Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The Mighty Vindaloo

Montreal has been buried under a ton of snow and freezing rain has made walking in the streets a very dangerous activity. Oh, the joys of winter in my city… When I am cold and miserable (getting drenched in freezing rain and being in a crowded grocery store does that to me, go figure), there is no better cure than my favorite curry, devoured while watching "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World".

I wasn't a fan of pork until the first time I tried this delicious vindaloo recipe, but cooked like this, it becomes so tender and tasty that I need a responsible adult to make sure I don't wolf down the entire pot. The fresh ginger and tomatoes in the broth also make me happy beyond reason, and the intense heat from the chile is ideal for cold weather. Be warned: this is one hot-hot-hot curry (some Indian restaurants don't even carry it, because most customers can't handle it)! But what I love about it is that the flavors are balanced perfectly; the spices do not overwhelm and you get to enjoy every element of the tasty combination! I cheat and smooth it out a bit with a few dollops of plain yogurt, but that doesn't hide any of this vindaloo's glory.

I served it to my friend Michael, who is very British (the Brits are experts on curry, so I figured he'd give me constructive commentary), and he cleared his plate and declared it "bloody good!", which was the highest compliment I could have hoped for. But don't take his word for it: the Ramones literally sing vindaloo's praise in "I Just Want to Have Something To Do"!

A bit of history: vindaloo is a bit of a bastard curry, i.e. it is not purely Indian. It was originally derived from a Portuguese dish of pork, cooked with wine and garlic. This recipe made it to Goa, India, where the wine was substituted for vinegar, and chiles and other traditional spices were added. It's often made with chicken or lamb, instead of pork, and potatoes are sometimes added to it. The recipe below is as close as possible to authentic Indian vindaloo, though perhaps a bit less fiery. I'll leave the dosing of chile to your discretion.

I will repeat my old chile warning: if you are working with a type of chile you haven't tried before, go with very little at first, and adjust to your taste as you go along… cuz once it's in the pot, there is no taking it out! Also make sure you handle them carefully with plastic gloves, wash your hands and every surface the chile came in contact with. Better safe than on fire and very, very sorry to have rubbed your runny nose.

From "Jamie's Food Revolution", this wonder-curry feeds 4 to 6:

2 medium yellow onions
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 fresh red chile
1 thumb-size piece of fresh ginger
1 small bunch of fresh cilantro
4 ripe tomatoes
1 3/4 pound of diced pork
1/2 cup of vindaloo curry paste
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
a pat of butter
peanut oil
1 cup natural yogurt

Peel, halve and finely slice the onions. Peel and finely slice the garlic and ginger, Finely slice the chile. Pick the cilantro leaves and finely slice the stalks. Cut the tomatoes into quarters, an cut each quarter in half lengthwise. Get a casserole-type pan on medium heat and add a couple of lugs of peanut oil and the butter. Add the onion, garlic, chile, ginger and cilantro stalks and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are soften and golden. Add the pork and curry paste. Stir well to cover everything in the paste. Add the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, honey and 1 cup of water (don't be tempted to put more or you'll drown your curry!) and stir again. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and let simmer for 45 minutes with the lid on. Check the curry regularly to make sure it is not sticking to the pan. When the meat is tender and cooked, carefully season with a bit of salt and pepper. Serve with basmati rice and a few spoonfuls of natural yogurt on top, and the cilantro leaves.




As you can see, once everything is chopped up, this curry comes together in a snap and you get to sit with a good book until it's ready: another reason to love it! The acidic bite of the balsamic vinegar with the ginger is unusual, but highly addictive. Try it with lamb, chicken or tofu, if pork is not your thing. It never fails to be delicious. Just be mindful to adjust the cooking time: 30 minutes for the chicken and 25 for tofu (the cooking time for lamb and pork will be pretty much the same).


If you want to serve a wine with this, go with a crisp white, such as C'est La Vie chardonnay-sauvignon, that will shock your palate with a cool feeling before you go for the next bite of spicy goodness. A nice blond beer is also a great idea.

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