Chilli Non Carne

According to a survey by Morrisons, most British households cook the same 5 dishes on a regular basis and just rotate them.  When I was a child, chilli con carne was definitely one of ours.  I had no idea what the name meant – in fact, I always associated this dish with the steak and kidney pie my mum also included in our rotation, half-believing that kidney beans were made from animals’ kidneys.  I had no idea what the words ‘chilli con carne’ meant, nor that they were from a different language.  But then, I was a fairly foolish child:  my dad’s name was Bernie, and when people referred to my brother and I as “bairns” I thought that was an affectionate name coined specifically for us, ‘bairns’ meaning ‘Bernie’s children’.  I was quite disappointed when I finally saw the word written down and realised, as a teenager, that the word does apply to children in general.

It may not have taken me quite so long to figure out the meaning of this dish.  But I have changed the “con” to a “non” and switched the mince for lentils, and here is a lovely, no-nonsense plate of grub.

Chilli Non Carne

adapted from Feast by Nigella Lawson, serves 5


1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 large red pepper, diced

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp cumin

2 cardamom pods, crushed

150g red lentils

400g tin chopped tomatoes

400ml water

400g tin kidney beans

4 tbsp tomato paste

1/2 tbsp cocoa


1.  In a large pan, heat the oil and fry the onion, garlic and peppers until soft – about 10 minutes.

2.  Add the spices, and stir well.

3.  Tip in the lentils and stir to combine.

4.  Add the tomatoes, water, kidney beans, paste and cocoa and bring to the boil.

5.  Simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring frequently.

6.  Serve with rice.  Delicious!

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