It is that time of year. Winter is here, and with winter comes a chill in the air, not to mention the rain (at least here in Lotus Land). But what better time for comfort food, and the comfort that comes from a bowl, or two, of chili con carne.

Everyone has a favourite recipe for chili, and there are endless numbers of recipes to be had on-line. The website appears to have almost a thousand chili recipes (I looked at just the first dozen or so). The recipe that follows is the result of contributions from friends, plus a twist or two of my own.

I like a lot of beans in my chili (ignore the consequences!); and I like a lot of “carne” as well. I start with a mix of dry beans – black beans and pinto beans work well – about 8 ounces of each in a slow cooker set to low. Make sure you have enough water to cover the beans, as they will expand into the space as they soften. The beans should be cooked to the point of firmness. Once done, strain and refrigerate the beans. I generally do the beans the day before.

Next the meat. Brown about a pound or more of ground lean beef in a cast iron pan. Remove and pour off any fat. Italian sausage is next. We have a great market close by that makes sausage with a mix of lamb, spinach and feta. I like about a pound of sausage, removed from its casings, chopped roughly and browned in the cast iron. Once done, remove the sausage, but this time leave the fat (the feta gives off an amazing aroma). Over low heat and with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, add a medium size onion (chopped), 3 tablespoons of minced garlic, a minced jalapeño pepper, a tablespoon each of red pepper flakes, cumin, and turmeric. Plus lots of crushed black pepper.

Sauté, then transfer this mixture to a slow cooker. Add a 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes together with the beef and sausage. Top that off with a 12 ounce can of Guinness and let simmer for several hours. About two hours before serving return the beans to the slow cooker. And think about adding a cup of frozen corn kernels when the beans go in. They add colour and some crunch. Serve the chili with a dollop of sour cream and shredded cheddar.

Barbari Bread

You can always serve your chili with tortilla chips, but why not bread? Barbari bread is a staple in Iran. There it is called nan-e barbari; here in North America it is known as Persian flatbread. Barbari will have a crisp crust and be soft and airy inside. While it is often served with feta cheese in Iran, it occurred to me it would be a perfect match with chili. In the following photo you get an idea of what barbari looks like,
fresh from the oven.

Making barbari does not have to be complicated,. Start with a cup of lukewarm water and in it mix a little more that a teaspoon of active dry yeast and a half teaspoon of sugar.

Let it proof for 15 minutes. In a large bowl or food processor mix 2 cups all-purpose flour and 2 teaspoons sea salt. Add the yeast mixture and process (or knead) until the dough separates from the side of the bowl. Knead by hand for a few minutes to form a nice elastic ball. Place the dough ball in a large bowl greased with canola or olive oil, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise until it doubles in size (about an hour).

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. If you have a pizza stone, place the stone on the lower rack while the oven heats up. (In the absence of a pizza stone, use a non-stick baking pan, without preheating the pan). Place parchment paper on a baking pan and work with your dough on the parchment paper and punch it down on the paper to a thickness of about a half inch. The dough will form a rough rectangle. Once the dough is ready for the oven, I brush the surface with a thin film of olive oil mixed with a teaspoon of baking powder and a teaspoon of garlic powder. Then sprinkle the surface with sesame seeds. If using the pizza stone, slide the dough and paper off the baking pan onto the stone and bake the bread for 15 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown on the top with a crisp bottom crust. If you are using a baking pan, place some corn meal on the pan before placing the dough. You may need to bake the bread just a little longer.