Chillies have so many nuances of flavour and different heat levels that the hardest thing is knowing which one will work best in which dish
Tue 2 Dec 2014 16.25 GMTFirst published on Sat 29 Nov 2014 07.00 GMT
Thomasina Miers’ chili recipe
Thomasina Miers’ venison, quince and rosemary picadillo: ‘Venison lends itself beautifully to an English-inspired chile con carne.’ Food styling: Marie-Ange Lapierre. Photograph: Johanna Parkin/Guardian
Ihave been obsessed with chillies since my first trip to Mexico 20 years ago: I was hooked by their heat, and how alive it made me feel, but then I began to learn about all the nuances of flavour and different heat levels. The hardest thing is knowing when to use which chilli. This week, two simple but delicious recipes using two great chillies: the ancho, which is sweet, fruity and barely hot; and chipotle, all smoky and fiery. Both are widely available online and in supermarkets, but I’ve listed a few substitutes in case you can’t get your hands on them.
Venison, quince and rosemary picadillo
Venison is one of the healthiest meats: high in protein and low in fat. Here, it lends itself beautifully to an English-inspired chile con carne, or picadillo as the authentic Mexican version is called. I use mince, as they do in Mexico, and the beauty is that you don’t have to brown the meat, because there is already so much flavour in the caramelised fruit, spices and chilli. Quince is at the end of its season, so if you can’t find it, use a pear or apple instead. Serves four.
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3 ancho chillies (or 2 tbsp sweet smoked paprika)
50ml olive or rapeseed oil
½ quince (200g)
1 plantain (160g), diced small
100g prunes, chopped into 1cm dice
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 small cinnamon stick
1 tsp allspice berries, ground
1 small handful finely chopped rosemary
1kg venison mince
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 tin plum tomatoes
250ml red wine
100g blanched almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
Pull open the ancho chillies, shake out the seeds and tear into large pieces. Heat a large casserole on medium-high and toast the chilli pieces for five to 10 seconds a side, until they have slightly darkened, the skin has become more supple and they are releasing a wonderful smell. Quickly take them out of the hot pan (you don’t want them to burn or they taste bitter), cover with boiling water and leave to soak.
Add a tablespoon of oil to the same pan and add the quince, plantain and prunes. Cook for five minutes, until golden and caramelised all over, then transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Add a tablespoon or two of oil to the pan, add the onion, spices and rosemary, seasoning generously, and cook for five minutes, until the onion is softening, then add the meat and garlic. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then drain the ancho chillies and blitz with the tomatoes. Add this pureee, the wine and the reserved fruit to the pot, and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Check for seasoning, leave to cool and refrigerate – this dish is much better eaten a day after it’s made, because that gives the flavours a chance to develop. It also freezes beautifully.
To serve, reheat the picadillo gently over a medium heat. Meanwhile, toast the almonds in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for five to 10 minutes, shaking every so often, until pale golden all over, then roughly chop. Serve the stew over a brilliant-orange squash puree, some sprouts (see below) or steamed kale, and scatter the almonds on top.
Sprouts with chipotle, honey and toasted hazelnuts
Thomasina Miers’ sprouts with chipotle, honey and toasted hazelnuts
Thomasina Miers’ sprouts with chipotle, honey and toasted hazelnuts: ‘Sprouts aren’t just for Christmas.’ Photograph: Johanna Parkin for the Guardian. Food styling: Marie-Ange Lapierre
Sprouts aren’t just for Christmas. They are an incredibly versatile vegetable, and my children love them fried in butter and honey. They are – a far cry from the over-boiled sprouts of yore. Here is a wonderfully smoky, grown-up version, great as a side dish or starter. Chipotles en adobo is a relish made from chipotles: if you can’t get it, use a dried chipotle instead, deseeded, simmered in water for 20 minutes to soften and pureed; failing that, use smoked paprika.Serves four to six.
500g brussels sprouts
45g hazelnuts (or almonds; optional)
1 tbsp chipotle en adobo (or 1 tsp hot smoked paprika)
1 tbsp honey
Juice of 1 lime
Wash and tail the sprouts, cut away any discoloured/damaged outer leaves, and cut into halves. Put a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan on a medium heat and, when hot, toast the hazelnuts (if using) for five to 10 minutes, tossing every so often so they toast all over. Tip into a clean tea towel, wrap up and rub so the skins come off the nuts; roughly chop the nuts, and set aside.
Turn the heat under the pan right up, add the butter and season with salt (be generous). Wait for the butter to start foaming, then cook until the solids turn a rich deep brown and it smells deliciously nutty. Throw in the sprouts, fry for a few minutes, then turn them over and cook for five minutes more, tossing every so often so they colour all over; they should be almost cooked by this stage.
Add the honey and chipotle to the pan, toss to coat the sprouts and squeeze in the lime juice. Leave to heat through for a minute, then turn out into a bowl. Scatter with the nuts (if using), and serve.
And for the rest of the week…
Stuff leftover picadillo into baked potatoes, sprinkle with cheese and return to the oven to heat through – delicious with a crisp chicory salad. Toast double the amount of anchos and puree the excess (without the tomatoes) to make a wonderful marinade for lamb or beef. Cut any extra quince into slices and roast with honey and lemon juice: it’s fab on morning yoghurt or porridge. Make more sprouts and save some for a midweek tea: toss in a pan to reheat, and serve over rice or quinoa loosened with sesame oil, and top with feta. Chipotles work in mayo, meatballs or just about anything you want to give a smoky, fiery heat.
• Thomasina Miers is co-owner of the Wahaca group of Mexican restaurants.