I first tried chilli con carne when I was in the Lake District on a short break. We went out in a little family-run cafe and ordered jacket potato with chilli con carne topping. The fist mouth full and I was amazed by the flavour of chilli and cumin seeds. I remember thinking that it was an Indian meal.
Naturally, when I try something new I want to know more. So I dag a little bit deeper and discovered that it was a meal that originates from northern Mexico and South Texas.
The history is unknown so is the authentic recipe. The legend says, that the first recipe was written down as early as the 17th century by a Spanish nun Sister Mary who was mysteriously known to Indians as “La Dama de Azul” commonly called “the lady in blue”. Even though she physically never left Spain, her body would go into trances for many days and travel to an unknown land to preach Christianity to Indians. King Phillip IV of Spain was convinced that she was “the lady in blue” of Indian legends. Apparently, Sister Mary wrote down the recipe during one of her trances. Her version contained venison or antelope meat, some onions, tomatoes and chilli peppers. There are no written records of it anywhere but it is good to keep an open mind after all even facts about the recipe origins are not so clear.
Another story says that the dish was invented by prisoners in Texas. They made some kind of stew from the cheapest ingredients they had available to them under difficult circumstances, so just with a little bit of beef and chillies boiled in water for a very long time until it’s edible. It became so popular in Texas prisons that the inmates used to rate jails on quality of their chillies they served to them.
When translated from Spanish Chilli con carne means meat with chilli. In early days, before use of fridges and freezers, it was sold in bricks after pressing out all the moisture. Later on, the dish evolved, new spices were added such as cumin and new versions of dishes were developed such as Cincinnati Chili, Springfield Style Chili or Chase’s Chill but the best known is, of course, the Texas chilli. The state of Texas in 1972 proclaimed chilli con carne for state food and San Antonio in 80s has established a tribute to chilli as a state dish and started celebrating “Return of the Chilli Queens Festival” every year in May.
The history that surrounds this dish is mysterious and intriguing; the same can be said for the dish itself. My first attempt to make chilli went better than I thought it will. I made a big dish that lasted us a few days and I was amazed by how nourishing it was.
We prepared for you our favourite chilli con carne recipe.
Let us know what is your favourite chilli con carne variation?