Since starting my year abroad in September, a good way of making myself comfortable has been surrounding myself with home comforts, including having photos of family and friends on the wall, my teddy bears and comfy jumpers. But another key home comfort has been one of my favourite foods, Chilli Con Carne.
This dish reminds me of home every time I cook and eat it. I have felt this way about this dish since I started university two years ago. It has been a family favourite ever since I can remember. It’s just one of those really delicious, warming dishes! The version I cook at university is from the Nosh For Students Cookbook and takes about 15 minutes to make. It is not exactly the same as the one my family makes, as that cooks for nearly 2 hours to develop a rich flavour, but the student recipe definitely helps to fill the void.
Our home recipe has also developed as we have gotten older. Every time we made the dish for dinner, we would say ‘that wasn’t very spicy’. So, the next time it was made, more chilli powder and smoked paprika would go in, and then the next time even more would go in, and so on and so forth. The original recipe lists a teaspoon of each spice in its ingredients list. Now, we add heaped tablespoons of these spices, plus a fresh chilli. It feels like this dish has developed and grown with us from our childhood to our adulthood.
With this dish, we normally add toppings like cheese, sour cream and jalapeños. Alongside it we eat tortilla chips, or as they are fondly known in my house ‘Dotitos’. This name comes from my brother, who, when he was little, couldn’t pronounce ‘Doritos’ properly. Since then the name has stuck, even though my brother and I are both in our twenties now. It sounds wrong calling them by their real name!
Now that I’m in Germany, this dish was (unintentionally!) adapted, whilst I tried to figure out what all the ingredients were in German and where they would be in a supermarket. But I have successfully cooked this dish three times since arriving. The recipe I use makes three portions as well…so that means I’ve had nine dinners of Chilli Con Carne in about 6 weeks. But this is the dish that reminds me of home and offers me comfort, which is what I need when I am adapting to my new environment and life here in Germany.