It is over 50 years since I went on my first date with Rob. He asked if I liked curry. What could I say. I may have been a student of cookery at the time but curry was way outside of my remit, with my experience of it restricted to the tiny teaspoon of generic curry powder that we were allowed in our classes to add to a ‘stew’ to make it into a ‘curry’. So I said yes, and Rob then proceeded to introduce me to the hottest variety of curry then available, a vindaloo. I have never eaten one since.
The vindaloo with which most British are familiar is a tongue numbing, mind blowing, eyes streaming, eight pint (of beer) concoction that really bears very little resemblance to the Goan dish of its origins.
Madhur Jaffrey says that:
‘The correct spelling, vindalho, gives away the main seasonings of the original dish which was once a kind of Portuguese pork stew seasoned with garlic (alhos) and wine (vinho). There were probably some black peppercorns…the vinegar acted as a preservative allowing the stew to be eaten over several days’
In Goa the original Portuguese recipe (carne de vinha d’alhos), based on the pork introduced by those 14th century explorers and colonisers, was developed locally with the addition of ginger, cumin, cloves, cardamom and those ubiquitous but overplayed red chillies. So an authentic, tangy vindaloo tingles the tongue with pepper, clove and other spices, rather than beats it with the one-dimensional heat of chilli powder.
Felicity Cloake’s 2018 article from her series ‘How to cook the perfect…’, details which meat, masala, vinegar and vegetables all combine to produce the ‘perfect … vindaloo’. However, since neither pork, duck or ‘shin of beef’ are ever seen on the chopping boards of the Allen household, I thought you might like the lighter and fresher Sweet Potato (Kumara) Vindaloo from the wonderful Meera Sodha.
Sweet Potato Vindaloo
by Meera Sodha
- 4 tbs rapeseed oil
- 6 cloves
- 1 star anise
- 20 black peppercorns
- 8cm cinnamon stick
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 4cm ginger, peeled and grated
- 5 tbs white wine vinegar
- ¾ level tbs chilli powder (or to taste)
- 2 medium onions, finely sliced
- 1 tsp salt 1 tsp sugar
- 1 x 400g tin of plum tomatoes
- 1kg sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 3cm chunks
- Yoghurt, to serve
Put a tablespoon of oil into a large lidded frying pan over a medium heat and, when hot, add cloves, star anise, black peppercorns, cinnamon stick and cumin seeds. Stir-fry for two minutes, until the peppercorns and cloves swell and you can smell the spices, then take it off the heat.
Tip the spices into a spice grinder or pestle and mortar, and grind them up. Add the garlic, ginger and vinegar, grind some more until you have a smooth paste, then mix in the chilli powder.
Put the remaining oil into the same pan over a medium heat and, when hot, add the onions. Cook until brown and caramelised, add the spice paste, salt and sugar. Cook for a couple of minutes, add the plum tomatoes. Fill the tomato tin half full with water and tip into the pan.
Put the lid on the pan and cook for five minutes, then add the sweet potatoes. Bring the curry to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover with the lid again. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until the sweet potato is tender.
Serve with yoghurt and basmati rice.
(Source: Financial Times, 29/12/2016)