The best thing about not living at home is that it forces you to learn how to cook food from home.
When I first moved to England, a month after my 18th birthday, I spent the year living on instant noodles, pasta with jar sauce, microwavable everything, oven pizzas and veggie burgers. I was a vegetarian during my first year prompted by a bout of food poisoning from KFC on day one.
By year two, not only was I a carnivore again, I’d also grown bored of my 10-minute prep meals and longed for something different.
Enter Lucy B.
Lucy and I moved into a houseshare on July 7th 2003 and by August, I wanted her to teach me how to cook. She cooked everything. Fancy lasagna - check. Chili – check. Our Christmas dinner that year – checkity check. She once did a graphic design project on the time it took to prepare a meal versus the time spent actually consuming the meal. The last time I saw her, in July 2009, I happened to be working not far from where she lived in London. She was getting ready to go on one of her first dates with ‘this guy she’d met’, who later became her husband mind you, and yet still, she served me coffee and homemade blueberry muffins.
Now, despite me
once twice almost burning the house down and once blowing all the fuses by turning on the sandwich toaster, back in 2003, Lucy agreed to help me learn how to cook. Although, I don’t think we ever told her about the sandwich toaster. She may have been out at the time.
After a few false starts and Lucy arriving home to find me panicking in front of a pan of frying meat, I managed to eventually master my first dish: Lucy’s Mum’s Chili Con Carne.
It quickly became my go-to dish for impressing friends and family and was the first thing I ever cooked for The Canadian One when he travelled to my town to see me in those first few weeks of dating. It’s become a staple dish on our menu as I tend to make a large batch of it and freeze it separately in freezer bags for when it’s The Canadian One’s turn to ‘cook’ dinner…aka make rice and reheat the chili….and he does it ever so well.
It’s become so ubiquitous in our home that when ‘kidney beans’ appears on the shopping list, The Canadian One immediately says, ‘We’re having chili!’
It’s the most requested recipe I have in my repertoire and here it is in all it’s glory:
Lucy’s Mum’s Chili Con Carne
1-2 onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
Vegetable oil for frying (I use olive oil)
2 level tsp chili powder (or more if you like it hotter)
1 red chilli
1 tsp cumin
500g ground beef
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 tin of kidney beans
1 tsp tomato purée
salt and pepper to taste
2. Add chili powder, red chili, cumin, salt and pepper. Fry for 1 minute.
3. Add ground beef, frying until browned. At this point, I usually drain the fat off the beef as I find it makes the dish feel less greasy but it’s a personal preference.
4. Add tomatoes, tomato purée and more seasoning. Bring to boil.
5. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. (I sometimes simmer for 90 minutes)
6. Add kidney beans, cover and simmer for a further 30 minutes.
Serve with fluffy rice. I often serve it with mixed with some small conchiglia pasta. You can top it with red chili flakes (for a hotter taste), grated cheese or sour cream….or all three! Delicious!
You can substitute beef for pork and add a pinch of oregano to the chili with the tomatoes.
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