This recipe is one I’ve always wanted to make – ever since I watched Nigella Lawson, all tight-fitting baby blue sweater, super shiny locks and glossy pink pout purring about it years ago. Was I still at Varsity then or out, I can’t remember. But I do remember the heartiness of this chilli con carne. It was all about abundance and sharing – a huge one-pot meal to devour with friends and family who would appreciate this type of communal serving vessel on a cold, blustery evening.

It’s 30 degrees here in Lisbon. And while we are sucking on ice cubes and taking walks in the park for gelato with the families in Estrela at 10 pm (yip, you read right), I’m thinking about our friends and family at home in South Africa. Cape Town, my weather app says, is 10 degrees Celsius and was swept in torrential downpour yesterday. I know those winter days all too well. It’s polar fleece p.js (the type you hope not to be found in if you die by some dumb accident of your own doing) weather, it’s fireplace and Shiraz or Merlot weather. It’s hot chocolate and electric blanket weather – hopefully, again, not stupidly mixed together.

So, for you friends in the Southern hemisphere, something I prepared on a rainy Cape Town day – an ostrich and bacon chilli con carne, enlivened with cinnamon and cacao, chilli and chocolate chipotle sauce (a gift sitting in my cupboard from Hotel Chocolat, a sponsor of the Plate to Page Weimar workshop I attended). I used semolina for the bread topping, also adapted from Nigella’s recipe.

In energy saving news, and by energy I mean yours, and mine – just one cooking vessel and one bowl are used. This is, if anything, a huge swaying factor in my books.

Did I tell you about the chocolates I ordered via Hotel Chocolat in January (on sale) and the very long journey they made from my friend Linda in London to my mother-in-law in the Netherlands, to Barcelona and back to South Africa? Definitely not the money-saving move I’d hoped for, but worth every hassle in yumminess.

Enjoy this hearty, spicy con carne! The left overs taste even deeper and more complex – read: better (remove the cinnamon stick and cardamom after the bread is done – can be over-powering if left in for too long). Oh, and adjust the chilli to your preference, death by chilli would also qualify as a “dumb” look.



3 T  olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, chopped finely

1 cinnamon stick

4 cardamoms, crushed

3 bay leaves

1 star aniseed

1 t ground cumin

1 t ground ground coriander

300 g dry cured bacon diced

500 g ostrich mince (subs with beef or ground turkey if you prefer)

1 T cacao powder

1 t ground cinnamon

2 t crushed dry chilies

2 red chilies chopped finely

2 T  chili chocolate chipotle sauce (optional)

4 roma tomatoes chopped

1 can (410 g) chopped peeled tomatoes

1 t sugar

1 can (410 g) red kidney beans

200 ml water

2 T finely chopped coriander

salt, to taste


Heat a very large, deep saucepan or shallow pot (oven proof) on medium and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions and fry till they turn translucent, stirring occasionally.

Add cinnamon stick, aniseed, cardamom and bay leaves.

When onions start to brown add garlic. Stir for 30 seconds, careful not to let the garlic burn. Remove from pot and set aside in a bowl or plate.

In same saucepan add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add bacon (dry with paper towels if needed) and fry until starting to crisp, set aside

In same pan add ostrich mince (isn’t this fantastic – one pot cooking!)

Fry for 4 minutes on medium-high heat Add cumin, coriander, chili flakes and fresh chili and salt to taste.

Keep stirring.  After 4-5 minutes add cinnamon powder, cacao powder and chili chocolate sauce and stir to mix well.

Return the onions and bacon to the mince, with the spices. (will add flavour during baking)

Add fresh tomato and canned tomato, water and sugar. Cook for 5-6 minutes on medium-high and then add the beans and turn the heat down to low.

Add coriander and recheck the seasoning. Remove pot from heat.


As Nigella advises, you can make the chilli the night before and allow to cool or make the entire lot in one go. If you cool the chilli considerably, heat up again to warm not hot before you add bread topping or, increase the oven baking time by 4-5 minutes. All will depend on your oven’s temperature and how soon the bread takes to bake.

For the Semolina Bread Topping


1 t salt

500 g semolina

2 T  cake flower

1 t  ground cinnamon

4 t baking powder

3 T  olive oil

1 t  honey

2 large free range eggs

500 ml natural yoghurt (low fat is perfect)

1 cup grated cheddar or mixture of sharp cheeses



Preheat oven to 180 ˚Celsius.

Whisk eggs with a fork until blended.

Add dry ingredients to a large bowl, followed by wet ingredients.

Add cheese and mix all the components together with a rubber spatula until a thick, gloopy batter forms. Try to dissolve lumps, if any. It will not make a  very wet batter.

Top chili mince with semolina bread batter evenly and bake in oven for 25-30 minutes until bread is slightly golden and firm.

Serve with creme fraiche and fresh coriander.


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