medium and add the remaining olive oil. Add the onions and star anise and cook until the onions begin to colour, then add the garlic and green chilli and cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. Add the tomato purée, stir and cook for another 5 minutes until everything turns a brick red colour. Add the browned mince and juices, pour in the red wine and allow to reduce by two-thirds. Add the tomatoes and stock and simmer over a low heat for at least 1 hour or until it has reduced to a thick sauce consistency.
  5. Fold the beans and chopped red peppers into the chilli and simmer until they are heated through. Stir in 2½ tbsp of the spiced butter for mild-medium heat (or more if you like it hotter). Remove the star anise. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper and serve with rice. (Here’s how my finished chilli looked; I had to cook it for over 1½ hours to reduce it enough). 


  6. Heston recommends: Put the remaining spiced butter, the lime zest and juice into three separate bowls on the table alongside the cheese and soured cream, so everyone can add their own seasonings to their portion of chilli.

The chilli didn’t taste that amazing by itself, but adding the butter and accompaniments (particularly cheese & sour cream) brought it to life and I was really pleased with the end result. We ate it with corn chips and I also made a quick guacamole (avocado, red onion, red chilli, lime juice, salt & pepper).

Although it’s a little fiddly and quite time consuming (this took me 2½ hours from start to finish), being able to choose how much butter to add means that each diner can adjust the chilli to their desired level of spicy-ness – great if you have kids or a partner who doesn’t like it hot (alas no Devil Tears or Death Sauce this time around!) Comments on the Waitrose forum point to this recipe as being better than Heston’s, and I’m going to try that one next time.

(recipe copyright © Heston Blumenthal 2010, reproduced from the Waitrose website)


About the author


Martin was born in England but now lives in Perth, Western Australia. He has a passion for breakfast, coffee, hot curries & fast food, and is a cat & Dalek person.

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