Cha Cha Cha Chilli

Who doesn’t love a bit of chilli? Beef chilli, bean chilli, veg chilli – I just can’t resist the warm hug of chilli. Something so simple that packs a whack of flavour is always a sure fire hit with me, and, like a curry, gets better the second day too which makes for awesome left overs and gives you extra bang for your cooking buck!

Like most of us, my first foray into chilli was my mum’s Chilli Con Carne made with a Crosse and Blackwell packet mix.  Who doesn’t remember the advert for it on TV as a kid in England… “Chilli Con What?” “Chilli Con Carne” (click here to relive the ad!)  From that I have had many many attempts at finding my own perfect Chilli recipe that doesn’t involve a packet mix!  Well, let me introduce you to by Cha Cha Cha Chilli!  And it’s all in the name…

Cha – For Chapotle

Cha – For Chocolate

Cha – For Chilli

I’m not just a pretty face you know, there is something going on up there too!

Chapotle is a type of mexican chilli pepper that is known more for its smokey, subtle spice than some of its fiery counterparts.  Fresh chilli’s other than the ubiquitous birds eye or jalepeno are pretty hard to come by still in Ireland unless you grow them or have access to a speciliast grower such as The Irish Chilli Farm.  The utterly wonderful Picado Mexican in Dublin has a wonderful online shop ( where you can purchase an array of dried and tinned chilli’s that are 100% authentic and imported direct from Mexico!  Dried chillies are a great option if you don’t use non-supermarket standard chilli’s often as they last for ages if stored properly.

Chocolate in food is something I will be exploring more in the following month up until Valentine’s Day.  In County Cork we are really fortunate to have a number of chocolate makers and chocolatiers.  One such artisan chocolatier is a local food hero of mine, Allison Roberts of the amazing Clonakilty Chocolate.  Allison is the owner of Ireland’s very first bean-to-bar chocolate factory.  She sources her beans directly from a fairtrade chocolate farming community in Ghana, roasts and processes the beans to make the liquid chocolate – a process that can take weeks.  As much of the work as possible is done by hand, with certain machines neccesary for the process to happen.  In addition to this, much of the chocolate is sugar free using natural plant sugar substitutes packaged in 100% compostable materials.  The chocolate is rich and luxurious – typically 70-80% cocoa and is not designed for rapid eating.  This chocolate lends itself perfectly to being used as a cooking ingredient in savoury or sweet dishes alike.  And in South America cocoa is treated in that exact way therefore putting chocolate into food is not actually a new idea to them, but to us in this part of the world it is something of a novelty, and as such it can be tricky to know how to use it in savoury cooking.  I like to think of chocolate as the ultimate seasoning, adding deep rich base notes to dishes and giving them a lovely velvety and seductive texture!  Well, Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, so why not give cooking with chocolate a go?!


  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 500g good quality fresh steak mince or beef chuck steak finely diced
  • 1 large onion finely diced
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely sliced
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 dired chapotle chilli finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp of harissa spice mix (I recommend the Spice’n’Tice range)
  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 400g tin of red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tbsp of tomato puree
  • 100g of minimum 70% dark chocolate – best quality you can get (I recommend Clonakilty Chocolate “Decadent Dark“)
  • 1 tsbp of fresh thyme – leaves picked from stalks
  • 1 rich beef jelly stock pot
  • apx 200ml of water
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Minimum 1/2 tbsp of sriracha chilli sauce – add more to taste
  • Handful of chopped fresh coriander
  • half a fresh, ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
  • Serve up with a dollop of sour creme, a pickled hot pepper to garnish, for example Guindilla chilli pepper and some boiled basmati rice.


  • In a heavy bottom pan (preferably one with a lid), heat the oil and then add the meat to brown (mince) or seal (chuck steak).
  • Using a slotted spoon, take out the meat and place on kitchen roll to drain but leaving any remaining oil and meat juice in the pan.
  • Turn the heat down slightly and then add the onion, garlic, chapotle and bay leaves.  Cover too cook through slightly gently without burning for a couple of minutes.
  • Uncover and add the harissa spice mix and the tomato puree. Mix well with the onions and garlic.
  • Return the meat to the pan and combine.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and the kidney beans. Mix well.
  • Add the fresh thyme and the beef stock pot.  Season with plenty of freshly cracked black pepper and mix well.
  • Add the water, cover and simmer gently on a low heat for about 20 mins or until the meat is cooked through completely.
  • Meanwhile, put a pan of salted water to boil and cook up some plain white rice, basmati works best
  • Uncover, break up the chocolate and add to the pan along with the sriracha chilli sauce and about half the amount of fresh coriander and the juice of half the lime. Stir through and cook for a further 10 mins or until the mixture has thickened and reduced by about half.
  • Check for seasoning and chilli heat and adjust as necesssary, only adding salt in now (remember there is plenty of salt in the stock pot, so salting at this stage should just be to adjust to your pallet)
  • When ready serve up the chilli on warmed plates and garnish with the remaining fresh coriander.
  • Serve with the fresh avocado spritzed with fresh lime juice, sour creme and the pickled chilli.


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