Smoked Chilli with Borlotti Beans and Fennel Seeds


There are three secrets to this extraordinary chilli: frying half of the minced beef until it is crispy; grinding fennel seeds to add to the spice mixed to give it an aniseedy lift; and replacing traditional kidney beans with borlotti (they’re softer and the skins aren’t intrusive).

And thus: they aren’t secrets any more. Don’t argue about semantics, Just do it.

500g minced beef
2 tbsp olive oil
2 red onions, finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 red chilli, finely chopped (keep seeds if you like it hot)
1 green chilli, finely chopped (keep seeds if you like it hot)
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped into 1 cm dice
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds (if you have them – I used powder)
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp smoked salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
500ml jar tomato passata
50ml good quality balsamic vinegar
400g can borlotti beans


1. First, smoke the beef. (Just skip this stage if you don’t have a smoker – the results will still be delicious) Add 2 tbsp wood chips (I used Hickory) to a Camerons smoker. Line the drip tray with tin foil and spread the minced beef over it. Close the lid and smoke over a medium heat for about 30 minutes.

2. Remove the mince from the smoker and split the beef mince into two portions. In a large, dry frying pan, cook half of the beef over a low heat for around 1 hour until dry and crispy. Transfer to a bowl and reserve.


3. Add 1 tbsp oil to the pan and gently brown the rest of the mince, approx. 7-8 mins. Drain on kitchen paper and reserve. Wipe the pan clean with kitchen towel.


4. Add the rest of the oil to the pan and gently cook the onions, garlic, chilli and diced pepper for around 10 mins until soft.


5. Meanwhile, in a spice grinder, blitz the fennel, cumin, coriander, paprika, salt and black pepper. Add to the softened onion mixture and stir through.

6. Add the tomato passata and the vinegar. Stir through. Then add the borlotti beans.


7. Transfer the whole lot to a slow cooker or lidded casserole pot. If you’re using a slow cooker, cooked on LOW for 4 hours, adding a little water if the chilli looks to dry. If using a casserole pot, cook in a 160C/Gas 2 oven for 2-3 hours.

8. 20 minutes before the end of the cooking time, add the crispy fried beef and stir through.


9. Serve with homemade corn muffins. Click here for the recipe.  Scatter with coriander leaves and grated strong Cheddar cheese, if you like.




Filed under Beef, Recipe Shed, Slow Cooker

3 Responses to Smoked Chilli with Borlotti Beans and Fennel Seeds

  1. Andrew

    Very tasty looking. Will have to give it a go. So many recipes, so little time!
    One comment re the fennel seeds, I’ve never done anything with fennel seeds crushed up so that will be interesting but what I would like to say is my mother taught me a nice twist on home made pizza when growing up, a scattering of fennel seeds in the topping is great. Slightly off topic I know

  2. Darren

    Seconded on the use of borlotti beans. I have mixed borlotti with pinto with excellent results. I realised a long time ago that I didn’t really like red kidney beans. I have since discovered black beans. Try some. They are great.

    Fab recipes on your site, good stuff indeed.

    • keithkendrick

      Hi Darren, thanks for the high praise. Really appreciate it. Only yesterday I added a can of black beans to a chunky beef chilli I made. It’s now in the fridge, maturing, so I’ve not tasted them yet, but I like the look of them: smaller, softer than the other beans. Will post the recipe when we’ve eaten it! All the best.