Chilli Con Carne – á la Jennie

31 October 2014

Written by Jennie Bayliss


Before creating the Eat Well—Be Well programs, I rarely measured ingredients for my cooking – I’d do everything by eye and I would add a little of this or that or substitute one ingredient with another. Most of the time it turns out well! In part this is down to my early training to be a chef that gave me the confidence of knowing which foods combine well with one another – but mostly it is my curious and adventurous-self, as well as using what happens to be available in my kitchen.
When friends or family have liked what I’ve cooked and ask me for the recipe, it’s become a standing joke that it is “Casserole á la Jennie” or “Soup á la Jennie” and so on. This recipe, my take on Chilli Con Carne, is made in this spirit and following the my Eat Well—Be Well philosophy, I use far more veg and a little less meat than traditional recipes. The exact quantities are not that important for you really can’t go wrong with this dish. And by using different vegetables, different herbs and possibly even different meats, it will taste a little different each time – and to me that’s good – because you get more variety.
In this recipe I use turkey breast mince as I no longer eat beef, pork or lamb, but you can choose your favourite mince – just ensure it’s good lean meat for example breast mince for turkey and not ‘value’ mince where many different body-parts-may have been added to the mince!
I prefer to soak kidney beans overnight and cook them during breakfast so they are ready for me to make this dish later. I often soak a larger quantity, then keep the remaining cooked beans to throw onto salads or use in other meals. Refrigerated, cooked beans will keep for 3 days. Although more time consuming, I like the nuttier texture as opposed to tinned beans which are super-soft (from being cooked at high pressure) and many tinned versions containing firming agents and preservatives. I use a lot of dried beans and pulses and think they are worth the effort because they taste better and have more of their nutrients than the tinned versions. However, you can find some tinned versions that are additive free such as Sainsbury’s Organic Kidney Beans.


Makes 6-8 portions (depending on how much meat and veg used!)

  • 100g dried kidney beans (or 1 tin, make sure firming agent and preservative free)
  • 1 dessert spoon olive oil (not virgin or coconut oil or ghee)
  • 1 clove garlic – finely chopped
  • 2 medium onions – chopped
  • 300–500g Turkey breast mince or your favourite mince (supermarkets sell by differing weights)
  • 4 medium carrots – peeled and sliced
  • 1 or 2 (for richer flavour) dessertspoons of sun-dried tomato paste (I use Zest or Gia)
  • 2-10 tomatoes chopped (if using cherry, about 10: if using salad, 5 or 6: or 1-2 beefsteak)
  • Small amount (quantity roughly like that of an apple) of either butternut squash or any one of the following; sweet potato, parsnip, swede, turnip – chopped or cut into small cubes
  • Half to a full teaspoon of dried crushed chillies or a small piece of fresh chilli very finely chopped (according to how hot you like it!)
  • 1 teaspoon of dried mixed herbs or small handful of 2 or 3 fresh herbs finely chopped (I like marjoram, thyme, chives together: sometimes I use sage or rosemary – it depends on what is growing well in my garden)
  • 200 ml water (approx)
  • Large pinch of salt (using the back of a teaspoon handle is useful for this)
  • Black pepper


If using dried kidney beans: The evening before…
Pour dried kidney beans into large glass jar or bowl. Cover with enough water that will allow the beans to swell to twice their original volume. Leave to soak overnight. The following morning, before you start breakfast, drain and rinse the beans. Place in a medium saucepan. Cover with water and bring to the boil. After a few minutes a scum will appear – scoop it off: drain the beans and add fresh water. Bring back to the boil then turn the heat to its lowest setting. Pop on the saucepan lid and set your timer for 40 minutes. The beans will cook happily whilst you breakfast, shower etc. After 40 minutes check your beans are cooked – depending on the harvest and their age, they may still be slightly hard – if so, cook for a further 5 minutes. They won’t be tin-like soft, but neither should they be rock-hard. When cooked, drain cover and when cool, pop into for fridge ready to cook later in the day.
Main recipe…
In a wok or large frying pan, heat the oil until it is hot then stir fry the garlic and oil for a few minutes until the onion has softened and is staring to brown. Add the carrots and cook for 2-3 minutes – stirring all the time. Add the mince and continue to fry until the mince has gone from raw to looking as if cooked (2-5 minutes). Now add butternut squash (or whatever vegetable you have chosen), tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs water, chillies, salt and a good grind of black pepper. Stir really well as you bring to the boil, then place on the lowest heat and allow to simmer very gently for 30-40 minutes. I use a wok: I then use my frying pan as a lid by turning it upside down over my wok. If you have no pan to act as a lid – no worries – just keep an eye on it slightly more often to make sure the water (now the sauce) doesn’t completely evaporate away. Either way you may need to add an extra ‘slosh’ of water. When cooked, the meat and vegetables should have just a little ‘sauce’ – it’s mostly quite ‘dry’. Check and adjust the seasoning and then serve with 2 green vegetables or with a small portion of rice and one green veg.
P.S. For a similar, but slightly spicier version see Mildly Spicy Turkey With Beans
Eat Well—Be Well 🙂

Receive my in-depth articles

Reflections newsletter signup

You may also like