A few weeks ago, I was invited to All Star Lanes in Westfield Stratford to learn executive chef Steve Collins’ chilli con carne recipe and a few cocktails from mixologist Adam Seidman. The master classes were filmed as part of some new promotional material for Westfield Stratford’s website, though thankfully I’m only visible briefly!
Fashion and shopping aren’t really my thing, but I was impressed with the sheer scale of eating options at the new shopping centre, including Italian (Jamie’s and Franco Manca), Thai (Busaba Eathai), Mexican (Wahaca), Brazilian (Cabana), Moorish / Middle Eastern (El Cantara and Comptoir Libonais), Japanese (Umai and Yo Sushi), Vietnamese (Pho) and several more chain outlets such as Giraffe, Pizza Express and Spud-U-Like, to name just a few.
I wouldn’t make a visit especially to eat at most of these places unless I lived just around the corner, but I’d certainly be happy to stop for a meal if I did end up coming for some shopping.
Steve Collins is the executive chef for All Star Lanes and as such, he looks after the menu for all their branches. Chefs at the individual outlets do have the opportunity to add a few dishes to their local menu, but core items such as Steve’s chilli are made to his fixed recipe.
With all the ingredients already prepped and measured out for us, all that remained was for each of us to cook our own huge pot of chilli under the careful and helpful guidance of Steve. His recipe is for a UK style chilli con carne with American influences from his research trips to the States. It does include minced beef and kidney beans, so purists look away now!
Of course, being a commercial restaurant, Steve’s exact recipe is secret, though we did learn his tips and tricks as we cooked our own. A few of the things that struck me:
Steve has his beef ground quite coarsely, to add texture, and uses a mix of beef shin and chuck.
The volume of powdered spice he adds is more than I have used before for the equivalent volume of meat. Don’t be shy when it comes to the key flavour components. His exact spice mix and ratio is not for sharing, but on tasting, I correctly guessed that the key components were cumin, coriander and chilli powder.
- A combination of red wine and strong beef stock reduces down to give a good flavour without any obvious wine kick.
The kidney beans are added for the last 10 minutes of cooking only, so they don’t disintegrate during the long slow cooking.
Once our chillis were finished, we compared the results, each one slightly different even though we’d followed the same recipe and sat down to enjoy a bowl of our own, served with fried tortilla nachos and a fresh salsa. I really enjoyed the flavours of the chilli, but would have liked to reduce the liquid down a bit further, as it was a touch runny for my tastes.
Part way through cooking our chillis, once we’d added all our ingredients (save the kidney beans), we left our pots simmering gently on the stove and popped across to the bar for a master class with mixologist Adam.
We made (and enjoyed drinking) peach cobblers, pina coladas, dark and stormies and my favourites, pineapple and cardamom jars.
My favourite tip from the class was Steve’s recipe for cardamom syrup, made simply by infusing good quality green cardamoms in sugar syrup. Delicious!
Kavey Eats was a guest of All Star Lanes and Westfield Stratford. With thanks to the two Steves.