Spring now seems to be putting out its first few tentative feelers. Marie-Rose is especially pleased as the daffodil bulbs I planted last year are budding up nicely next to the pond. I did plant others in another spot the year before but apart from some green leaves they did nothing. Marie-Rose says I planted them too deeply but she comes from near Vielsalm in the Ardennes so what does she know about daffodils? Anyway, I planted these a bit shallower and coincidentally they are thriving.
A friend came over for the weekend and we took advantage of the better weather to go for some good walks. I love the chavées (hollewegs or sunken paths) which are ancient paths dug into the gentle hills through the Brabant and further afield. I remember when I was young and for a few years collected just bursting twigs during this time and put them in a jam jar with some water. Watching them rapidly unfold indoors was a delight and to this day I know the names, both common and latin, of many trees from the leaves. I also used to ‘grow’ carrots too, placing the top of a carrot in a saucer of water and watching the delicate fronds unfurl. Sadly I can’t interest my kids in this and am sadden by the thought that the simple delight and wonder of nature coming to life again holds no magic for them. But they have a Wii, at least at their mother’s house. Like eyesore trampolines, the Wii is not welcome here.
The girls are having some friends over this weekend and have requested my Chile con Carne. Every cloud etc. Needless to say you can use what you like instead of the beef, just adapt the cooking times. I also like the sot-l’y-laisse de dinde for this and for many currys which you can pick up in supermarkets like Champion.
Chile con Carne
1 kg beef. Boneless, this can be some standard carbonade beef. Chop it into 1 cm cubish pieces. Or strips. Or whatever you think will go into your mouth easily.
4 – 6 ancho chillies. If you like it really hot then replace one of them with a habanero. I find 4 anchos sufficient for most Belgians’ taste.
1 onion, chopped.
2 cloves of chopped garlic
2 tablespoons white lard or use any cooking oil you happen to have
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 finely chopped onion
Salt and pepper
2 standard sized tins of rinsed, cooked, red kidney beans.
Put the beef in a pan, add water to cover and simmer until tender. An hour should do it. Remove any scum that might form. Drain.
Meanwhile, toast the chillis gently in a dry pan until they soften and become a bit translucent and reddish. Put in a bowl, cover with hot water and leave for 30 minutes.
Now drain the chillis (reserving the soaking liquid!), discard stems and seeds from the them and purée coarsely with the onion and garlic. You will need some of the soaking liquid to help this along and perhaps later on as well.
Heat the fat or oil in a biggish separate pan and add the chilli purée. Cook for 5 minutes stirring as you go.
Add the beef, oregano, cumin. Simmer gently for another hour, covered. Taste and check for seasoning.
Add the beans and simmer for another 15 minutes. Add some of soaking liquid if it appears too dry. You don’t want sloppy, mind.
Serve with rice and whatever else you fancy. Sour cream and chopped spring onions?