Valentine Warner’s Carne Con Chile

Although I like Valentine Warner’s approach to food and cooking, I have mixed feelings about his telly programmes, mostly stemming from his incessant winking and innuendos (which are no doubt charming in person but don’t translate via TV).

I actually had to switch off when he referred to mini lavender meringues as “fairy tits”, though friends would say it’s just the kind of mildly naughty nickname I tend to give things myself.

But his book, The Good Table, is another thing entirely, and I found it charming from the get-go.

As Warner tells us in the introduction, the table of the title refers to the sturdy, worn and much loved kitchen table that is at the heart of the home – the table at which we prepare food, sit and eat. He goes on to talk about how sharing food and drink is not simply a matter of practicality but a deep display of affection and love. This may sound a little trite, but it comes across as genuine and heartfelt.

Unlike a number of cookery books I’ve encountered in recent months, The Good Table has lots of recipes that appeal to me; an unusually high number, actually, judging by the sheer volume of ripped-up scrap-paper bookmarks I’ve inserted.

There are a number of international dishes, mostly ones we know already know well here in the UK such as moussaka, paella, gnocchi and breaded veal. And there are plenty of British recipes such as Cumberland sauce, Pickled onion, steak & ale pudding, Chicken stew & dumplings, Eggs in aspic and Rhubarb & stem ginger fool.

What this feels like is a large personal collection of what Warner likes to cook at home, recipes he’s collected, tweaked and perfected over time. I am tempted by Pot partridges with savoy cabbage & cider, Pickled herrings, Sweetcorn soup, Gourd with cheese, Ceps & apples in puff pastry, Autumn macaroni with button mushrooms, onions, pancetta, hazelnuts & Fontina cheese and Floating islands with espresso caramel sauce to name just a few.

Those expecting a range of innovative ideas may be disappointed but if you fancy a bit of comfort cooking and eating, you will likely find plenty to your taste.

The recipe introductions are warm and personal (but, thankfully, winkless) and many of them made me smile.

Valentine Warner’s Carne Con Chile

We were lo0king for a recipe which would suit some boneless shin of beef we were sent by Donald Russell and include one or more of the range of dried chillis we were sent by Capsicana. This carne con chile recipe fit the bill perfectly, and I like the twist on the traditional name of chilli con carne.

I’ve rewritten the method, below, as Warner is rather verbose and I wanted to add some comments in of my own, too.

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Ingredients
5 ancho chiles
200 ml hot water
4 tablespoons cider vinegar or lime juice
4 chipotle chiles (smoked jalapenos)
40 grams lard
2 medium red onions, finely chopped
a fistful of coriander stalks, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
0.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon
0.5 teaspoon ground cloves
1 level teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 small garlic cloves, finely sliced
500 grams beef tomatoes (about 2 or 3)
2 teaspoons soft light brown sugar
1.5 teaspoons flaked sea salt
1 kg chuck steak, cut into very large square chunks
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
150 ml sour cream (to serve)

Note: We halved the amounts of everything, to match our half kilo of boneless beef shin, which we substituted for the chuck steak.
Note: We used a mix of different varieties of tomatoes, home grown, fresh from the garden but none being beef tomatoes.

Method

  • Warner’s first instruction is to dry fry chopped ancho chiles over a medium-low heat. He advises being attentive to avoid burning and suggests about 5 minutes to change the colour from red to tobacco. Our ancho poblano chiles were already dried and a rich dark brown, almost black colour. They already had a lovely smell as we chopped them; the heady aroma they released with less than a minute’s toasting in the pan, was delightful.

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  • After dry-frying the ancho chiles, remove pan from the heat and pour over the water and vinegar or lime juice. Also add the crumbled or finely chopped chipotle chiles. Leave to soak for half an hour.
  • Preheat oven to 150 C.
  • Melt the lard in a heavy casserole dish and fry the onions, coriander stalks, spices and oregano over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden and soft. Add the garlic for the last minute or two. Remove from the heat.

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  • Warner suggests peeling the tomatoes (using the scoring skin and boiling water method) but since the sauce mix is sieved later, this step seems unnecessary. We left our skins on and seeds in.
  • Put chopped tomatoes plus the chiles and soaking liquid into a blender and blitz until smooth.

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  • Sieve the blended liquid through a clean sieve and return to the blender, adding the cooked onion, garlic, spices and coriander mix. Blitz.

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  • But the beef into the empty casserole dish and pour over the chile sauce and stir well.

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  • Cook in the oven for 2 hours until very soft and tender.

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  • Transfer the dish to the hob over a low heat and stir in the cocoa powder. Cook gently for a couple of minutes. Stir in the sour cream and serve.

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Though not a particularly attractive finished dish, it is absolutely delicious. We enjoyed ours with tortillas, raw red onion and more sour cream.

We were accidentally a little too generous with the coriander stalks, which meant the finished dish veered a touch towards an Indian curry but the flavours were superb and the gentle smokey heat of the chiles came through beautifully. Next time, we’ll probably not stir any of the sour cream in, but serve only on the side.

This is good, hearty cooking and I look forward to enjoying other recipes from the book soon.

With thanks to the publisher for my review copy.


Valentine Warner’s The Good Table, published by Mitchell Beazley, is currently available from Amazon.co.uk for £14.85 (hardback). RRP is £25.

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14 Comments to "Valentine Warner’s Carne Con Chile"

  1. Dom at Belleau Kitchen

    Oooh Kavey what a lovely post. That meal sounds wonderful (although yes, it is rather an odd colour) I really like Valentine Warner, both his previous books are well thumbed over here in Belleau Kitchen and I appreciate his witty asides and adore his little sketches and drawings. This book is on my Christmas list!

    Reply
  2. Miss Whiplash

    We have some VW books and I agree that I DO like his recipes.
    However, I feel like he suffers a bit from that “chef” thing of having insane and long ingredients lists…
    This one doesn't look too bad generally, though it does have very specific chilli requirements…

    Reply
  3. Kavey

    Dom, the last pictures do make it look a little too green, it's more a dark brown with hints of green!!! Which of his previous books do you like best?

    Whippy, I think he's a lovely character, and I reckon I'd get on with him extremely well in person, as the fairy tits is, as friends have pointed out, exactly the kind of thing I'd come out with.
    The specific chilli requirements are worth adhering to here, as the flavours and heat are quite distinct.

    Reply
  4. Foodycat

    I'm inclined to agree with you – he's a good looking bloke but I don't really like him on TV! This chilli recipe looks gorgeous and, as it happens, I have all the ingredients except the sour cream and coriander!

    Reply
  5. meemalee

    Ooh, have never tried ancho chiles! Sound goood.

    You know that Waitrose party we went to in the summer? Valentine Warner came up to Danny and shook his hand and spoke to him effusively for ages, and when he left, I said to Danny, “Oh, I didn't know you knew him?” and he replied, “We've never met before. I think he thought I was someone else”. Hehehe.

    Reply
  6. Susan's blog

    I have recently reviewed this book myself and had my eye on this recipe as in the book it looked so rich and decadent. Looks very good here too.

    Reply
  7. Gourmet Chick

    I find him strangely annoying as well! Which would sort of put me off his book but you do make a convincing argument in its favour. PS Laughing at the Waitrose party story about Danny in the comments.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    We circled around the room looking for Danny at one point, and kept coming across Heston, then it switched to the other way round!

    Reply
  8. Eversfield Organic

    Yummy recipe! The colour is off-putting but the food tastes delicious. Recommended!!

    Reply
  9. Jen

    I finally got round to making this last night.
    Another great dish from Valentine Warner, though I chose it on your recommendation.
    I did his goat (but I subbed mutton) curry last week, and we loved that too.
    I can’t go him on the telly, too public schoolboy for me, but I love his writing and his food.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Glad you liked it, it’s a tasty dish.
    And yes, it’s the weird winking and mannerisms that put me off but in writing, I think he’s far less irritating and lovely recipes indeed.

    Reply

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