Halloween Chili

For the last 15 years, I have hosted a Halloween gathering. The format has changed ever so slightly over the years, but two ingredients have remained constant: horror movies, and chili.

It is looking likely that this year may be the year I break my run, but I am amused and excited that Chiloween is going transatlantic, with a West Coast franchise courtesy of Dave. I’ve spent the last 15 years honing my Halloween Chili recipe, and it’s time to let it free into the world.

Please note: I make no claims that this chili is authentic’ or proper’. I’ve visited chili cook-off forums as a part of my research and am fully aware of how many cardinal sins are committed herein. It has beans. It has tomatoes. It has marmite. It is my Halloween Chili. I’d also like to recognise the Serious Eats Best Chili Ever, to which my recipe bears a resemblance, mostly by coincidence. I have them to thank for the addition of Marmite or anchovies in the base paste, and star anise in the spice mix - the rest I arrived at through many years of trial and error.

Halloween Chili

Ingredients (serves 12, or more if you serve with rice / potato skins etc)

1kg chuck steak, in slices rather than cubed

2 dried Ancho chili peppers

6-10 dried Habanero peppers (depending on preferred heat)

4 dried chipotle peppers

4 large cloves garlic

250ml bourbon whiskey

2 tbspn cumin seeds

1 tbspn coriander seeds

1 star anise

1 tbspn Marmite, or 6/7 tinned anchovies chopped very finely (or half and half, if you like)

500g dried pinto beans

3 large onions

4 tins of tomatoes

250ml full-bodied red wine

50g good quality dark chocolate

A day ahead of serving

Soak the pinto beans according to instructions.

De-seed the chili peppers, and slice open so they lay flat, then slice again into half-inch pieces. Lightly toast them in a dry frying pan, then add the bourbon. Simmer for a few minutes, then set aside.

Again with the dry frying pan, lightly toast your cumin, coriander and star anise, then crush in a pestle and mortar.

In a blender, blitz the bourbon chili mix with the toasted spices, the garlic and the marmite/anchovies until you have a smooth paste. Make sure you have a lid on your blender, otherwise you may inadvertently pepper-spray yourself with your now-weaponised aerosol dinner.

Take the steaks and sear them well on all sides in a hot pan. Leave them to rest, then dice into chunks of your preferred size. I like smallish cubes, personally. Mix the meat into the base paste and leave to marinate for an hour or so.

Chop the onions and sweat them in some butter and oil in the bottom of a large pot. Add the marinated meat (with its marinade), the tomatoes and the wine. Bring to a good strong simmer to cook off the alcohol, then reduce the heat to the lowest you can manage and cook with the lid on for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool, then leave in the fridge overnight.

Two hours before serving

Drain and rinse the pinto beans, and add to the chili pot. Mix thoroughly, and put on a low heat.

Taste it. At this point you may decide it needs a bit more heat - I use chili flakes, usually, but if you have a favoured hot sauce then knock yourself out. Season with salt and pepper.

Allow to heat through, uncovered, on a slow simmer, with occasional stirring. It will now start to reduce, so keep an eye on it to ensure it doesn’t cook down too far. If you like, throw in a few whole chili peppers - they won’t add any heat to the dish, but they’ll be a tasty treat for one or two lucky guests.

Ten minutes before serving, take off the heat and add the dark chocolate. Stir, cover and allow to sit. Serve with your preferred accompaniments.