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Woodfired Chilli con Carne and Cornbread

In this workshop, David is cooking a fabulously flavoured Chilli con Carne, infused with beech smoke, and served with a fresh cornbread both from the woodfired oven. A great crowd pleaser now we can get together with a few folk in the garden. Classic outdoors cooking traditionally round a campfire, just adding a bit of woodsmoke by putting some finely chopped wood on the glowing embers will transport you out to the range. Happy days!

You can check out how he cooked them on our youtube channel here and the recipe is below.

Woodfired Chilli con Carne and Cornbread


For the Chilli

500g good quality beef mince

2 onions, peeled and finely chopped

100g nduja

1 pepper – we used red, but whatever you have – deseeded and finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

2 fresh red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped

2tsp sweet smoked paprika

1tsp chipotle chilli flakes

2tsp each ground cumin and ground coriander

1tsp ground cinnamon

1tbsp cocoa powder

2 bayleaves, fresh or dried

1tsp dried oregano

1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g)

1tbsp sundried tomato puréé

500ml beef stock

2tbsp red wine vinegar

Salt -about 1tsp

1 tin (400g) kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Sunflower oil

For the Cornbread

300g plain flour

240g fine cornmeal/polenta

50g caster sugar

1tsp ground cumin

1tsp fine seasalt

1tsp baking powder

450ml milk

3 eggs

120g butter, melted

2tbsp chopped fresh coriander

2 fresh red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped

100g tinned sweetcorn

90g grated cheese – Cheddar, Gruyere, Edam, whatever you like!

Cake tin or small roasting tin (25x20cm) lined with baking parchment

Oven state, equipment etc

Oven around 4-5 Mississippi for cooking the chilli and the cornbread; about 2-3 for browning the meat and softening the onions/peppers etc

Heat deflector – keeps everything tidy in the oven but also cuts off the oxygen from the embers when you add the smoking wood; here’s how we use ours

Frying pan for browning your meat

A good solid pan for slow-cooking – we have one available here if you need one (and are in the UK)

2 handfuls of smoking chips or 10 small sticks – we used beech


  • Heat your frying pan on your embers and when it’s hot add 2tbsp sunflower oil and brown your mince. Door off. When it’s browned up, put it in the pan that you’re going to slow cook the chilli in.
  • Heat the pan again and add another 2tbsp sunflower oil.
  • When it’s hot, add the chopped onion and pepper and let them soften. When they’ve softened a bit, add the spices, oregano, fresh chilli and garlic and cook for a minute or so.
  • Add this mixture to the mince in the large pan and add the tomatoes, nduja, stock, cocoa, vinegar and salt. Stir well together.
  • Push the embers to the back of the oven and add the smoking chips or wood. Keep them in place with the heat deflector so that the oxygen is cut off and the chips start to smoke.
  • Put the pan of chilli in the oven and put the door on ajar so the smoke can escape.
  • Cook the chilli for 45 minutes and then stir in the kidney beans. Check the liquid levels and if the chilli is drying out add some water.
  • Put the pan back in the oven and cook for another 45 minutes, door ajar again.
  • Mix all the dry ingredients together for the cornbread in a large bowl and beat the eggs together with the milk. Put the butter in a small pan.
  • When the chilli is cooked, keep it warm and reheat your oven with another jenga stack of wood if you need to. Melt the butter in the pan, just by the door.
  • When your oven is ready for the cornbread, mix the melted butter into the dry mixture followed by the milk/eggs mixture. Stir in the cheese, chilli, sweetcorn and coriander and turn the batter into the lined tin.
  • Bake the cornbread in the oven with the door slightly ajar if the embers are still glowing. It will take about 30 minutes – spin the tin round after 15 minutes and test at the end like a cake with a clean skewer; when it comes out clean it’s done
  • Phew – that’s it; enjoy!


  • Use different beans to kidney beans if you don’t like them or have another tin in your cupboard
  • Instead of nduja, use cooking chorizo or plain sausage meat
  • White wine vinegar is fine instead of red wine vinegar of course
  • Use different woods to see what you like and the different flavours they impart – eg cherry, oak, hickory
  • Add more chilli flavourings if you like a hotter chilli and less if you prefer it not so spicey
  • Cool things down with a dollop of soured cream or Greek yoghurt
  • The chilli will keep for a few days in the fridge and the flavours will mellow. It also freezes brilliantly if you are planning ahead
  • Any leftover cornbread is fantastic toasted with soup or turned into croutons.