A FORMER private hospital worker and keen amateur cook won a hotly-contested TV show competition to find the UK’s Best Chilli recipe.
Jeff Hickson, who used to live in Wendella Court, off Sudbury Hill, Harrow, until 2010 and was support services manager down the road at the BMI Clementine Churchill Hospital, was one of three finalists in
the contest run by BBC1’s The One Show.
He had to prepare his dish for the cameras during filming at a cookery school in Wales in February and his food certainly impressed judges Angela Gray, who owned the cookery school, and Jay Rayner, the TV
programme’s food critic, whose mother was late Harrow resident and agony aunt Claire Rayner and whose father Desmond still lives in the borough.
Mr Hickson, now of Market Harborough in Leicestershire, said: “Everyone was apprehensive as Jay’s critique on Masterchef could end a contestant’s ambition.
“As the end of the cook drew near, everyone wanted to make sure their dish tasted the best and looked like a dish worthy of the title.
“Mine uses a combination of Aberdeen Angus minced beef and ox cheek: it was a five hour slow cook. It also contained home dried chilli and 100 per cent cacoa - the chocolate is a bit like a seasoning.
“It started out as my mum’s steak and kidney pie recipe and I just added chillis to it and worked out how I could enhance the flavours.
“It’s not designed to blow your socks off. There’s a bit of heat at the back but not so it’s unpleasant.”
The 45-year-old graced The One Show sofa live on Friday’s programme to collect his chilli pepper-shaped trophy and was delighted that veteran actor and fellow guest Sir Ben Kingsley tried his concoction.
He said: “I was chuffed that my dish, that I had to recreate the evening before and take with me, had gone down so well.
“It was was an amazing experience and to be on the same seat as some of the most famous people in the world of showbiz and entertainment was quite humbling.”
2 x good sized ox cheeks
800g Aberdeen angus 10% fat minced beef
2 x packs of dry cured smoked bacon lardons
2 x good quality fresh beef stock
100 per cent cacao grate to taste pure
1 x tablespoon tomato puree
9 x fresh cherry tomatoes (Must be sweet and on the vine and the best
quality and taste available)
2 x canned cherry tomatoes
1 x teaspoon hot chilli powder
1 x teaspoons mild chilli powder
1 x home dried chilli - or pinch chilli flakes
5 x fresh red chilli (not birds eye but the larger sized ones)
2 x canned kidney beans in chilli sauce
1 x carrot
1 x onion
2 x celery sticks
6 x large chestnut mushrooms
Large glass red wine (good quality New Zealand Merlot)
2 x fresh bay leaf
Small bunch flat leaf parsley
Few twigs of fresh thyme
Good pinch of dried wild thyme
1 x tablespoon plain flour
Several glugs olive oil
125g long grain rice per serving
25g frozen petit pois per serving
Grated mature cheddar cheese to taste
Wash, peel, and rewash the vegetables and dice. Chop the herbs and dried chilli and deseed the fresh chilli and finely slice. Dice the ox cheeks and trim off any excess fat. In olive oil soften the onion, celery, carrot. Add the puree and cook for a few minutes then add the herbs, fresh chilli and tomatoes, stir and add to the cooking pot.
Then add the canned kidney beans in chilli sauce, mushrooms, chilli powder, and black and white pepper to the pot. (No salt at this point the bacon may be salty.) Gently fry the lardons in their own fat, drain and add to the mix. In a little olive oil, sauté the mince until brown and again add to the chilli mix. Add the beef stock to the pot.
Dust the ox cheek cubes in a little flour and fry until a good colour is achieved and then into the pot.
Deglaze the pan with the red wine and flambé to remove the alcohol to give a rounder end flavour and pour into the cooking pot and give a good stir. Cover and cook in the oven for about 5 hours at 160C. Towards the end grate the chocolate into the chilli, combine, check the seasoning and adjust accordingly.
When done transfer to a large container and allow to cool down.
Refrigerate overnight for the best result. To serve boil some rice and blanch some peas, combine and season. Reheat the chilli in the oven and then add a knob of butter for increased richness. Place the rice
in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Fill the well with the wonderful chilli and top with a little grated cheddar cheese.
Enjoy with a good glass of red wine.