Earlier in the year, I won a selection of Santa Maria products (you may remember them as the Discovery Mexican food brand), including this tub of Chilli Paste for Chilli Con Carne. As I've been making a concerted effort to clear out my kitchen cupboards, I decided to try it out tonight.
As I peeled off the foil lid and dipped my finger in, it nearly blew my head off ! I later realised, though, that the oil that rises to the surface of the tub is a lot spicier than the actual paste itself. The packaging is quite lacking in instructions so I wasn't sure how much you were supposed to use and whether it was supposed to be as well as or in place of the usual chopped tomatoes/tomato puree that I'd use. Time to play it by ear !
I never use a recipe for chilli con carne - it was one of the first things I learnt to make as a student and my recipe has barely changed since then ! I start with onions and garlic, add minced beef, mushrooms, carrots, red and green peppers and a tin of red kidney beans, then leave it to simmer with a couple of cans of chopped tomatoes and spices, including chilli, herbes de Provence, garlic pepper and BBQ seasoning.
In the end, I added about half of the tub of chilli paste, which produces a large pot of fairly mild chilli. It gave a lovely depth of flavour and I didn't need to adjust the seasoning at all (usually I add extra spices to cooking sauces and pastes to jazz them up).
If you don't have a very well-stocked spice rack or you're not at ease with creating spicy dishes, it's a great way of taking out the guesswork and creating a very tasty chilli with minimal effort. It does work out more expensive than using tinned tomatoes and a few shakes of spices though.
RRP : £1.99 for 205g
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