Chicken Chilli – Off the Reserves Bench

Most of us who played team sports and grew up before the daft thought that “every kid is a winner and must get a medal” know the feeling of disappointment of being left out of the team, making the subs but not getting a game or even being taken off the pitch in the first half. It hurts. It also teaches some really valuable life lessons. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go off on a “Life sucks” rant. But, we all need to know how to deal with not being winners all the time. Life is just not like that. If all my recipe posts were winners, you would have read about my steak and kidney pie by now. There are winners, there are losers and there’s my steak and kidney pie. There are the ones that are really good but for some reason only make the subs bench. My really quite delicious Chicken and Black Turtle Bean Chilli has been on the bench for long enough. Time for it to join the first team.

I like to be planned well in advance. I like to have all my ducks in a row (even when I’m cooking chicken) and I need to know I have a shot in the blogging locker if I am too busy, too lazy or just lacking that “Conor’s a Winner” feeling. This unusual chilli is the one I’ve been holding back. So, while I’m lazing, busy or bereft of ideas, you can read about a wonderful, easy recipe.

A simple set of ingredients belies the flavour.


  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 100 grammes of dried black turtle beans
  • 400 grammes of tinned tomatoes
  • 2 onions
  • 3 bell peppers red/green/yellow
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 level teaspoon of black pepper
  • 2 cm piece of achiote paste
  • 3 Ancho,  2 Mulato, 4 Puya and 1 Guajillo chillis

Boil the black turtle beans for an hour or so. Drain and set aside. Chop the chicken into small pieces. Do likewise with the peppers and the onions. Place the dried chillis in a bowl and add about 500ml of boiling water. Leave for 30 minutes before blending into a smooth paste.

Most of the flavour lives here. Lovely dried chillis.

Fry the onions in the base of a casserole until soft and translucent. Add the chicken and stir while it turns colour. Add the cumin, salt and pepper. Add a small amount of boiling water to the achiote paste and work it with a spoon until it dissolves. Add this to the casserole. Add the chilli paste and stir to combine.

The chilli paste is a lovely mahogany colour. It’s full of flavour too.

The aromas will be fantastic. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add the mixed peppers and black beans. Stir to combine and simmer for another 20 minutes or so.

The peppers add a nice bit of colour as well as flavour.

Serve this chilli with tortilla chips, a dash of sour cream, salsa and a nice cool beer. It’s delicious and really doesn’t deserve to be left on the reserves bench any longer.

Off the reserves bench and into the spotlight. Lovely Chicken Chilli.

This doesn’t take too long to prepare and makes a lovely, warming meal. Serve it to the kids instead of giving them medals for being losers. They will appreciate it in the long run and will get to know a little more about winning. It’s an important life lesson.


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Latest comments
  • The chilli looks delicious, but I was extremely disappointed when I was picked for my school rugby team.

  • Looks delish but is perhaps a thought too warming for the weather we’re currently enjoying. I bet it would freeze well, too.

  • Those of us who were on “splinter patrol” salute you! 😄 The chili looks great and, as it is supposed to continue to be cold and rainy this week, may well be on the menu.

  • Conor where do you buy the exotic ingredients like the various dried chillis, turtle beans and achiote paste? If online I might go there. Sadly am allergic to bell peppers (but not chillis) but could substitute with something or omit.

  • Looks to be a first team dish to me, I’m even going to draft it! I’ll be playing it on the first coarse soon. Great take on chicken chili.

  • OH, my…. have I ever mentioned to you I am 150 cm in height with my shoulder fully extended? and maybe trying to raise my feet just a bit without anyone noticing?

    I was soooooooo bullied and ignored and humiliated growing up – I used to get sick, really sick on days of physical ed in which they would choose members for teams. No matter what sport. I was THE LAST always and I remember vividly the captain of the team of basketball complaining to the teacher “do we HAVE to take her?”

    pass me the chili… quick, thank you

  • ooops, I meant neck. NECK…. Cannot go back and edit. …. (sigh)

  • I have never heard of chicken chilli, but I think Richard would have approved. If only for the chicken in the ingredient shot! I think one is supposed to toast and sees the chiles, but it certainly is less work not doing that.

  • The cold, wind, rain and a good thrashing did nothing to endear me to school sports. I went sick on selection day after that. I preferred the boy scouts, where they encouraged pyromania, knife skills and cooking 🙂

  • Sounds absolutely delicious. A perfect winter weeknight meal.

  • Somehow the Powers Above ‘lost’ my hello from a few days back ! Have never used black beans for a chicken dish like this but am more than curious to try 🙂 ! Before I go find my local on-line supplier for excitement in the chilli stakes am wondering whether the last few of Richard’s may have been used in this . . . 🙂 ? Oh, as far as sport was concerned when I first arrived in the country: there were ‘brains’; and ‘proper Oz sports’ to follow . . . . got very used to being mongst the last two standing 🙂 !

  • Lovely. Warms my cockles just reading about it, which is more than I can say for memories of standing around a hockey pitch in short grey culottes while my legs went purple with cold. You’ll probably say I shouldn’t have been standing around – the gym mistress agreed. Sport was not my forte but I’d be champion cooking this. 🙂

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