Chilli con carne is a dish I have grown up eating. Most popularly you will see chilli made with minced meat but I prefer using whole beef that’s been cooked for hours, almost like a stew. The gravy you get from using whole beef is out of this world and it really is worth the effort!

For me the best stewing cut of beef is beef/OX cheek (you can get this from the counter at Waitrose or from your local butchers). If you’re unsure of using this cut of meat, don’t be! All those lines of sinew and fat running through it are packed with flavour and it all dissolves when cooked, not like the grisly fat on other cuts. When the fat disappears it creates a velvety sauce you can stare at in ore whilst you swish your spoon through the chilli. If you really don’t want to use cheek then in my opinion the best alternative is feather or chuck steak.


As this meat is so rich and delicious, I chose to use pale ale instead of the typical dark beer you see used in some chillis. I was glad I added the beer as it really kicked the unique flavour up a notch. This, plus a little stock and one tin of tomatoes creates a sauce that you will want to dip in to again and again using that crusty bread in the middle of the table!


My spice blend is pretty much the standard blend you see in most chillis, but I guess everyone makes a few minor changes to make their chilli unique to them. I’d say always add kidney beans for texture and serve with rice for dinner or a nice jacket potato with cheese for a tasty lunch. I also like a little guacamole and sour cream on the side to cut through the richness and even a few tortilla chips as well. I didn’t season this with salt at all as it didn’t need it, just a little pepper.          

Ingredients  serves 6

  • 1 bottle of Pale Ale (usually 355ml)
  • 1 400ml can of tomatoes
  • 250ml chicken stock
  • 800g ox/beef cheek
  • ¼ cup tomato ketchup
  • 1 whole diced onion
  • 1 crushed clove of garlic
  • 2 diced sticks of celery
  • 2 heaped tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 heaped tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tin kidney beans
  • 30g bitter dark chocolate (optional)
  • Season to taste
  • Sour cream, guacamole, rice or even tortilla chips to serve


  1. With a tablespoon of oil add the beef to a large, deep pan and brown off for around 5 minutes on a medium heat or until the beef is evenly coloured. Then set the beef aside to cook your vegetables.
  2. Using another tablespoon of oil, add the onion and celery  to the pan and cook until soft for around 4-5 minutes on a medium heat. Then add the garlic to the pan, followed by the beef.
  3. Throw in the cumin, coriander, smoked paprika and dried oregano and give it a stir until it is well mixed and everything is coated.
  4. Next add the pale ale, tomatoes, stock and tomato ketchup, stir  and then bring to a boil. Turn the heat right down and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Whilst it is simmering, move the oven racks so that there is plenty of room for your pan in the oven. Then preheat the oven to gas mark 2/150°C/300°F
  6. Place your plan it in the oven for 4-6 hours or until the meat is so soft you can cut it with a spoon. Half an hour before you take it out, stir in the kidney beans (and chocolate if you choose to add it).
  7. Eat!



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