Its reputation has sunk to rock bottom. Most British curry house versions of a vindaloo do the recipe no favours. What it has become is nothing more than a macho challenge after twelve pints of lager and a packet of crisps.More commonly remembered by Keith Allen's 1998 football world cup song performed by Fat Les.The name says it all.
A vindaloo that may have started off as a simple Portuguese stew, acquired over a period of time more and more Indian flavourings.Today even the name vindaloo conjures up 'hot, hot, hot' the world over. In Goa, however, the heat is hardly its chief characteristic. It is the combination of spices ( apparently you can buy a mixed vindaloo masala in the bazaars) - and the use of vinegar, which acts as a preservative, that makes vindaloos different from other Goan foods. In one of my posts earlier this year I told you I had found an authentic recipe for Bhajias.For this same occasion, a Goan wedding banquet I am now trying to perfect a recipe for an authentic Vindaloo.
Because of the preserving qualities of vinegar, vindaloos are considered a perfect wedding dish that, once made, may be served again and again over several days.
All along the tropical southwestern coast of India they have wedding and other banquet dishes that use souring agents - tamarinds, the kokum fruit and, of course, vinegar. These wedding foods (which can also include fish curries) are heated up daily to control the bacteria, but never see the inside of a refrigerator.
The word vindaloo is a garbled pronunciation of the popular Portuguese dish carne de vinha d'alhos (meat marinated in wine-vinegar and garlic), which made its way to India in the 15th century along with Portuguese explorers. In Goa the dish was tweaked, incorporating chiles, tamarind, black pepper, cinnamon, and cardamom. When it was exported to England, it became yet another hot curry, losing its vinegar tang and spice complexity and subtlety.
I intend to bring the recipe back to Portugal and tweak it again, sticking more to the Indian spices it acquired in Goa,and nodding to its origins in Goa’s Portuguese Christian communities.
A vindaloo can be made with any type of meat, but it should really be pork, which again nods to it’s fascinating cultural history.It is an excellent example of how food transcends cultures and grows because of that.Yes, it’s a hot dish, it’s fiery, but it should be quite an unusual curry, with an interesting provenance.
The vindaloo represents the collision of Portugal’s culinary heritage with that of India.The original Portuguese dish was meat cooked with red wine and garlic,but along the way as you have seen, the wine gave way to vinegar,(usually rice, because thats what they have plenty of in Goa) and along with the spices it caused an international pile up.
A Goan Wedding Vindaloo
Having established I was not making a curry for the lager lout/football hooligan fight club, I set out to establish what a real vindaloo should taste like.The version of the vindaloo that I used as my building blocks is inspired by a Madhur Jaffrey recipe but more refined than the usual Indian restaurant version. It isn’t ridiculously hot, because the heat isn’t the point of a proper vindaloo –as I´ve already said it’s about the vinegar, the sharp and sour notes subtly reiterating the rich and spicy flavours. The chilli is important, and of course you can up the ante should your tastebuds need more heat, but it’s the shock of the vinegar and the pork, that’s takes centre stage in the true vindaloo.This vindaloo is quite straightforward if a little labour intensive.The pork,garlic and chillies are the core ingredients of any vindaloo, but you must practice restraint and keep them in gentle proportions.As a nod to the Konkani speaking christians of Goa ,of whom this dish is one of their specialities, I have included tamarind in the recipe.I wonder if there is a recipe for chilli konkani? As a nod to Portugal I have replaced the water content in the wet masala with Medronho,the Algarvian fire water distilled with the Arbutus berry.
500g boneless pork shoulder ( rojoes) cut into cubes
500g bely pork(entremeada) cut into cubes
for the dry masala
- 4 cinnamon sticks (1 inch each)
- 4 lightly crushed cardamom pods
- 6 dried bay leaves
2 teaspoons whole brown mustard seeds
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
3 whole cloves
1 cup chopped onion
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons bright red paprika (colorau)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons medronho, substitute with water if you dont have this
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 heaped tablespoon tamarind paste
5 medium tomatoes (finely sliced - the tasteless run of the mill supermarket ones work well for this
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Put 1 teaspoon of the mustard seeds and the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and cloves in a clean coffee or spice grinder and grind as finely as possible.
Put this spice mixture, as well as the onion, garlic, ginger, vinegar, cayenne pepper, paprika, and 3 tablespoons of water into a blender. Blend until smooth.
Cover the pork pieces with 2 tablespoons of the wet masala from the blender and stir well so all the pieces are covered Put in a plastic bag and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes,or overnight if possible .
Pour the oil into a large, heavy, nonstick, lidded pan and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the remaining teaspoon of mustard seeds. As soon as they pop, which will be in a matter of seconds,stir in the tamarind paste and all the three dry masala ingredients,cinnamon,cardamom and bay leaves. Stir in the remaining spice paste. Fry, stirring, for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the paste is lightly browned. Put in the pork, together with its marinade. Stir for a minute. Cover and reduce the heat to medium. Let the meat cook for about 10 minutes, lifting the lid now and then to stir. The meat should get lightly browned. Add 3 cups of water, and the sugar. Stir and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat, and cook very gently for 11/2 to 2 hours, or until the meat is tender.