I love cooking Indian food, the exotic aromas and colours are so exciting and make me feel like I have a carnival in my kitchen. Just as exciting is the preparation, the shopping for ingredients before hand, especially on a beautiful sunny day like today. As I’ve mentioned before, East Dulwich is a treasure trove of food gems. We ventured out early this afternoon to stock up on ingredients for a curry that I promised to make. Chris enjoys a king prawn vindaloo and I will not fail to deliver. The only problem here is the question of authenticity, but I am not a snob about this kind of thing. The vindaloo originated in Goa, created by the Portugese-Indian colony and it is said that a vindaloo recipe cannot be authentic unless pork is used, as the fat from the pork, combined with the vinegar and garlic, creates a unique taste. The word ‘vindaloo’ comes from the Portugese word for wine, ‘vinho’ and for garlic, ‘alhos’. The authentic vindaloo does not include potatoes as you will find in many Indian restaurants over here, this is presumed to be an error as a result of the word ‘aloo’ meaning ‘potato’ in Hindi.
For this version, I have adapted a paste by Rick Stein, which is fairly authentic (here), and I found inspiration for the rest from a recipe by Madhur Jaffrey, in her book, ‘The Ultimate Curry Bible’. So I am partly sticking to tradition and partly adapting the recipe for today’s taste. I originally wanted to use prawns as this is Chris’ favourite variation so we headed down to our fishmonger, Moxon’s. (Brilliant. I wanted to nominate them as a local food hero but there was some problem with the website, so they missed out due to a technical error. They do not open on Monday’s as there is no catch on a Sunday – such reassurance that the fish is fresh). When we get there however, shock horror, no prawns!
So, a last minute change of plan (don’t you love that about cooking?) takes us a few steps across the road to the butchers where we pick up some beef, which I find so satisfying in a curry. After a brief discussion with the butcher about the curry I will be making, he recommends rump, and so we go away with enough to last us for several servings each as apparently, one should make a vindaloo the day before eating and so we want enough for tomorrow too.
I did make a couple of small changes to Rick’s paste recipe, but overall it was fantastic, so aromatic with a powerful kick at the end and the flavour of the cloves works so well. I used half the amount of chillies as I couldn’t find Kashmiri ones and I removed a few of the seeds. If I made the recipe again I would also use a slightly larger onion. I did use potatoes but next time, I think I will leave them out.
We ate the vindaloo with a vegetable rice, tarka dal, raita and onion ring salad. This is the real thing, so perfumed, with a satisfying fiery punch.
For the paste
7 dried red chillies, some of the seeds removed (if you can find Kashmiri chillies, use double the amount as they are milder)
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 ½ tsp whole cloves
3inch piece of cinnamon stick
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 inch piece fresh ginger
4 tbsp garlic
A walnut sized piece of tamarind pulp (soak for 30 mins and pass through a sieve if you have the stuff with seeds and stones still intact)
1 tsp jaggery or soft brown sugar
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
-Preheat the oven to Gas 8 (230°C/450°F) and roast the onion (unpeeled) for about and hour until it is soft to the core
-Put the peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon and cumin into a pestle and mortar or spice grinder
and blend to a powder
-Add the spices to a blender along with the peeled onion and everything else
-Blend to a paste
For the vindaloo
Rump steak, diced
1 large onion, sliced
9 fl oz water
6 small new potatoes
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp chilli powder
6 curry leaves
2 tbsp vegetable oil
A handful of fresh coriander, chopped
-Smother the meat with the curry paste and leave to marinade for 1 ½ hours
-Heat the vegetable oil and fry the onions and curry leaves over a medium-high heat until the onions begin to brown at the edges
-Add the meat and sear all over before adding the water and spices
-Turn the heat to low, cover and cook gently for 1 ½ hours
-Add the potatoes until cooked and the curry sauce is thick
-Finish by stirring through the coriander