I’m throwing a party and everyone is invited!  It’s a Virtual Reality Book Launch Columbo Chili Cook-along Party!  The Columbo Bowl for short…  Cook up a chili wherever you are in the world and join in the fun.

It’s to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first episode of Columbo being screened on TV – on 20th February 1968 – plus the publication of my book – scheduled for 20th February 2018.

Cool eh?!  Thanks to photographer and food writer Joan Ransley for the lovely cover pic featuring Peter Falk’s Pumpkin Lasagna and Greg Swenson of Recipes for Rebels for the cover design.  Aren’t I lucky to have such talented friends?  The first proof copy arrived this week and I was grinning from ear to ear – VERY exciting!

How does the Columbo Bowl Chili Cook-along work?  All you need to do is cook up some Johnny Cash chili (meat or veggie version) and either send me photos, or a link to a blog post if you are a blogger.  So wherever you are in the world, join us!  There will be a PRIZE DRAW so the names of everyone who joins in will go into a hat, with a chance to win some fab Columbo goodies.

If you are having a Super Bowl party – why not combine it with the Columbo Bowl?!

First prize, a Columbo themed dinner for two at Silver Screen Suppers Towers in North London (apologies to anyone far from here, I’ll send you something fabulous in the post if you can’t get to my place…)

Second prize, a rare Columbo sticker (I so want to keep this…)

Third prize, awesome set of Columbo badges

Fourth prize, Columbo finger puppet (this should probably have been the first prize, I love it so much…)

So please do join in the cook-along, it’s going to be fun…

2018 is not only the 50th anniversary of Columbo, it is also 50 years since the classic Johnny Cash album, At Folsom Prison was recorded.

TODAY IS THE ANNIVERSARY – YES TODAY!  Johnny was joined by his longtime backing group The Tennesse Three and future wife June Carter on the 13th January 1968 at Folsom Prison and the gig was recorded.  It is BRILLIANT, so I suggest having this playing in your kitchen as you rustle up Johnny’s chili… 

The Columbo fans amongst you will remember well the scene in Swan Song where the Lieutenant has some chili at a party thrown by the Johnny Cash character.  

The Lieutenant is enjoying his chili very much until he finds out the secret ingredient – squirrel meat…

Please note artist’s impression of squirrel by the brilliant butcher who used to have an ace shop near my parents’ place in Sudbury, Suffolk

You’ll probably be pleased to hear that Johnny Cash’s recipe doesn’t call for squirrel meat, nor the snake meat that was sometimes included in Johnny’s family chili.  Just plain old-fashioned beef, or venison if you are feeling fancy-pants.

I highly recommend a screening of Swan Song at your Columbo Bowl party.

Bloggers – feel free to use this graphic, designed by the wonderful Greg Swenson of Recipes for Rebels – anytime from now to let your readers know about the cook-along. 

Plus the pic of the book…

EVERYONE is invited so if you are a blogger, please include a link to this post so that your readers can access the recipes.  Posts about the Johnny Cash chili itself should go live between 1st and 20th Feb in the run-up to book launch day, but I’m happy for you to mention the book and the cook-along any time from now.  Let’s get this party started!

Here’s a link to the Cooking With Columbo webpage which lists recipes that will feature in the book, I’m happy to write guest posts, or be interviewed via email about the book, just get in touch via my contact page.

Here’s Johnny’s recipe, followed by a veggie version created by the lovely Helen Coniam of Dinner With Zelda Manners.  Don’t be daunted by the length of the recipes, they are really very easy once you have gathered all the ingredients together.

Happy Columbo Bowl!

Johnny Cash’s Chili

1 lb / 450g ground/minced venison (if available) or ground/minced beef (chuck or sirloin) 

1/2 lb / 225g venison steaks (if available) or beef steaks, such as sirloin, or a rump roast, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 and 1/2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon canola/rapeseed oil

24 oz / 680g canned tomatoes 

1 large green bell pepper

1/2 large red bell pepper

2.5 jalapeño peppers (optional)

1/2 habanero pepper (optional)

1 packet McCormick’s Mild Chili Seasoning Mix (or your favorite brand)

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup / 32g chili powder (New Mexico chili powder if available)

1/6 cup / 21g cumin

1/2 tablespoon sage

3/4 teaspoon oregano

1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper

15 oz / 400g can black beans, drained

15 oz / 400g can pinto beans, drained

15 oz / 400g can chili beans/kidney beans in chili sauce

12 oz / 340g can kidney beans, drained*

6 oz / 170ml beer 

1/8 cup / 25g sugar

A handful of self-rising cornmeal*

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Brown the steak in the oil in batches, draining off some of the fat if necessary. Remove from the heat and set aside. In a separate frying pan, brown the ground meat over medium-high heat. Drain off the fat and set meat aside.

With the oil remaining in the pot, brown half the onions and garlic over medium heat until they are caramelized. Now add the well-drained ground beef and steak. Stir and heat it all up. Add the cans of tomatoes, the bell peppers, hot peppers (if using), and the remainder of the onions and garlic. Heat to a brisk simmer, stirring often.

John Carter Cash says that his dad would normally add the spices in the following order, first the chili packet, followed by some salt and black pepper, chili powder, cumin, sage, oregano, and cayenne pepper. John advises tasting the chili and once the spicing it is to your liking, drain the cans of beans and add to the mixture. Now taste again, as the beans mellow the flavor of the chili. Once the chili is to your taste, pour in the bottle of beer. Stir well. Cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add sugar to your taste. Simmer, covered, for at least another 30 minutes, making sure to stir so the chili does not burn. Now add the cornmeal and stir in.

* If self-rising cornmeal is unavailable, you can make it yourself. Just combine 1 cup / 120g of cornmeal, 1/3 cup / 40g all-purpose/plain flour, 1 & 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Put the leftover mix in a sealed container and save for your next batch of Johnny Cash chili.

Serves 6

Helen’s Veggie Chili for Johnny Cash

When Helen Coniam asked, “You know the Johnny Cash chili recipe? I am going to try a veggie version because I love Johnny so much. Is that OK too? “ I said, “Hell yeah!” This is such a good chili recipe, good for vegans too, as long as your veggie burgers are vegan. Over to Helen…

There are a lot of ingredients here but don’t let that put you off. Spend 10-15 minutes getting them all ready in advance. After that, it is mainly a case of just adding them to the pan in the correct order. No technical cooking skills are needed.

This makes a lot of chili. It will easily serve 4 people.

It is lovely in a big bowl with salted crackers, or you may wish to serve it with rice. Some cooling yoghurt or sour cream may also be beneficial.

Feel free to adjust the spicing to suit your individual taste (or fortitude).

1/2 lb / 225g vegetarian mince

2 vegetarian burgers

1 small onion, chopped finely

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

1 tablespoon rapeseed oil

14oz / 400g can of chopped tomatoes

Scant cup / /200ml vegetable stock

½ green bell pepper, chopped

½ red bell pepper, chopped

2 jalapeño peppers, deseeded and chopped very small

1 cayenne pepper, deseeded and chopped

2 teaspoons chili seasoning

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon sage

1 teaspoon oregano

½ tablespoon cayenne pepper

½ a 14oz / 400g can black beans, drained and rinsed

½ a 14oz /400g can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

½ a 14oz /400g can kidney beans in chili sauce

½ a 14oz /400g can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

3/4 cup / 170ml beer (about half a bottle)

3 teaspoons / 12g sugar

Handful of self-raising cornmeal (see Johnny’s recipe in the entry for Swan Song if you wish to make your own)

If the veggie burgers are frozen, defrost them first (just enough to be able to chop them into chunks).  Then, heat the oil in a pan and begin to cook the onion and peppers.

Add the veggie burgers and fry until they are browned.  Add the garlic and stir until it has started to turn golden.  Pour in the tomatoes and add the veggie mince.

Pour over the vegetable stock, mix well and heat to a brisk simmer.

Then add the herbs and spices: chili seasoning, salt and pepper to taste, chili powder, cumin, sage, oregano and cayenne pepper (This is apparently, the order according to Johnny.) Taste and adjust spicing if necessary.

Add the beans to the mixture and adjust the spicing again.

When it is to your liking, pour in the beer and add the sugar.

Simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Uncover, add a handful of the cornmeal and stir it in.

Serves 4

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