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It's horrid out there- this warming venison chilli con carne is just the ticket...

Apologies if you've seen me publish this favourite recipe before, I cooked it up again last night and realised it had been removed during the website refresh last autumn.

Venison Chilli Con Carne-

2 dried ancho chillies (Amazon has them, though Waitrose seem to have dropped them)

1 dessertspoon cumin seeds

1 large onion, finely chopped

6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 fresh red chillies, finely chopped

100ml sunflower or similar oil

1.5kg diced stewing venison (better to use this than diced haunch, which is not as suited to long slow cooking)

1tsp medium hot chilli powder

1 tablespoon concentrated tomato puree

500g tin chopped tomatoes

1 dessertspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar


Rice and sour cream

6 spring onions, chopped

A good handful of fresh coriander, torn

Tortilla chips or other crackers (though this messes with the low cholesterol benefits of the venison)


Legend has it that Lyndon B Johnson's chef cooked this up for the President when he was diagnosed with high cholesterol and whether you love or loathe conventional chillies (I know, that’s a broad spread) have you tried Ancho chillies? These pack an amazing amount of taste rather than heat and were a revelation when we discovered them a while back.

For the best flavour, cook it a day ahead and reheat for 30 minutes. We like to make it in batches as it freezes well, but we also always eat more than we intended to- you have been warned, this slides down easily.


Step 1: Prep and Roast Spices

Soak dried chilies in cold water. Reserve this water.

Dry roast cumin seeds in a large casserole dish until toasted and fragrant. Grind them into a powder.

Step 2: Sear and Stew

In the casserole, cook onions, garlic, fresh and dried chilies in 2 tablespoons of oil. Add tomato puree toward the end. Remove ingredients from the pot and set aside.

Using the same casserole, sear the venison in batches with 2 tablespoons of oil until browned. Return all ingredients to the pan, adding the chili powder, tomatoes, brown sugar and oregano. Add only enough water to cover- I use the ancho chilli water.

Gently simmer, skimming off any impurities that rise.

Step 3: Slow Cooking

Simmer for 2½ hours. The meat should be breaking into a ragu.

Step 4: Serving

Serve with pilaf rice, sour cream, spring onions, coriander, and tortilla chips.

This is a subtle variation on a Rowley Leigh recipe that was originally published in "House and Garden" and continues to delight- credit where credit is due.

Image: Martin Turzak, PicFair

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