This dish is typical of many found in countries throughout Central and South America but when I first came across it, it was specifically referred to as being Colombian in origin and I'm led to believe it is a big favorite in many Colombian restaurants. Carne picada translates literally and simply in to English as spicy ground beef but there are usually several more components served as part of the dish. While I have remained true to the beef, the beans and the popular accompaniment that is the fried egg, I have also taken the opportunity to give the recipe my own little twist or two along the way.

Carne Picada
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Simple but tasty carne picada

Ingredients (Serves 1)

  • 1 large red medium strength chili (or traditional jalapeno, if desired)
  • ½ small white onion
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ pound minced ground beef
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 4 small cherry tomatoes
  • ¾ pint fresh beef stock
  • ½ cup basmati or long grain rice
  • 4 slices bacon (smoked streaky bacon, UK)
  • 2 tablespoons canned borlotti beans*
  • 1 large egg

*Borlotti beans are a variety of cranberry beans, reddish brown in color and native to Italy. If you can't get a hold of them, any other type of cranberry beans will work just as well.

Medium Strength Chili and Half Onion
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Medium strength red chili and half white onion

It is traditionally jalapeno chilies that are used in this recipe but I have found that these chilies are a little bit too strong for many peoples' tastes. By all means use a jalapeno if you wish but in this instance, I've used a medium strength red chili only to give the finished dish a more universal appeal.

Sauteing Chili, Onion and Garlic

Chili, onion and garlic are sauteed in olive oil

Cut the top off the chili and scrape out the seeds. Finely chop or slice. Finely slice the peeled onion half and garlic cloves. Pour about a tablespoon of olive oil in to a medium sized pot and bring it up to a medium heat. Add the chili, onion and garlic and saute gently for couple of minutes until the onion strands are softening and starting to turn translucent.

Beef added to Sauteed Onion and Chili
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Ground beef is added to sauteed onion, chili and garlic

Add the ground beef to the pot and break it up as best you can with your wooden spoon. Continue to cook in the same way as before until the beef is completely broken up and browned and sealed all over. This should take a further couple of minutes.

Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes

There is no need to skin or seed the cherry tomatoes. They should simply be removed from the vine (where appropriate) and cut in each instance down through the center in to quarters.

Tomatoes and Stock added to Beef
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Beef stock and cherry tomato quarters are added to browned beef

The cherry tomato quarters should be added to the pot along with the beef stock. Stir well and turn the heat up slightly until the liquid reaches a simmer. Adjust the heat level again as required and continue to simmer uncovered, stirring every so often, for about forty to forty-five minutes or until the majority of the liquid has evaporated and you have produced a rich, thick sauce.

Take your egg from the fridge and sit it aside to reach room temperature before it is fried.

Carne Picada is Gently Simmered
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Carne picada is gently simmered until it cooks and thickens

When the carne picada has been simmering for about half an hour, it is time to start the rice cooking. While you bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, wash the rice through a fine sieve under running cold water in your sink. Add it to the boiling water, give a good stir and simmer for ten minutes.

Sauteing Chopped Bacon
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Chopped bacon is sauteed in olive oil

Pour a little olive oil in to a saucepan and bring it up to a medium heat while you moderately finely chop the bacon. Add the pieces of bacon to the oil, season with a little bit of black pepper and saute for a couple of minutes until the bacon is cooked.

Borlotti Beans added to Bacon
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Borlotti beans are added to sauteed bacon

The borlotti beans should be washed in a colander under running cold water to remove any canning impurities before they are added to the pot with the bacon and cooked very gently for just a couple of minutes. Be sure to stir them around very frequently.

Frying the Egg
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Frying egg which will garnish dish

It's amazing how many differences of opinion there are regarding the best way to fry an egg but the way I do it is pretty straightforward and easy to follow. Pour just a little bit of oil in to a small, non-stick frying pan and wipe it over the surface with some kitchen paper. There should be no liquid oil visible in the pan at all. Put the pan on to come up to a moderately high heat.

Break the egg in to a small cup or bowl. This not only makes it easier to pour the egg in to the pan, it means that if you accidentally get a little bit of shell in with the egg, it can more easily be removed. Pour the egg carefully in to the hot pan, getting the cup as close to the pan surface as you can. After about thirty seconds and when the egg can be seen to be holding its shape, reduce the heat to low to medium and cook until you can see the white is set all the way around the yolk. This is likely to take somewhere in the region of three minutes. Your egg is then cooked to a perfect sunny side up.

Rice is Plated
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Rice is arranged on serving plate

Drain the rice through a sieve and allow it to steam off for two or three minutes and dry out. Spoon it on to your serving plate and arrange as a bed for the carne picada.

Carne Picada and Beans are Plated
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Carne picada and beans are plated

Spoon the carne picada on top of the rice and the beans and bacon combination alongside.

Carne Picada is Served
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Tucking in to carne picada

Lift the egg from the pan straight on to the spicy beef and serve your meal immediately.