Monday 4 November 2013

Day 16: Chilli Con Carne And Cumin Chapattis

I have forgotten what the stars look like. The skipper tells me to relax, there is lot of time left on this voyage to see stars. But I am beginning to have my doubts.

To sum up the situation, we are almost a week out of St Helena island, three weeks into our six week-odd voyage. This means almost halfway. And we have yet to have a cloudless day or night. Interesting, indeed. In fact, the deays have been so cloudy that I on occasion had to time my sun sights to when the sun peeked through the clouds sufficiently to take a sight. I was not able to take noon sights at will.

I shall follow the skipper's advice: Take a deep breath, Count to ten. Then do it again. At least I shall be getting some deep breathing exercises! We can feel that the ambient temperature has gone up. One can now sit outside without a windbreaker. But at night, as I am sitting here writing, there is still a nip in the air.

Last night was my turn at the galley again. I decided on chilli con carne with cumin chapattis. I haven't made chapattis in a long while and decided that it would be a good accompaniment to the meat and beans.

Chapattis are an interesting type of flat bread to make. Almost like the twisters of the Australian outback or stokbrood from the South African culinary tradition. Made with flour, salt and water. In this case I added a teaspoon of vegetable fat and used some leftover self raising flour in the mix. And, to top it off, I added a healthy teaspoon full of cumin seeds as garnish to the mix.

It worked well flavour-wise, but due to the seeds falling out and leaving a hole, the little breads would not all puff up. The flavour, however, was excellent. And the texture quite soft as a result of the vegetable fat.

The chilli con carne was my standard boat recipe, using fresh onions and sweet green peppers. As flavour I used dried coriander seeds and added some black mustard seeds. The dried seeds were roasted, each in turn as they are of different sizes and thus toast at different rates. If they burn, everything thereafter turns out bitter, so having burnt them, you chuck everything overboard and start again. Luckily I had this under control.

The heat in the dish was supplied by two jalapenos and two of the dried St Helena chillies. Everything finely chopped. Of course one would use chillies that are on hand. Take care not to go overboard. These ingredients are fried and the heat may override the other flavours. Rather go less than more. Of course, we do not forget the requisite chopped garlic. The salt in the dish is supplied through the soy sauce, so no additional salt is required. For this dish, the flavours are mostly determined by the process, so take good care in the preparation.

Ingredients for the chilli con carne

400 g lean beef mince

1 can chopped tomatoes

1 can red kidney beans

1 small can baked beans in tomato sauce

1 medium to large onion, chopped

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

5 whole black peppercorns

1-2 teaspoons chopped garlic

1-2 hot chillies. (Remember the caveat!)

¼ green sweet pepper

¼ yellow sweet pepper

A dollop of butter for frying

some soy sauce to taste


Toast the coriander seeds in a dry pan. Shake them around that they can toast on all sides. Add the mustard seeds and toast them for about ten seconds, then add the butter. When the butter is melted, add the onions and sweet peppers. Fry these until translucent, then add the chopped garlic, jalapenos and hot chillies. Fry these for thirty seconds, keeping your head out of the way. The oleoresin capsicum will burn your nose and eyes,

Add the meat. Fry the meat until it goes brown, then add the soy sauce to taste. Now add the canned tomatoes and simmer until the tomatoes are cooked though. At this stage one can opt to simmer the dish for fifteen minutes more, or immediately add the beans. The beans will make the sauce thicken and the dish then needs constant attention to prevent burning. Simmering the dish will make the texture more creamy and the meat perchance a bit softer.

Whichever way one chooses to go, after adding the beans, cook the dish through and take it off the heat. Allow it to rest for half an hour to develop flavour before dishing up.

In our case the dish reposed for fifteen minutes only, as we have a bunch of hungry sailors on board!

Ingredients for the chapattis

1 cup self raising flour

1 cup white bread flour

1 teaspoon vegetable fat

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

about 1 cup of water


Mix the flour and salt. Rub the vegetable fat into the flour mix. Now add half the water. Mix thoroughly, then add water a little at a time until the dough has soaked up all the water. Take care not to overdo the water. The dough needs to be kneadable. Turn the dough out onto a floured kneading board and knead for ten minutes. The dough will become elastic and less sticky. Cover to prevent drying out and put the dough aside to rest for fifteen minutes.

Roll the dough into a sausage of about 30mm thick (1 1/4inch) cut a piece of so that you end up with a ball of about30 mm size. Roll this into a round ball, then squash flat and roll out into a thin round disk. This should be about 100-150 mm size. Bake this flat bread in a dry pan, turning after about three minutes. These bubbled a bit and puffed a little. They cook quite fast, so take care not to burn them. There will be caramelised patches all over. These are good.

Roll out one at a time, there's enough time to do this while the previous one is cooking. Keep them in a closed container to prevent drying out. I used our small pot.

Dishing up is easy. I arranged three chapattis on a plate and ladled the chilli beans on top.

The chapattis are good to mop up sauce from the plate, so this time it counts as a legal table manners.

Bon appetit!

Authored by Johan Zietsman.

Last updated on 2013-10-11

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