Warming up the crew with a heartwarming Texan chilli

PREP TIME: 20 mins
COOK TIME: 2 – 2.5 hrs
DIFFICULTY: Medium (you need time and can be a little fiddly but it’s worth the rich flavours)
IDEAL FOR: Weekend family meal; Casual entertaining; Winter (or English summer) warmer

Monday mornings. Commuter hell.

Over-crowded tube. Grumpy passengers. Scrolling through a full Inbox.

Oh… the week ahead.

That was last year. This year, Monday mornings can be many different things. This Monday it was moving our 15 tonne 1904 Dutch Tjalk boat down the Dart river.

Sounds idyllic, right? Ahhh, yeah… should have been.

Early morning on the Dart River to move our 1904 Dutch Tjalk

Enter the 115 year old rudder… or lack of.

Now those of you not au fait with boats (it’s a steep learning curve!), a rudder is critical to the manoeuvrability of a boat. As in, if you don’t have one, you’re in big trouble.

We met our ‘crew’ (from the village – I know how many times do these people volunteer to help us! (FYI – Click here for ‘It takes a village to find a ‘Bella’ and bacon baps) at Baltic Wharf for a lovely morning meander down the sleepy Dart river.

Not so fast…

This is when the boatyard gently informed us that as the (tidal) river had gone out, our rudder ‘popped’ out of its pintles. In plain English… the behemoth of a rudder had come off was now lying on the bottom of the river. Problem?


Sounds an easy fix?


It weighs about 150kg and it’s about 8ft tall.

I mean, it’s a Monday. They’ve always been a little challenging getting to work etc, just not this type of challenging.

Luckily the boatyard with pure skill and precision lifted the old rudder with their crane from the sticky mud and gently ‘popped’ it back into place.

We’re off!

Problem fixed, happy days.


It happened again at Old Mill Creek where we were mooring her up to get some work done.

Rudder problems aside, it was a stunning morning to be out on the Dart River. Except our fingers were all frozen from the misty air.

Good thing I whipped up a Texan Chilli the day before to reheat for the crew onboard and warm them up. If you think chilli for breakfast is weird, on a cold morning with fresh baguettes, butter and sour cream, it’s a smash hit!  

The start to the week (and Monday challenges) sorted leaving the crew warm, full and happy .

The Crew – couldn’t have done it without them!

Oh and the rudder problem. You can’t rush these things so we’ve arranged a meeting (aka pub) to mull it over. I’ll update you when we figure that one out but the feeling is, we’ll need a number of ‘meetings’ to get the ‘crew’ to come up with a solution.

So, here’s my breakfast Texan chilli (or have as lunch/supper) for Monday morning boat moves or just a great chilli to whip up for family and friends.

I’d love to hear what version of chilli you like to whip up (or any unusual stories that you never thought you’d find yourself in). Drop me a line or leave a comment (below the recipe)

Texas Chilli

Course Main Course
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 50 minutes
Servings 4 people


  • 6 – 8 dried guajillo, or pasilla chillies, or a mix of the two
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • sea salt
  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 – 1.5 kg beef chuck trimmed and cut into 2 cm cubes
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic (large) mince or finely chopped
  • 2 cups beef stock (you may need more later during cooking)
  • 2 1/4 cups water (as above)
  • 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • sour cream and lemon or lime wedges to serve


  • Place the chillies in a frying-pan over medium-low heat and gently toast for 2 to 3 minutes per side or you get a fragrant smell. Be careful not to burn them though as they taste bitter if you do.
  • After, put them in a bowl and pour very hot water over them and soak until soft. This should take anywhere between 15 to 35 minutes.
  • Once they have softened, drain the chillies and cut them to remove the seeds and stems.
    Then, in a bowl, using a blender, add the cumin, black pepper, 1 tblsp salt,1/4 cup water and mix until smooth and paste like (but not too thick)
    nb: you may need to add a bit more water as you do this.
    Set the paste to the side.
  • In the frying-pan, add the 2 tbsp vegetable oil and when hot add half the beef.
    Lightly brown the meat and remove to a bowl then repeat with the rest of the beef.
  • Now add some more oil and add the onion and garlic and cook gently for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    Add the stock, 2 cups water and stir in the chilli paste.
    Finally, add the browned beef and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to maintain the barest possible simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender for about 2 hours.
    Stir occasionally and check there is still fluid (although it thickens), add a bit more stock or water if needed.
  • Once the beef is tender, take out and stir in the brown sugar and vinegar.
    Add more salt to taste, then gently simmer for another 10 minutes so.
    Turn off the heat and let the chilli stand for at least 30 minutes. This will allow the meat will absorb the sauce.
    Stir in additional stock or water if the mixture seems too dry or simmer a bit longer if the sauce needs more time to reduce. It really comes down to personal preference at this stage on how you want you sauce.
  • Serve with sour cream and lemon or lime wedges.


You can use tortilla flour or plain flour to thicken the sauce

This recipe was inspired by Lobel’s Meat Bible: All You Need to Know About Meat and Poultry from America’s Master Butchers.