I’m convinced that very few people have eaten a traditional Vindaloo.
It’s true that many top notch Indian restaurants, especially in the UK serve it as it should be served but having eaten my way around India, I can attest to the fact that some places tend to make an ubiquitous sauce and when an order comes in for vindaloo, they simply throw in extra cayenne.
For those of you unfamiliar with authentic Indian cuisine, vindaloo and the occasional oddly-named ‘tindaloo’, signal fire and spice!
If that isn’t your cup of tea, you should also avoid anything called ‘Bangalore Phall’ at all costs. It arrives at your table smelling deceptively like a rose garden but it will completely immolate the lining of your palate.
Vindaloo is traditionally made with pork and has a vinegar-onion-garlic base, thanks to the Portuguese influence that still prevails in Southern India. Generally speaking, the further south you go (in India), the spicier the food. If you like those creamy, almondy sauces, then stick to Kashmiri-style recipes.
Against my usual trend of offering quick and easy recipes, I have to be honest and tell you that although this doesn’t require special skills, it is time-consuming.
The good news is that the vindaloo paste can be made in larger quantities and frozen, so whenever you fancy a shrimp, chicken, lamb or beef vindaloo (as offered here) most of the work has been done.
You can adjust the level of heat by cutting back or increasing the amount of dried chili but I guarantee that the foulest of moods will be instantly lifted by the aroma of the ground whole spices.
Serve with piles of fluffy white rice and a well-chilled pale beer.
You’ll need a spice/coffee grinder and a food processor. Asian supermarkets and Wholefoods sell many of the spices listed below but failing that, A1Spiceworld.com is an excellent source of everything you’ll need.
Ingredients for the vindaloo paste:
2 teaspoons of whole cumin seeds
1-4 hot, dried red chilies (adjust to taste)
1 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon of cardamom seeds (or crack open whole cardamoms pods and remove the seeds)
A 3 inch (76mm) stick of cinnamon (don’t substitute ground cinnamon)
1 ½ teaspoons of black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon of whole fenugreek seeds
5 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
1 ½ – 2 teaspoons of sea salt
1 teaspoon of light brown sugar
7 oz (199g) of onions, sliced thinly
10 tablespoons of vegetable oil (I prefer grape-seed oil)
4-6 tablespoons of water – plus 8 fl oz (225ml)
Grind the first seven ingredients in a spice grinder (spices only). Put them in a bowl, add the vinegar, salt and sugar, stir well then set aside.
Heat the oil in a wide heavy pan over medium heat. Add the onions and fry them, stirring frequently until they’re crisp and golden. This can take approx 45 minutes and you need to be vigilant as any burned black onion will taint the dish and they’ll turn brown quite quickly towards the end.
Remove with a slotted spoon and puree them in a food processor along with 2-3 tablespoons of water. Keep the oil for the next stage.
Add the onion puree to the spice mixture and this is your basic vindaloo paste. You can freeze it at this point.
Now for the vindaloo itself:
2lbs of lean beef (lamb, pork, or small skinned chicken pieces on the bone), cut into 1inch (2.5cm) chunks and patted dry
1 inch (2.5cm) cube of peeled fresh ginger
A smallish whole head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1 tablespoon of ground coriander seed
½ teaspoon of ground turmeric
Process the ginger, garlic and 2-3 tablespoons of water until you have a smooth paste.
Heat the remaining oil over medium heat and add the meat a few pieces at a time to brown lightly (overcrowding will cause them to steam, not brown). Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl until all the meat is done this way.
Turn the heat down a bit and add the ginger/garlic paste to the pan stir for half a minute then add the turmeric and ground coriander – stir for another 30 seconds.
Add the meat, any accumulated juices, the vindaloo paste and 8 fl oz (225ml) of water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the meat is very tender, stirring occasionally. This can take up to 2 hrs so you could put everything in a slow cooker or in the oven on a low heat. Check occasionally to ensure the meat is tender.
As with many Indian dishes, this will taste better if made 2-3 days ahead and kept covered in the fridge. I often make the entire dish weeks ahead and freeze the lot, as freezing really enhances the spices.
(A classic Madhur Jaffrey recipe)