Spicy cauliflower, pea and spinach vindaloo

 

This is a very tasty way of getting a lot of different vegetables into a meal: I've used cauliflower, peas and spinach but you can throw pretty much anything you have in the fridge into this curry.

For around four people you will need:

Half a head or so of cauliflower, washed and broken into pieces

A cup of frozen peas

A cup or two of washed spinach leaves 

2 tablespoons of ghee

1 red onion, finely chopped

2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1-2 green chillies, finely chopped

1 stalk of curry leaves, omit if you don't have any

2 teaspoons of vindaloo masala

1 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of sugar

3 tomatoes, blended, or a tin of diced tomatoes

2-3 teaspoons of vinegar

Heat the ghee and fry the onions gently for 15 minutes until they are lovely and soft and caramelised.  It's really important to fry the onions well at this stage.  Add the curry leaves, garlic and green chilli and fry for another few minutes until the garlic smells cooked.

Add the vindaloo masala, and the tomato, bit by bit, stirring between each addition - you want to build up a thick glossy gravy slowly.  Once the tomato is added, add the cauliflower and peas, and a bit of water or stock to top up the gravy.  Simmer for 20 minutes or so, then add the salt, sugar and vinegar, tasting the curry to make sure you have the balance of flavours right.

Stir in the spinach leaves and serve with hot white rice.

 

Vindaloo steak and crispy potato stir-fry

 

Here is comfort food at its easy best: when you need something tasty but don't have a lot of time to cook.  This recipe is for two people, but can easily be doubled or multiplied to feed more.

You will need:

300 grams of eye fillet or other good cut of steak

1 large or 2 medium potatoes

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon of ghee

1 heaped teaspoon of vindaloo masala powder

1 tablespoon of vinegar

1/2 a teaspoon of salt

1/2 a teaspoon of sugar

1/4 of a red onion, finely chopped, to garnish

fresh coriander, to garnish

squeeze of lime juice, to garnish 

Peel and dice the potato into small cubes, mix with a teaspoon or so of oil and a little sprinkle of salt and roast it in a hot oven or under a grill until they are golden and a bit crispy (say 20-25 minutes).  

While they are cooking, slice the steak into fine strips.  If you have had time earlier, pop the steak in the freezer for an hour or so as it will be easier to slice if partially frozen, but this is not essential.

Heat ghee in a frying pan, fry the crushed garlic for a minute or so, then add the vindaloo masala, followed by the steak.  You only want to stir fry this on high heat for a couple of minutes, after which add the vinegar, salt and sugar and turn off heat.  When the potatoes are done, toss then into the pan, and then garnish with red onion, coriander and fresh lime to taste.

 

Amazingly easy palak paneer

 

Paneer is so easy to make once you try it you won't ever buy it again.

To make a small ball of paneer around 250 grams in weight (to feed 4-6 in a curry), you will need:

3 litres of full cream milk

1/3 a cup of vinegar (apple cider or white vinegar is fine, you can even use lemon juice)

1 teaspoon of salt

Heat the milk in a large pan on the stove until it boils, stirring well.  To flavour the paneer, we added a teaspoon of red chilli flakes and a teaspoon of cumin seeds.  When the milk is bubbling and rises, pour in the vinegar and keep stirring. The milk will start to curdle really quickly.  Stir and stir until the whey has fully separated and is almost clear.  Turn off the heat.

Place a piece of muslin or cheesecloth into a large strainer in the sink and quickly pour in the curdled milk.  Drain away all the liquid, and squeeze the solids in the muslin into a small ball.  Keeping it wrapped in the cloth, place it on a plate or in a bowl with another plate on top of it and a heavy weight to weigh it down.  Keep it pressed for half an hour or so, then unwrap - you should be delighted to find a solid ball of cheese. 

To make paneer and spinach curry for 3-4 people, you will need:

One portion of homemade paneer, cubed

2 tablespoons of ghee or oil

1 heaped teaspoon of my vindaloo masala (or any good curry powder)

1 large tomato, blended or finely chopped

1 tablespoon of tomato paste

1 large bag of washed spinach leaves

salt and a bit of sugar to taste

To make your curry, heat the oil in a heavy pan.  Add the vindaloo masala powder, tomato and tomato paste and stir well until you have a glossy and shiny curry paste.  Throw in the spinach leaves and stir for a minute or so, then gently add the paneer.  From here on stir gently so as not to break up the paneer.  Add salt to taste, and a bit of sugar if you need it. Add a bit more water to form as much gravy as you prefer - we eat it as quite a dry dish.

Chick pea vindaloo

 

I am so gloriously happy to see the last day of winter finally come round, albeit a wet, cold and windy one.  Spring is nearly here!  I have made myself the hottest possible vindaloo for lunch and am going to dream about the sun while I'm eating it.  This recipe uses my hand roasted, small batch vindaloo masala, an all natural mix of dried chillies, turmeric, cumin seeds, bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and black pepper.  If you haven't got your hands on some, try and use another good quality vindaloo masala. 

For 4 people you will need:

2-3 tablespoons of oil

2-3 big tomatoes, blended or grated into a pulp

1 large clove of garlic, crushed

1 green chilli, sliced down the middle

2 heaped teaspoons of vindaloo masala powder

2 tins of chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or substitute kidney beans, black eyed beans or cannelini beans, alternatively you can also use vegetables)

A cup of stock

1 teaspoon of salt

1/2 a teaspoon of sugar

1 heaped teaspoon of tamarind paste

To make the curry, heat the oil in a heavy saucepan and gently fry the garlic and green chilli for a minute or so until it starts to smell cooked, then add the pulpy tomatoes and stir, followed by the vindaloo powder.  Stir-fry on medium heat until the tomato starts to reduce and the mixture becomes thick and glossy.  At this point add the drained chickpeas, half to a cup of stock, the salt and sugar and the tamarind paste.  Gently cook for 15-20 minutes until the curry reduces nicely, adding a bit more stock to top up the gravy as you go and at the end to achieve the consistency of gravy you like.  Taste for salt, sugar and the right balance of flavours at the end and serve with some baby spinach leaves tossed through, and or some fresh coriander.

Vegetable vindaloo

 

This spicy vindaloo delivers all the flavour you need to feel like you've treated yourself, but is full of healthy vegetables and spices and is just the perfect way to start a meatless Monday.  I tend to always make my vindaloo with meat, and this was a surprisingly nice change that will stay on my weekly menu. 

For 3-4 people you will need:

4 tablespoons of oil

2 large tomatoes

3 cloves of garlic

1-2 green chillies

2 heaped teaspoons of vindaloo masala

1/2 a teaspoon of salt

1/2 a teaspoon of sugar

500 grams or about 5 medium potatoes, 150-200 grams of green beans (you can use any combination of veggies)

A cup of stock

1-2 teaspoons of white wine vinegar

Get started by blending the chilli and tomatoes to a paste, or chopping/grating them very finely.  Set aside, and heat the oil in a large pot, then add the crushed garlic and fry for a minute or so until it starts to smell cooked (but doesn't burn).  Add the tomato and chilli mixture, the vindaloo masala and the sugar and salt.  On medium heat fry for a few minutes, you want the tomato to reduce and the oil to separate to the point the mixture looks like a glossy thick paste.  

At this point add your chopped up vegetables, a cup of stock, turn the heat down and cover and cook until the veggies are done, stirring occasionally.  When everything is cooked, taste the curry and add salt/and or sugar, plus 1-2 teaspoons of white vinegar to taste - you want the flavour of salt, sugar and vinegar to balance nicely.

Serve with hot white rice and roti. 

 

Chicken vindaloo from scratch

 

Vindaloo is truly a food of empire.  This famous curry is an adaptation of an old Portuguese dish called Carne de Vinho e alhos, which translates approximately into: meat cooked in wine vinegar and garlic.  While it is now much more famous for being the ‘hottest curry on the menu’ in most Indian restaurants, the original story and traditional recipe is much more interesting.

One of my favourite books, Curry: A tale of cooks and conquerors by the English Historian Lizzie Collingham, describes the history of vindaloo beautifully.  It tells the story of the chilli, which was brought to India by the Portuguese in the 15th century, along with their love of meat stews and extensive use of vinegar in cooking.   In Goa, Portuguese cooking mingled with that of the locals, using these ingredients and combining them with some of the aromatic spices from the trade routes on which their empire was built – cloves, cinnamon, pepper, cardamom.

The British only discovered vindaloo when they invaded Goa in 1757, and were quickly taken with Indian food.  They were to have their own significant influence on Indian cooking over the next couple of hundred years, creating curries to their own tastes and further introducing other foreign ingredients like tomatoes and potatoes into Indian cooking. 

I love that you can almost trace the history of exploration and discovery of the modern world in a vindaloo recipe.  You can see how it has evolved from a European stew in the 1400s to an Indian curry full of Eastern spices that the British fell in love with and adopted as their own.  As Lizzie Collingham writes, these dishes “unite in their fiery sauces the culinary history of three continents: Europe, Asia and the Americas”.

Vindaloo also holds a special place in my own history.  As I delve into my old handwritten recipes, I see so many variations and personal touches added by family members through the ages. 

I have tried a few of these recipes and come up with my own adaption below, which I think best suited for our taste today – a moderate amount of vinegar and many, many fewer chillies.  For those that like it very hot, don’t panic, chilli can very easily be added to make it hotter. 

This recipe involves roasting and grinding the masala from scratch, but I will be taking orders to do it for you…. Making it a very, very easy and authentic curry to whip up.

Vindaloo masala (for one curry):

6 large dried red chillies

1 teaspoon of cumin seeds

1 teaspoon of turmeric

2-3 cardamom pods

2 dried bay leaves

Stick of cinnamon

4 cloves

1 teaspoon of peppercorns

Lightly toast the chillies in a frying pan or in the oven and set aside.  Do the same for the cumin seeds, and the other dry spices.  When the spices have cooled down, add them, and a spoon of turmeric, to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder (the thermomix does the best job), and grind until you have a fine powder.

Curry:

1 kilo of meat (use chicken, lamb or beef with bones.  Pork shoulder is also very good)

¼ cup of white wine vinegar

5 tablespoons of oil

Stalk of curry leaves (if you have them)

6-8 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

3 green chillies, cut vertically down the middle

2 large tomatoes

1.5 teaspoons of sugar

1.5 teaspoons of salt

1 heaped tablespoon of tomato paste

Make a paste from the curry powder and vinegar and mix it with the meat in a large bowl.  Marinate overnight or at least for a few hours.

To make the curry, blend the tomatoes into a pulp and set aside.  Heat oil in a large pot and fry the curry leaves, garlic and green chillies, then add the tomato.  Tip in your marinated meat, fry for a minute or two, then add half a cup of water or stock and the salt and sugar. 

Turn heat down to low, cover and cook very slowly until the meat is falling apart (around 45 minutes for chicken legs, 2 hours for red meat or pork).  You want to cook it in as little water as possible, but keep checking, stirring and topping up to make sure it doesn’t burn or dry up.  When the meat is cooked, add a bit more water for gravy and stir in the tomato paste. 

Taste for salt and sugar before serving.. and if you like it hotter, you can stir in another green chilli or top up with some red chilli powder.