Hearty Chilli Con Carne with Dumplings

For my birthday this year I got a fabulous cookbook called The Complete Book of One Pot Casseroles and Soups by The Australian Women’s Weekly. The first recipe I cooked from the book was a delicious Chilli made with proper chunks of beef instead of the usual mince; the classic chilli con carne went from your average tasty meal to a total winner. The dish is served with dumplings and it was the first time I’ve ever made them, they were easy and a hit with my family.

While I was cooking this meal I made quite a few adjustments, not only to improve the recipe, but to make it my own.  When you see the long list of ingredients, please don’t be put off, this is a recipe which, once you’ve chucked everything in the pan you can leave for several hours, all day or afternoon to slow cook. In Nigella Lawson’s book ‘Nigella Express’ she classes a recipe as easy when, no matter how much preparation it needs at the beginning, you can walk away and leave it to cook, she calls this a ‘quick quick, slow recipe’. I like this way of cooking, to prepare ahead and then leave the meal to cook, so that later you have a tasty dinner, as Nigella says “[s]low-cooking, quite simply, can be the express route.”* I hope you enjoy this recipe.

Serves 3/4


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • approx 50g flour
  • 700g skirt of beef
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic crushed
  • 1 large red pepper
  • 1 carrot diced
  • 1 stick celery sliced
  • half a butternut squash diced
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cinammon
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 2/3 bay leaves
  • handful fresh thyme
  • 400g carton/jar passata
  • 100ml red wine
  • 100ml chicken/beef stock
  • 200g canned red kidney beans


  • 30g self-raising flour
  • 40g polenta
  • 25g butter, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 20g grated mature cheddar
  • large handful chopped fresh coriander
  • 75g sweetcorn
  • approx 1/2 tbsp milk


  1. Preheat oven to 160°c.
  2. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof saucepan, or any Le Creuset style dish, toss the diced beef in the flour and add to the pan to brown. Tip browned beef on to a plate and add onion, garlic and all the vegetables into the pan to cook until softened.
  3. Return beef to the pan, add all the spices and fresh herbs, stir for a min of two.
  4. Add passata, wine and stock to the pan, allow to boil and then reduce to a simmer. Place a lid on the dish and put into the oven for at least 3hrs 30mins or reduce the heat to 140°c and cook for up to 5/6 hours.
  5. 1 hour before you want to serve this dish take the pan from the oven, remove half the beef and with two forks shred the meat, return the meat to the pan and add the drained kidney beans. Pop back into the oven.
  6. Now make the dumplings: rub the flour, polenta and butter together to make breadcrumbs, mix in the egg, cheese, coriander and corn to make a soft sticky dough.
  7. Half an hour before serving take the pan from the oven and return to the hob, drop tablespoons of the dumpling batter on top of the chilli, approx 2cm apart. Place the lid on and simmer for 20-30 mins, until the dumplings are cooked through.
  8. Serve with plenty of fresh chopped coriander.

*Nigella Express, Chatto & Windus, 2007, pg 109.

Top Tip: To vary this dish try with either pork or lamb.

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