What is it about chilli? Why do we enjoy it so much?
What possesses us to endure a snotty nose, weeping tear ducts and a burning oesophagus while attempting to enjoy a casual meal? Apparently, this sort of behaviour is considered enticing.
Is it the for the flavour? Because chilli doesn't so much as have a very strong taste, more of a sort of overpowering piquancy. So it can't be because we love the taste so much.
Chilli's not exactly texturally that great either - just little flecks that get immersed and enveloped in whatever you're eating, so no... it can't be that.
And surely its not because it's easy to prepare because I can guarantee anyone who has cooked with chilli has experienced the wrath of fire eyes after wiping your hands across your face after chopping up a few peppers.
Then I thought maybe it was because it's often referred to as a 'sexy' food, like oysters or chocolate dipped strawberries, but I mean you sweat when you consume it, and not in the alluring aphrodisiac perspire-y kind of way.
Don't even get me started on the love affiar between man and chilli. I've even heard of guys drinking chilli flavoured beer - the heat makes you want to drink more, which could only lead to disaster. And what's even more crazy is that people buy bottles of pulverised chilli to add on top of already spiced up dishes. And this is a big business. Hundreds of bottled chilli sauces are available from South American lava-like chilli liquids to dense Korean chilli pastes and chunky Chinese condiments.
However I, just like you, are a slave to this fiery capsicum and truth be told, I have no idea why humans seem to revel in the pain of a hot chilli but what I can tell you is that it's just too dam addictive.
Just like this Chilli Con Carne, a dish best served alonside some soothing cheddar cheese and chunks of cooling avocado to dull the lucid presence of the explosive peppers.
Chilli Con Carne
1kg beef mince
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 spanish onion, diced
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablepsoon grapeseed oil (or any cooking oil)
2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika (this is the most common paprika around - you can find it anywhere)
1 teaspoon hot Spanish paprika (this is not so easy to find - but so worth it for the distinct smokey flavour)
50g tomato paste concentrate (about 3 tablespoons)
1/2 a red capsicum diced
4 dried chillis chopped up or 2 teaspoons dried chilli flakes (be careful - its easy to start with a little bit and add more to taste. I've learnt this the hard way. I used 4 dried birds eye chillis I had lying around which are insanely hot)
240g can of red kidney beans, drained
2 x 400g can of whole tomatoes
A handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
1 avocado, diced, to serve
Cheddar cheese, grated, to serve
Jasmine rice, to serve
Lightly toast the whole coriander and cumin seeds in a pan over a medium heat for a few minutes. Pour into a mortar and pestle and crush up until they are completely broken up.
On a medium heat fry off the onion and garlic with the oil. Once translucent, add in the coriander and cumin and cook off for a few more minutes. Add the mince meat and cook on high to avoid stewing the meat and to get nice colour.
Add the pepper, both the paprikas and the chilli and stir to coat the meat. Add in the tomato paste and again stir to coat the meat. Now add the cans of tomato, the kidney beans and the capsicum. Add the salt for seasoning.
Leave to simmer for about 20 minutes so the flavours can develop. Meanwhile get some rice cooking. To finish, chuck in some fresh coriander right before serving.
Ladle chilli con carne over rice, top with avocado and a sprinkle of cheese and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.