Hey there spice lovers, this month I’m hanging out at my buddy Exban’s place for a nice romantic wine and dine.
Why? Partially because his girlfriend dumped him but mostly because I felt like making a proper vindaloo and needed someone to finish off the booze with. An explanation that, if anything, only raises more questions.
Since when did a vindaloo have wine in it? Why is there alcohol in an indian dish when the nation’s religions are so against it? And why can’t I drink it all myself?
Well, for starters, the vindaloo, or vin d’ aloo, isn’t an indian dish. It comes from goa and uses indian spices, certainly, but goa wasn’t a part of india at the time. Goa was officially portuguese and portuguese cooking had no such anti-alcohol restrictions. They were more than happy to be working with wine.
Their earlier dish, the “carne de vinha d’alhos” from which the vindaloo was derived, got its name from its three key ingredients: Pork, wine and garlic. Three ingredients to which the goan people added coriander, turmeric, chilli and a whole host of other spices, along with potatoes to bulk it out and keep the heat from getting too high.
Because, unlike today’s vindaloo, their vin d’ aloo wasn’t meant to be the hottest dish on any menu. All they wanted was a full-on fiery flavour to their marinated meat.
And, while even most “traditional” recipes pull from a later date, once the wine had been swapped for vinegar, I’m going to be taking it right back to its origins, today, with a rich and fruity red wine.
So, let’s get started, shall we?
You will need:
600g pork (I used loins)
2 standard onions
2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon kashmiri or deggi mirchi (indian chilli powder)
1teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
6 cloves garlic
1 large blade of mace
4 tablespoons red wine
And a simple spice or coffee grinder in which to blend your paste. Since garlic and ginger don’t do too well in a pestle and mortar, I’m afraid. Though you could, I suppose, substitute their fresh forms for pre-minced.
If, however, you’re using whole garlic cloves and a chunk of fresh ginger like I am, that’s where we’re going to start – By skinning them, chopping the ginger into a few, more manageable pieces and crushing the garlic with the side of a knife to release its juices.
Then, we’re going to take them, the chilli powder and the spices – All but one spoonful of mustard seeds – and grind them together, slowly adding the wine as you go to avoid mess. Don’t forget the salt to amp up the flavour and sugar to take the edge off of any bitterness, either. Both are crucial to to finished dish.
When you’re done with this step, you should be left with a rich and grapey, yet also highly aromatic and hot-smelling, rather liquid paste. It won’t actually be stunningly hot to the taste but the ginger and raw garlic both add their own sort of spicy kick, alongside the small amount of chilli.
Plus, while it should be pretty enticing already, the aroma’s only going to get better once frying time comes around. It’s definitely going to start smelling like a real vindaloo then, if a little fancier.
Before we can actually start cooking our spices, though, we’re going to have to chop our pork into inch-thick slices and coat it in half of the paste. It needs to soak up the flavour and that means leaving it seasoned in the fridge for at least an hour before we can actually fry anything. Sorry, folks.
But hey, might as well chop the potato and onions while we wait, right?
Next up, when the meat’s done marinading, we can chop it into a whole bunch of two inch squares and finally start the cooking process. Not that we’re going to be starting with it.
No, first we’re going to put about a tablespoon of oil into a pan, along with the remaining spoonful of mustard seeds to heat up. Those act almost like a thermometer here, popping away once the oil’s hot enough to cook our spices.
When they really get going, chuck in your remaining spice mix and stir it about with a wooden spoon or spatula for two or three minutes to keep it from sticking while it lightly toasts. Then add just a splash of water and your onions, continuing to fry until they’re just starting to turn translucent.
Now we can add the pork and lower the heat a tiny touch, this time cooking for a good ten minutes to ensure that no pink remains visible in the meat.
After that, in go the potatoes and a fair bit of water. Enough to roughly half-cover them, since it will largely cook off in the thirty to forty minutes that it takes to soften them up and make the meat all tender.
Much more than that, though, and you end up with something like this:
A perfectly edible and enjoyable dish but one that’s just a little too liquid. Something more stew than curry.
I’m a little annoyed, if I’m honest. My test batches came out great but unfamiliar pans threw the liquid proportions off when it came time for the finished recipe and I didn’t have the time to start over for better pictures. Or the freezer space, for that matter, since I wasn’t going to waste any leftovers.
That minor mishap aside, though, the pork came out perfect and really took up the taste of this aromatic, warming and gingery spice blend, which possesses far more complexity than your typical takeaway facsimile but is still remarkably reminiscent of it.
The onions and potatoes provide a bit more substance and do exactly what they were intended to, providing a little relief from the heat. Yet little is actually needed at the start, since even with the pungency of the garlic and ginger, kashmiri chilli isn’t particularly hot.
But those other spices really help to keep the heat around, letting it linger and build upon itself in a way that the pavlova that I made never did. It may seem mild at first but this curry grows to a good
by the end, which I’d say makes it rather more of a medium.
It’s not going to be what most people have come to expect of a vindaloo but it’s something a bit more manageable for the average person. If you really want it to be a deep, red, extra hot curry, try adding another two or three teaspoons of the chilli powder. I, personally, enjoy it as is. It puts more focus on the flavour.
And that’s about it for this delicious dish that I urge you all to try if your diet allows.
Or, if it doesn’t, why not try a similar weight of paneer or cauliflower for a vegetarian or vegan alternative to the pork?
And the final revelation? I don’t like wine. Red or white. That’s why I needed a Hugh to help out with this recipe.
I love what the drink brings to this dish – The rich, aged, dark berry notes beneath the surface – but I can’t stand it on its own and someone had to finish the little bottle that I bought.
In short, I chose to cook with red wine not because I like it but because it works for this particular dish. It adds a unique depth for the spices to play off of and the end result is incredible!