How does Gordon Ramsay’s Chilli con Carne recipe compare to Heston Blumenthal’s Waitrose recipe. Chef v chef challenge.
Well, that was the last in the series of Heston’s Mission Impossible. The Royal Navy submarine episode probably had the best long-term results of all four shows, but there weren’t many recipes I could have a go at replicating at home (I doubt eel-bone soup will go down well at teatime).
That chilli at the end of the show looked achievable though, and the mention of spiced butter made me think it’s probably the same as Heston’s Waitrose Chilli Con Carne recipe. Just writing about that would be a bit dull, so let’s put it up against Gordon Ramsay’s chilli con carne recipe for a Heston V Gordon challenge. Our last Gordon v Heston challenge, Christmas dinner, was a magnificent (and gluttonous) success.
Gordon’s entry is from the BBC’s Olive magazine, where his versions are pitted against reader recipes. I’ve picked it because it’s his most recent (and the one the cocky fella chooses to compete with).
Let’s see who’s best….
Step 1: Before we go any further, let’s deal with the Spiced Butter, similar to the “Bloody Mary Finishing Butter” from Heston Blumenthal’s In Search Of Perfection Chili Con Carne recipe. You add it at the end to give richness, flavour and an increased risk of heart attack.
This is a complete recipe all by itself. The first three ingredients need frying together. A novice might think they could leave them in the pan while they weighed out the other ingredients. But of course that’d risk them burning. And only a fool would let that happen… ahem!
Your red-hot spiced oil will melt through the (unsoftened) butter leaving you with a puddle of fatty, flavour-packed liquid. Add an extra hour to your recipe time as it re-sets in the fridge.
Step 2: Heston starts with spiced butter, Gordon starts with spiced flour. Lots of frying-in-batches with both chefs.
Step 3: We all know about adding star anise to our onions, but this recipe doesn’t tell you to bag them in muslin. You should. Otherwise good luck with the messy Crystal Maze challenge of fishing them out of the finished dish. Or better luck than me at any rate.
Gordon uses red onions, claiming they add sweetness to the dish. I couldn’t notice any difference by the time all the spices are added. I found the quantity of vinegar alarming.
Step 4: Then add all the other ingredients before a long, slow cooking. Ramsay uses three times as many chillies than Heston.
Instead of Heston’s trad kidney beans Gordon recommends mixed pulses, but what I got from Sainsbury’s was more of a Bean-Mush-in-A-Can. A messy rip-off, shoppers take note.
Step 5: Heston asks for 1 hour on the stove, while Gordon, with his tough chunks of stewing steak, needs twice that. Both would benefit from double the time. Nows when all the slow-cooker enthusiasts can nod sagely.
Ramsay’s chilli, with its smoky, leathery depth from the paprika and chocolate and sharp up-front hit of spice, could be described as a Man’s Chilli. But it’s not at all balanced. You’d expect Heston to have the unusual ingredients but Ramsay’s try-hard shopping list utterly fails here. Crème fraiche just doesn’t have the same mouthfeel as soured cream, it’s far too light and hollow.
Heston’s chilli is much more traditional and full-bodied, but those red peppers look comically out of place. Did Waitrose need help clearing surplus stock from their warehouses?
All that butter gives you the richness the name implies, but after adding only a third the dish was at the tipping point of becoming too greasy. Being able to personalise your chilli is a great idea, but it leaves you with a choice of too buttery or too mild. Go easy on the lime juice, it can really overpower the other flavours.
Let’s hope everyone in the house loves chilli, after this experiment we’ve enough leftovers to last beyond Easter.
Blumenthal-bias aside, Gordon’s chilli was far too unbalanced. Next time I’d follow Heston’s chilli con carne recipe, but with the following tweaks:
1. Halve the amount of butter in the spiced butter mix. Or, if you’re a regular chilli eater, quadruple the spice content. The butter adds important flavour, but with the beef and cheese there’s enough fat in the recipe already. The butter freezes very well for future use. Health freaks can just add the spices and oil
2. Add more chilli. It’s entirely personal preference, but Heston’s chilli recipe was far too mild for my liking. The butter method means its impossible to add more heat without also adding deadly quantities of artery-clogging fat.
3. Cook longer and lower. Chilli’s basically a Mexican casserole, and as such benefits from slow cooking. If you do have a slow cooker this dish is ideal for it. I’d go for 6 – 8 hours. Lid off at the end to reduce. Plus, you can add some oxtail for more texture and flavour.
4. Chop the peppers finely and add carrot. There’s nothing wrong with adding more veg, it brings flavour (and vitamins) to the dish. But big chunks of it took away the essence of what a Chili Con Carne is to me. Finely diced carrot would add more body and more healthy veg.
5. Up the umami. After last week’s umami-thon with Heston’s Shepherd’s Pie on Steroids recipe, I’d probably throw in a sheet of sushi nori, some mushroom ketchup and a splash of soy as well to really boost the savoury mouthfeel.
Have you made either of these recipes, or have you got a favourite chilli con carne recipe of your own?Let us know in the comments section below.