My chilli brings all the boys to the yard: the chilli challenge


When I innocently tweeted recently that my chilli brings all the boys to the yard, I did not expect the Spanish inquisition. Congratulating myself on the pleasure of taking leftover chilli into work for lunch, my fervour was heightened when a girl in the office kitchen actually commented, whilst drooling, that my leftover chilli “smelt amazing”. I knew it did, but I self-deferrentially and demurely thanked her and went back to my desk to write a gloat-tweet. I had not foreseen that I would be called out on my wild claims.  

 Even so, when Paul of How Not to do a Food Blog threw the gauntlet down, I took it up without a moment’s hesitation. That’s not down to any misplaced arrogance, but due to the fact that my chilli really has been carefully and painstakingly developed to bring the boys to the yard. It is my go-to meal if Sven is having the boys round to watch the footie or for a game of poker. I’ve been fiddling with it forever and every time I cook it I fiddle with it a little bit more. So, over the years this chilli has become an absolute beast… I was pretty confident that it wouldn’t embarrass me, even if it didn’t win.  

After a little logistical debate, Paul and I agreed terms and settled that we would ask our fellow twittering foodie, Jez (@Jezmd), to follow both recipes and then judge who would be the victor of the ultimate chilli challenge. Jez kindly (and enthusiastically) agreed and the chilli-off officially began.  

I was immediately faced with a dilemma. Should I stay true to my week-in, week-out chilli or should I foodify it? My standard chilli uses beef mince and run-of-the-mill chillies, and plain ol’ storeroom spices. It’s not fancy… it’s chilli. But if I decided to foodify it then I would need to switch my everyday mince for all too posh chunks of beef and my run-of-the-mill chillies for chipotles or some such thing. All of these you can do, and I’m positive that the chilli experience would probably be heightened as a result. However, it would no longer be my humble mid-week beast of a chilli; it would be quite a different animal. So, in the end my instinct and love of this unassuming and down-to-earth, but thoroughly thigh-spankingly good cowboy classic won out. Gentleman of the jury, I give you: the mid-week chilli to end all mid-week chillies. I hope it wins.  

Mid-Week Chilli

(adapted from too many recipe to mention)  

for the chilli  

  • 1 large red onion, finely diced
  • 500g quality lean beef mince (I used Aberdeen Angus lean mince)
  • 5 or 6 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 heaped tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 dried red chilli
  • 2 or 3 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 pint beef stock
  • 1 tsp instant coffee granules
  • 2 cans of chopped tomatoes (as good quality as you can get your hands on)
  • 1 can of kidney beans in water, drained and rinsed
  • 1 orange pepper, sliced
  • 1 yellow pepper, sliced
  • 1 tbsp muscavado sugar
  • Salt and pepper.

for the rice  

  • Enough rice for your diners
  • 1 or 2 limes
  • handful of coriander.


In a heavy-based pan, heat a few glugs of olive oil over a medium heat and then add the onions, bay leaves, oregano, cumin, smoked paprika and cinnamon stick and cook for around 10 minutes until the onions are soft, dark and sticky. Meanwhile make your beef stock and add in the teaspoon of instant coffee granules (trust me!). At this point, you can rehydrate your dried chilli in the stock, which will infuse your coffee-stock with a little extra chilli punch. Once it’s rehydrated, chop it up and add it to the rest of the chillies. I used two extra chillies, but if you’re hardcore you may want to add more. If you’re unsure of your chilli status then you can always use fewer and then at the end if it’s not punchy enough for you, just throw in some more chopped chilli to taste.  


Chuck your chopped chillies and sliced garlic in with the onions, along with a splash of your coffee stock and cook for a few more minutes, until you have a really aromatic and dark base that looks something like this:  



Meanwhile season your beef mince with a little salt and pepper. I like to cook my mince separately, so do this now if you’re like me. If not, once the onion and garlic base is ready add the mince and brown.  



Then add your sliced peppers and give it a good stir.  


Then your tins of chopped tomatoes and your coffee beef stock.  


Then your drained kidney beans.  


Finally, add your muscavado sugar and season well with salt and pepper. Then turn the heat down really low and leave to simmer. Just leave it for hours and hours, as long as you can bear. If it starts to dry up a bit then bung the lid on, but otherwise leave it lidless. If it really starts to dry up then add a little more water. I left mine simmering for about 2 1/2 hours until it looked like this:  


Then I put it in the fridge overnight to really let the flavours infuse. Once you’re ready to eat, you’ll need to prepare your rice in whichever way you’re comfortable with. But may I suggest you chuck in a couple of bit of lime peel in with your rice whilst it’s cooking. And then…  


…once it’s cooked, add the zest and juice of one lime (perhaps increase that to 2 limes if there’s a few of you) and a handful of coriander, roughly chopped. This will give a zing and freshness to the chilli.  


Serve with yoghurt or sour cream and a wedge of lime. Now, you try to tell me that you don’t find boys coming to your yard when the smell of this wafts out of your kitchen. They’ll be flocking to you… 


So, over to you Jez. Fingers crossed the mid-week chilli wins out. xx  

You can find the competing chilli at How Not to do a Food Blog:  

Please feel free to comment on both recipes if you’ve got an opinion on whose looks more appealing, or if you think both are inferior to your own recipe. What do you do differently? We want to hear from you!


Filed under Beef, Chillies, Lime, Main courses, Peppers, Recipes, Spices, Tomatoes, Weekday dinners

13 responses to “My chilli brings all the boys to the yard: the chilli challenge

  1. It looks… well… Great! Damn you, I’ve added coffee on loads of occasions instead of stock as a kind of proper cowboy chilli if you will. I think this is going to be close one… well I hope it’s a close one any way!

  2. i never thought about using coffee instead of stock, but i can see how it would give a good depth of flavor. I think i am going to break the rules a bit and make this mid week chilli on a monday!! thanks for the recipe.

  3. Mum

    I hope it wins! Good edgy writing!

  4. Paul: I think it will be close too. There’s a lot of pressure on young @jezmd!! Hope he can handle the backlash!

    Alison: Go on, be a devil. Hope you like the addition of coffee. xx

    Mum: You’re a lickel legend. Love you.

  5. Coffee! What a strange but great idea. Love chilli, will have to give this a go next time.

  6. Must admit this looks really interesting and I’m definitely going to check your flavours out.

  7. Fran & Steve: give it a go, it will not disappoint, I guarantee!

  8. Tes

    I enjoy reading this post very much. I’m saving this recipe for the weekend.

  9. Marty Fishay

    Nice… but i’d prefer a milshake! (hides)

  10. I’ve always been a sucker for a rich hot chilli… I have to admit the addition of coffee raised an eyebrow but then mind perfect sense. Living with a self confessed snob instant doesn’t go anywhere near the Ocado shop and efforts to smuggle it in end in failure. So I used espresso. Dropping way too much in the chilli looked like a meaty dark brown puddle. Without stock and some extra tomato it was off life support. Result was a rich, smokey, hot, hot, hot chilli…

    I have the rival on the stove at the moment with some tweeks…. So sat at work thinking of chilli and a chilled Rebellion Blonde in the terrace.

    • Hi. Absolutely… espresso would work just as well and I think I have used it once or twice. I just like the meatiness of using beef stock, so usually combine the two. I can imagine that using pure coffee would make the chilli really rich though. Delish! Good luck with the other chilli, but hope you find it inferior to mine 😉

      That chilli and beer situation sounds right nice. Enjoy.

  11. Woo momma. That looks like a flipping marvellous chilli. Next spare mid-week I get I’m going to be all over it. Will report back with no-doubt glowing praise…

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