Wednesday 8 December 2010

Cooking with Beer: Imperial Chilli

This chilli is like all the other chillies out there, only it’s much better. It’s made with a bottle of imperial stout and loaded with fresh chilli peppers, including a couple of searing scotch bonnets, hence the Imperial name it’s been given.

Looking through recipes online, a number are cooked with cans of Budweiser (seriously) and occasionally a slug of bourbon. Taking this up a few levels of awesome led me straight to a chocolatey, full-on imperial stout aged in whisky barrels – BrewDog’s Paradox Isle of Arran (an extra step up would lead you to adding Tokyo*). The beer adds depth, richness and a sweetness that can’t be added from elsewhere in the food world. Just be careful not to get a stout that’s too bitter as the last thing you want is a loser-takes-all battle between Scoville and Lupulin.

No recipe for this, just a list of ingredients laid out around the kitchen like a flat-pack cupboard ready to be assembled without the instructions. The only important information: add the beer after the tomatoes but before the stock (you don’t want too much liquid and it’s better to have more beer) and cook it for a few hours in the oven, if you can. This serves about four, even though I was cooking for one.

Pork mince (about 400g). Two big onions. Finely chopped carrot. Four cloves of garlic. Lots of fresh chillis (I also added chopped scotch bonnet, plus a whole scotch bonnet to the pot). Paprika and smoked paprika. Turmeric and cumin. Salt, pepper and sugar/honey. Tomato puree. Tinned tomatoes (maybe two tins). A bottle of imperial stout (less a little for the chef). Beef stock. Kidney beans.

It’s worth cooking this for hours rather than minutes. I cooked mine for two hours, removed it from the oven for two hours and then cooked for another hour before serving. It was the most delicious chilli I’ve cooked which I can only credit to the beer adding a chocolate and booze depth that worked so well against the different levels of spice and heat. It also works really well with a beer but go for something dark and smooth like an oatmeal stout or a milk stout, something that perfectly fits the deep tomato and savoury flavours but has a cooling quality (I served mine with Meantime Chocolate but it didn't quite have enough body to hold it all together - the flavour worked well though).

Chilli: How do you make yours? Beer in it, with it, neither or both?


  1. Imperial Chilli sounds ace! And Stout and chilli as stupidly good together - You tried darker beers with Curry? Chilli-wise; I;m with you in so much as that I've been using Pork for a while now, rather than beef. I just think it holds onto flavour a lot more. I'm also switching from mince to slow-cooked meat when I've got time...try it out, makes a big difference. Not done a chilli with beer in it yet - although tbh Mark, I'd go down similar lines as this. Nice work, my man!

  2. I was going to pick up on the pork bit, but maybe it's worth a try. I haven't used beer either, so maybe two new things to try?

  3. I use a few unusual ingredients in my chilli, some of which are probably covered in your use of a beer like Paradox.

    First I make a paste by rehydrating some mexican chillis (ancho, pasilla, de arbol and the smoked Jalapeno, chipotle)in a dark beer of some kind. Then liquidise the chillis with some coffee granules or grounds, roasted cumin, coriander, star anise, marmite and Lee and perrins.

    I use minced pork and beef and fry this before cooking in the paste. From then on same as you but with a fair bit of bourbon or scotch at the end and a few squares of dark chocolate

    As you can see you can cover a lot of my extra ingredients with a single bottle of paradox!

  4. Meant to say I like the mix of beef and pork as the beef adds texture and flavour and the pork gives richness.

  5. Wow, that looks brilliant. I'm definitely going to try this. I usually make my chilli with red wine, and sometimes add a bit of dark chocolate as well. I haven't tried pork mince before, but worth a shot - it makes great meatballs.

  6. I have done a vegetarian white bean chilli using bottled lager before for some guests, very tasty although to much fluid (but thats a quantity issue).
    Chocolate in meat chilli's is a something have done before also after reading a recommendation on the guardian website a while back.
    BTW your last post has inspired me also, boozy mince pies are up soon...

  7. can't believe you didn't use my recipe ;op

    chocolate and coffee actually work quite well in the chilli too, i usually add a couple of cubes of dark choc or a shot of espresso to add a bit of depth so i reckon a beer based around either of those would work well too

  8. I really like the chocolate chorizo version I have adapted from a friend's adaptation of a Nigella recipe.

    The chocolate perhaps adds some of the flavour elements of your stout. The chorizo gives a paprika spiciness and flavour.


  9. Doh! Link:

  10. We always use beer in our chili. Most of the time it's a stout of some kind. In the past we've used Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (several times), the Southern Tier Choklat, and Victory Storm King. The choice of meat depends on what we were able to get at our local farmers market, but it's typically beef, pork, or a mix of the two. We once used lamb, which also worked very well.

  11. This recipe seems very weird to an American. You cook it in an oven? I may give it a shot at some point but I will have to share my recipe with you some time as well.

  12. Leigh - Haven't done dark beer with curry yet as I'm trying to work out what would be best for what curry. Any tips?!

    Tandleman - I much prefer pork mince to beef, it's just nice when cooked for hours like this, in my opinion. A mix of pork and beef is good too.

    Sam - that's a lot of extra ingredients! I've solved it all with one beer :)

    Andy - My chilli recipe is better than yours ;)

    Kavey - that does sound interesting! I always add smoked paprika (quite a lot of it) so that's approaching paprika, just on a lower level.

    Doug - Sounds good. I need to experiment with beer and chilli!

    Mario - Just start it on the hob and then transfer that whole pot in the picture to the over. You don't need to worry about it for a few hours that way!

  13. Mark, did you get any of the whisky cask notes from the paradox or was is all swamped by the smoked paprika?

  14. Beer in food is like point in life.


    Love the site - am now a follower!

  15. Sam - Probably not, at least not in a clearly distinguishable way, but then there's so many other flavours to overpower the relatively subtle whisky notes.

    And cheers Hearty!

  16. Mark i think we need a chilli cook off next time we meet - maybe it should be part of the next twissup....

  17. Mark. How much of the spices ? Is it teaspoon, tablespoon, pinch or what you feel like?

  18. Andy - BRING IT ON!

    Graeme - With the paprika, turmeric and cumin I'd add a level teaspoon of each for this amount of meat. I like lots of paprika so would probably add more of that. If you add dry chilli then that's to taste. I quite like a pinch of cinnamon in chilli as well, but not too much.