Cooking without recipes: Chili a la Kristin


My favourite thing to do is cook without recipes.  My sister knows when I cook, I either don’t use the recipe, or I do my own thing.  I decided today that I wanted to make was chili!

To start any chili or anything with beans, especially if you are using dried beans, is to soak the beans overnight.  I would recommend canned beans if you want to reduce the cooking time.

I put about a cup of kidney beans in a large pot and covered it with water.  I left this over night.  The problem with dried kidney beans is that it takes a very long time to cook.


You might notice in the morning the water is coloured and the beans are bigger!!  Rinse the beans before cooking!!! beans14

To make the chili, I scrounged through my pantry.  I needed broth, spices, tomato paste, garlic, onions, carrots, barley, stewing beef and Guinness.  I also added peas and corn.  You’re probably wondering why Guinness?? Well, I love to make Guinness beef stew because of the flavour Guinness gives so I thought why not in chili.  It also helps make meats tender just like wine and other alcohols.


I started off with seasoning and browning my beef.  I used stewing beef for this recipe.  Stewing beef is a relatively cheap piece of beef but needs time to cook to make it tender.  Like most meats, if you cook it long enough you break down the the tough connective tissues that make meats chewy.  I usually cook my stewing beef for about 1-3 hours depending on how tender I want it.  Put the stewing beef into a mixing bowl, add some olive oil and some spices.  This is where preference comes in.  I love using cumin, paprika and oregano to flavour my chili.  I also like to add a couple bay leaves just to help round out the flavours.  Add a bit of salt and pepper to help flavour the beef.


Give the beef a nice toss in the bowl to get all the spices mix in.  In the meantime, heat up a frying pan or a cast iron pot.  I love using my Le Creuset because of the even heat of cast iron.  Get your pot or frying pan nice and hot and drop your beef in.  Let your beef get a nice brown crust.  Try not to touch your beef too much while you brown the meat, or you won’t get a nice crust.


Remove the beef and set aside.  Now that you have all the nice juices from the beef, cook your onions, garlic and carrots.


I start with caramelizing the onions by adding onions to the hot pot.  At this point you can turn down the heat to medium-high.  The onions will start to brown and turn clear.  I  also added some onions I had left from a barbecue that was also caramelized.   As soon as the onions are brown, I add the carrots and garlic.  At this point, if you want to add celery you can.  I just didn’t have it in my fridge.  You want to soften your carrots and celery before you add the other ingredients.


Once the carrots have softened, add the browned beef and beans.  Add 1 cup of Guinness.  Putting too much will make the chili bitter. (Trust me it’s gross!)  With the broth (you can use chicken or beef or both) pour enough liquid to cover the ingredients.  Add the barley and let everything simmer over medium low heat.


I like to simmer for at least 1-3 hours.  Any time during the simmering you can add more liquids depending on how thick the chili is getting.  For this chili, it took  4 hours to get the beans soft (because I used dried beans).  To speed up the cooking time, cook the beans in just water.  For some strange reason, beans when cooked with other things don’t cook as fast.


Midway through your cooking add the tomato paste.  I noticed when adding it too early, the chili burned so you want to add this close to the end of your cooking time.  4 hours later, the beans became soft.  Depending on your preference, you may have to cook it longer.


The last thing to put in your chili is frozen peas and corn to add some freshness and a pop of colour.  I also like to add fresh herbs to my cooking.  Here I used cilantro because of course, it was the only thing in my fridge.  Stir everything in and voila!! Chili a la Kristin!!  My favourite thing to serve along side is a nice piece of toasted bread with cheese and avocado.  Yum!

beans24  beans20

Chili a la Kristin

-1 cup of dried kidney beans
-a glug of Guinness
-couple of cups of broth (chicken or beef or both)
-a can of tomato paste
-a handful of barley
-a dash of each; oregano, cumin and paprika
-a bit of an onion, chopped
-a cupful of peas and corn
-a clove of garlic
-chopped carrots
-some stewed beef

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