Great ways to add zest to your chili
As with many classic dishes, there is a huge range of recipes available for chili, as well as a plethora of opinions about what constitutes an authentic chili: what meat should be used – beef or pork? What beans are best – red kidney or pinto? Should the dish include tomatoes or not? Unless you are entering the competitive world of chili cooking, these questions are of little importance: most of us will have a tried and trusted recipe for chili, which we, and our family, enjoy because it has been tweaked to suit the family palate. Chili is such a robust dish that it can be made in many different ways and yet still somehow be recognizably chili and if you want to try something a little different from your favourite recipe, here are some ingredients which you may not have considered.
*Sprigs of oregano and thyme can be added at the start of the slow cooking to give a slightly Mediterranean taste to the finished dish.
*Coriander, found usually in Asian dishes, adds freshness when chopped and sprinkled in to the serving dish.
*Smoked paprika: You will probably already be using a range of chilies in your dish but you could also add a heaped teaspoonful of smoked paprika during the cooking and this gives a rich earthy taste to the chili.
*Cumin is often found in Indian food. Use seeds if you have them but ground cumin (as long as it is fresh) will do. Roast the seeds in a dry pan and then cook with the meat and onions or add ground cumin at this point.
*Cardamom: again, mostly found in Asian food, imparts a delicate citrus flavour to the dish – use 4-5 pods crushed and added at the start of the cooking.
*Cinnamon: this can be overpowering if you use too much so add either a small stick – about the size of the top of your little finger- or a teaspoon of powder at the start of the slow cooking.
*Cocoa powder: whilst strictly not a spice, adding cocoa powder or chocolate will give depth and richness to the dish. Both the powder and the chocolate must be good quality, dark and with some bitterness.
You could try adding some of the following to your usual stock:
*Wine: a red wine that is drinkable but inexpensive, when combined with herbs and tomato will give a rich sauce.
*Beer: enhances the flavour of beef.
*Coffee: this should be freshly brewed – instant coffee won’t work.
*Coffee, like chocolate, gives an earthy richness to the finished dish.
*A shot of whiskey or brandy stirred in just before serving gives the dish a real zing!
Some ingredients on this list may seem a little strange but it is worth trying them, for each one of them can add a little zest to your favourite chili recipe.