I was a late convert to Mexican (or TexMex, as chili really is). I don't like spicy food - food that bites back, I call it - and could never really see the point of eating it. I would often go to Mexican restaurants with my husband, who is an aficionado of the cuisine, and cook the occasional, very inferior I'm sure, fajitas at home. But chili wasn't even a blip on my culinary radar until I started dieting. The thing is, it is remarkably easy to cook any ragu-based dish with hardly any fat at all; so we started making our own spag bol, stews, casseroles and the like, using low fat cooking spray instead of oil.

Our first attempts of reverse-engineering our own chili were a bit abortive, frankly, so I did a bit of research and came across Footprints' great recipe above. Over time I've tweaked it, adding or subtracting various ingredients until today I think I have perfected the formula. This evening's chili was not just a good diet food or a convenient winter warmer, but a truly wonderful and hearty home meal that I would be proud to serve to the most finicky guests.

Obviously I am standing on the shoulders of giants here; however I think I'll still node my version of this dish for my fellow noders to try. I'm writing it all up rather than just noting the alterations I've made, not out of a desire to supplant Footprints' efforts, but out of consideration for anyone who might want to print this recipe out.

OK, enough waffle - bring on the food! To make enough for 4 people, you'll need:

  • 250gr lean beef mince
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper and 1 green one, seeded and chopped
  • A few fresh chillies, seeded and finely chopped - how many I leave to your own taste and courage; personally I use 2 small mild chillies for this quantity
  • 250gr drained red kidney beans - from a can or home cooked, up to you
  • 500gr canned chopped tomatoes with the juice
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 lime
  • 1tbsp tomato paste
  • 1tsp sugar
  • salt to taste
  • A couple of handfuls chopped fresh coriander
  • 500gr brown rice (uncooked weight)

Now do this:

  1. Place a large, thick-bottomed non-stick pan on to heat. When hot, spray with cooking spray or use as much mild flavoured (ground nut or corn) oil as you feel you need. Place the mince on the hot oil - don't be impatient, wait until it's good and hot! - and fry, stirring energetically to make sure the mince doesn't end up in clumps, for 2-3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat and juices from the meat in the pan.

  2. Place the onions in the pan, followed by the garlic after a minute or two. After another 5 minutes, add the peppers and chillies and stir well. Turn down the heat and leave the mixture to soften for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan.

  3. Next stir in the tomato paste, diluted with a little of the canned tomato juices. Now return the fried-off mince to the pan, followed in quick succession by the beans, the tomatoes and the wine. If the mixture looks a bit too thick, add a little more wine or up to 1 cup of water - you want the liquid to just cover the rest of the ingredients. Give everything a good stir, partially cover the pan and walk away. Far away. No, really - shoo.

  4. I mean it. Get out of here. I don't want to see you back in this kitchen for at least 2 hours.

  5. OK, you can come back now. Carefully taste the chili, remembering that it will be bland as all heck, and add salt to taste, as well as the sugar. Taste again, then adjust as needed. Now, Footprints' secret ingredient is the coriander; I defintiely encourage you to not leave this out. However, do yourself a favour and use the juice of the lime as well - it really makes the most astounding degree of difference. Add both these magic ingredients to the pan at this stage.

  6. You're done, and your wonderful wonderful chili con carne is ready to eat. But what do you eat it with? Normally Mexican food comes with regular white short grain rice, and to begin with that is what we were using too. But today we decided to try brown (whole grain) rice instead and Oh My God, you guys. The nutty flavour and tougher texture of the brown combine with the rich creaminess of the chili to lift this dish to a completely different level. And just in case you're worried, you can get boil in the bag brown rice - that's what we used as a matter of fact - so no scary rice cooking there.

Because it's pointless making a small quantity of this recipe, and there are only two of us in the house, we make it at the weekend, then reheat in two batches during the week. You can safely reheat the whole pot, but then the second time you eat the chili, the lime and coriander won't be fresh any more; so I recommend you ladle off 2 portions into a smaller pot and add the last two special ingredients afresh each time. Enjoy!