Beef Chilli with Bitter Chocolate

This is a recipe from one of the episodes of The Hairy Bikers’ TV show, which unfortunately I did not have a chance to watch – I found the recipe on the BBC food website. I have to say I have always been a bit skeptical about the use of chocolate in cooking. Give me a chocolate biscuit or cake every day, but actually grating dark and bitter chocolate into food to me sounded like an abomination, not to mention a bit of waste. Funnily, the extended translation project for my MA here in the UK included extracts from Willie’s Chocolate Factory Cookbook, a volume on chocolate I have already quoted before. The author is a bit of a cocoa fanatic and uses chocolate (always dark, by preference) in almost everything, from pasta dishes to meat and fish mains. Now I know that he might have a point, as the beef chilli of this recipe is dark, glossy and rich, just how you would like your romantic evenings to be. Obviously, this dish is best enjoyed in good company and with a good and robust red wine.




  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 500g beef steak, finely diced
  • 500g beef mince
  • 1 white onion, peeled, finely chopped
  • 1 red onion, peeled, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, trimmed, chopped
  • 1 dried chipotle chilli – I get these from a spice stall in my local market
  • 1 tbsp dried chilli flakes
  • ½ tbsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
  • 500ml beef stock
  • 1 x 400g can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 x 400g can black-eyed beans, drained and rinsed
  • sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
  • 75g plain chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids, roughly chopped
  • bunch fresh coriander
  • soured cream & chives


  1. Heat two tablespoons of the oil over a medium to high heat in a large, heavy-based pan with a tight fitting lid.
  2. Fry the diced beef steak in batches until browned all over, setting each batch aside on a plate using a slotted spoon.
  3. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and add the beef mince, frying until browned all over. Remove the mince from the pan using a slotted spoon and set aside with the beef steak.
  4. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan and fry the white onion, red onion and celery for 3-4 minutes, or until the onions have softened but not browned.
  5. Stir in the chipotle chilli, chilli flakes, chilli powder and oregano until well combined. Cook for a further two minutes.
  6. Return the diced and minced beef to the pan, then stir in the sugar, chopped tomatoes, beef stock, kidney beans and black-eyed peas. Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce the heat until the mixture is simmering. Cover and continue to simmer over a low heat for 2-3 hours. (Alternatively, preheat the oven to 140C to cook in an ovenproof dish for the same amount of time.)
  7. Just before serving, season the chilli with crushed sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper. Stir in the chocolate until melted, then stir in the chopped coriander.
  8. Serve the chilli and top each serving with a dollop of soured cream. Garnish with the chopped chives.

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