I've always made chili with ground meat and added a dash of cocoa to bolster. This time, I wanted to play a little, to achieve something more along the lines of a dark, spicy-sauced cassoulet: that's to say, together with the beans, I use beef, cut into fairly small chunks, and fiery Spanish sausages. In place of the cocoa there is a sprinkling of dark, dark chocolate chips, which adds real depth and a velvety savoriness. This chili is not for light eaters, but something spicy and substantial that is just what you need to soak up seasonal excess.

Under normal conditions, I'd also dollop out an unchiled guacamole with this, but I worry about having avocados sitting around going grungy, so only make this if you know it won't be hanging around. Simply mash three ripe avocados with three finely chopped scallions and add the juice of a lime or two and some salt to taste, stir in three tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro, spoon into two or three bowls, and sprinkle a little extra cilantro over.

How Nigella entertains a crowd at Christmastime
Servings: Serves 12
  • 10 (or 5 linked pairs) chorizo sausages (not the salami sort), approximately 1 1/4 pounds.
  • 3 1/4 pound boneless beef shank , cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 3 onions (about 1 pound), peeled
  • 3 cloves garlic , peeled
  • 1 fresh long red chile , seeded
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • Seeds from 3 cardamom pods
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup tomato ketchup
  • 4 cans (15 ounces each) red kidney beans , drained
  • 3 cans (14 ounces each) diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup water (swished out in one of the diced tomato cans)
  • Directions
    Preheat the oven to 300° F.

    Finely chop, or process the onion, garlic and chile.

    Heat the oil in a large ovenproof pan (with a lid) or cast-iron or enameled Dutch oven and fry the onion, garlic and chile until soft, on low for about 10 minutes, then add the cardamom sees, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and red pepper flakes.

    Stir the oniony spiced mixture together and then add the chorizo, sliced into 1/4-in. coins, letting them ooze their paprika-orange oil.

    Drop in the cubes of beef, turning them in the pan with the chorizo and onion mix, to brown the meat.

    Stir in the tomato paste, ketchup, drained kidney beans and diced tomatoes. Add the water and bring the chili to a boil.

    Once it's started bubbling, sprinkle the chocolate chips over the chili and give it a good stir. Put on the lid and transfer to the oven.

    Cook at this low heat for 3 hours. Once cooked it is best left overnight to improve the flavor.

    Buying Meat:
    If you're not buying your meat from a butcher, you can use regular stew meat from the supermarket, but you'll need to cube it smaller and it is unlikely to get quite as tender as shin. I often buy shank.

    Make Ahead Tip:
    Cook the chili in the oven for 2 1/2 hours only. Cool, cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. When ready to use, tip the chili into a pan and bring slowly to the boil on the stove top, stirring occasionally. Cover tightly and return to the oven for 1 hour until piping hot.

    Freeze Ahead Tip:
    Cook the chili for 2 1/2 hours only. Cool and freeze. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat as above.

    From Nigella Christmas by Nigella Lawson. Photographs by Lis Parsons. Copyright © Nigella Lawson 2008. Photographs copyright © Lis Parsons 2008. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold. All rights reserved.


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