Lamb and Butterbean Chilli, Cooked My Way – Despite Threats From Texas.

I get a lot of fun out of the blog. It keeps me in touch with friends old and new from all parts of the globe. I learn lots and hopefully I give a little back. One of the ‘friends’ I have gathered to my metaphorical bosom (being male and of “a certain age” my bosom is most definitely metaphorical) is Adam J. Holland, the oddball Texan and author of the excellent RV Chronicles on his Unorthodox Epicure blog. I have cooked numerous chillies over the last couple of years, having been introduced to “real” chilli by the late and great Richard E. McGary our much missed Dallas blogger. Having received a gift of some chillies, I was delighted to tell Adam that I planned to cook a lamb chilli. His reaction surprised me somewhat….

Adam’s immediate reaction was a bit shocking. “…just remember to not add beans, because we hang people for that around these parts.” That set me back a bit. However, I’m nothing if not stubborn and often stupid with it. Lamb and Butterbean Chilli it was going to be, no matter what they might think over in Huston. 

Ingredients for Lamb and Butterbean Chilli

  • 1 kilo of lamb shoulder cubed
  • 750 grammes of lamb shoulder minced
  • 250 grammes of butterbeans (pre-soaked)
  • 4 kinds of dried chillies – 2 or 3 of each Mulato, Ancho, Guajillo and Puya.
  • 3 onions
  • 1 small tin of tomato purée
  • 1 tin of whole tomatoes
  • 500 ml of good lamb or beef stock
  • 2 teaspoons of fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 big handful of coriander (cilantro)
  • Some olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to season

Place the chillis in a bowl and add about half a litre of very hot water. This will reconstitute the chillies and when blitzed will make a demon, punchy blend of flavour.

Beautiful chilli colour will translate into great flavour.

Side not on adding the chillies: Before I learned better, I used to dry the chilies in the oven and grind them in the mortar. The chilli dust would get in the air and make me sneeze and cause my eyes water. This would lead to me rubbing my eyes. You can guess the rest. This way is easier on the eye, if you will pardon me stealing the expression. 

Remove the stalks from the chillies when they are soft. Tip them and the water into a blender. Blend.

There is a lot of heat in the blender.

While the chillies are reconstituting, brown the lamb, in a little of the oil, in a large casserole. Dry fry the fennel and cumin seeds. When they are a nice deep brown colour, grind them to dust in a mortar or spice mill, if you are lucky enough to own one.

That’s a lot of fennel and cumin – this is a flavour packed dish.

Chop the onions into quarters and then eights. When all the lamb is browned, turn down the heat and sweat down the onions in the same casserole.

Sweated onions – Me sweating in fear of Adam J Holland and his lynch mob.

Add the tomato paste and cook this until it starts to darken a bit and release tomato aromas. Add the ground seeds and stir to incorporate.

Chillies are all about layers of flavour, not raw heat (despite what they might think in Texas)

Add the meat and stir until everything is coated in thick flavoursome gunge.

I just love a good action shot. Here’s the lamb going back in….

Add the chilli mixture and the stock.

Even as a liquid, this releases a throat clenching aroma. Must be a Texan thing…

Add the bayleaf and season. Don’t overdo the salt and pepper, you can add more later. Place in a 180ºC oven for an hour and a half. Drain and rinse the butterbeans.

Side note on the use of butterbeans: If you are a weak willed sort of person (afraid of being hung by Adam and his Texas lynch mob), or if you feel you have enough roughage in your diet, you can leave them out. 

Take the chilli out of the oven and, to the distress of every self respecting, ten gallon hat wearing, oil field owning Texan, add the butterbeans to the chilli. Chop and add the coriander. Stir and return to the oven for half an hour.

How could they take offence? Even a Texan would love this dish.

Serve this delicious dish with some rice, tortilla chips, guacamole and a slice of lime. Be sure to post somebody at the door to watch out for Holland and his band of marauding mercenaries. If they do arrive, I bet they will be converted. This was particularly tasty.

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Latest comments
  • I’m with you brother. I love Texas chili (just meat with spices), but there’s a wide world of chili out there and beans are one of the best ways to mix it up a bit. The lamb chili looks awesome and while I’ve never used lamb for chili before, I may do so now.

  • I’m with you on the beans, too. I like the texture they add to a chilli, no matter that it’s not authentic. And I love butterbeans. Go Ireland!

      • ‘Course you can. I’ll sharpen my Bowie knife.

  • This looks amazing, Conor! You are the one who turned me on to reconstitute chilies. It makes a world of difference to a dish. I’m practically drooling now!

  • I’m sold, that looks delicious. For some reason lamb chilli hadn’t occurred to me before, but why not! I will be trying this at home 🙂

  • oh gosh Conor, a ‘chilli’ without beans, did not think that’s possible. Your photographs are really once again so incredible, that I want to eat a bowl (or two! – yes I can be greedy) of this right off your pages. But, since this is not possible, I will have to go shopping again and make it. Thanks for this recipe.

  • That looks amazing! I would never have thought to use lamb for a chili. I believe I need to start thinking outside the box! Beans, though they are not technically “correct” in a chili are an absolute must in all my chili recipes. To me it just isn’t chili without them!

  • As Annie Hall says “La dee dah la dee dah”. Living in Los Angeles and having a meeting at Grand Central Market next week I will have access not only to dozens of kinds of dried chilies from one of the old school venders in the market but also to a new school butcher, one of the few places I buy meat these days. http://www.belcampo.com …and being a California Girl I have no objection to beans!

  • I’m with you, chillis need beans! I’m mortified to admit I would never even thought of making a lamb chilli. The pouring shot of the chilli paste and stock has me salivating. Gorgeous stuff Conor!

  • Admittedly, your chili looks divine … beans and all. I would attempt the recipe here in Texas, but the mere presence of legumes near a pot of red might get me in some hot water. Might I sneak to the Emerald Isle next time you make a pot? I’m thinking that might be the only way.

  • This does look extremely tasty, and may even feature on the menu here in Chiconia, although wimped-down considerably due to my inability to cope with serious chilli heat… As for Adam and his cohorts; to misquote the legendary Hannah Glasse: “First catch your Conor, then cook him”… I reckon what they do in Houston, stays in Houston.

  • Since I’ve picked up chili making from Richard, I always make it without beans. Unlike most of my countrymen, who buy a package of “instant chili” to which, according to the package, you only have to add water, meat, and beans. And so everyone is asking me why there’s no beans in my chilies. Guess I’m safe from Texans though! Wonderful post, Conor.

    • I knew I had a friend out there somewhere! 😉 But seriously, even growing up (in Texas), beans were served on the side with all other accoutrements. Of course, if anyone even thought about spooning beans in the chili, my dad would give them an old fashioned butt whipping.

      • As far as I understand, serving (refried) beans on the side is fine.

  • Lovely post Conor! This one gave me a chuckle. I can hear Richard saying, “You know Conor’s posts just tickle me.” This would have been one of those posts. Beans or no beans is still a debate at our house. Richard never added them but enjoyed them when served this way. Daniel is definitely on the no beans side. 🙂

  • Delicious. And hey, if you need extra security – I know a guy.

  • Ahhh, I see I have a friend in the “I can add beans to my chili if I want to” camp. Even though I am a native Texan, born and raised there, I have spent almost the last 25 years of my life in the Pacific Northwest, and beans are gladly welcomed on this side of the Continental Divide. I am sure Richard would have loved this, and I know if you can get Adam over to the Emerald Isle then he would gladly partake of your chili without the fear of getting lynched. Wonderful recipe, Conor!

      • That is no lie! I have a co-worker heading there in March I think, I wonder if she can smuggle me in her suitcase? Actually, a vacation with Adam to visit you would be a hoot!

  • Well, Adam is far too distant from country NSW for me to have a ‘scaredy’ attack 🙂 ! Methinks this looks great – am especially interested that some of the meat is cubed and the rest minced: want to taste that. And since many of us in the Antipodes are somewhat ignorant as to the finesse of chilli cooking, I’ll most happily add the beans I love and enjoy the meal . . . great recipe: thanks for something new!!! [off topic: thrilled that international cycling year beginning here this weekend . . . . Froome etc here . . . just hoping today’s temp of 42 C will be a little kinder in the next few days . . . ].

  • The color of this chili is so beautiful. At the same time, it strikes fear in my heart.

  • Feh to TX. 😉 That bowl of chili looks fantastic – butter beans and all! I really like the use of the two meat textures. I’ve done the same with a variety of ingredients in soups, stews, chilis, and sauces and I love the technique.

  • Awesome! Never thought to do a lamb meat chili. For that matter why not goat (we have goat meat in the freezer this year)? Love it with the butter beans and ditto from above on the ground and the stew meat- I like the variety. Thanks for opening my mind! wt

  • Chili is not chili without beans, seriously, I never heard of it!

      • Just let me know when if you planning a rally and I’ll book the next train cross country.

  • I’ve been to Texas and I’m actually not sure that Adam was joking! But one visit was quite enough for a lifetime. From the safe distance I will happily add beans to my chili.

  • That is one flavorful chilli you have there. I have not cooked a lamb chilli nor have I tried my hand with those chillies of yours. Pin it for future reference as I have just got my kitchen back. What do I cook first?

  • 😘😘😘

  • Grrrrr haven’t managed to source any dried chillies. Bought some red jalapeños in a jar which I thought I would blitz up with some paprika picante and hope for the best. Also going to try this in the slow cooker. Any tips for where to get dried chillies? I’m in Cork

      • Thanks. I follow Lily. Online might be the only way

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