There is often a myth around Indian curries: long lists of ingredients and spices make it complicated and puzzling especially for those who are not familiar with Indian cooking. This however is not the case. Indian cooking is not all about crushing and grinding spices before the actual cooking can begin. As a matter of fact let me unveil the myth and disclose that an everyday curry can be cooked using 3 spices and in 15 minutes.
At the heart of every Indian curry is the spices. While we have a wide range of spices and spice blends, the focus however lies mainly on the seven basic or headnote spices, which every Indian cook will know how to use, mix and blend to give their curries a palatable and unique flavor. They know which spices blend well with each other and impart the perfect aromas, which ones, if combined and heated will turn bitter and each Indian cook will have their own particular reliable blend that they always reach for.
Tip: I have broken down many of the spices used in the Indian kitchen in my Indian spice guide The guide gives an overview of all the spices we use in our kitchens, making it easier to understand how basic spices are combined with complementary or secondary spices for a different balance of flavors in your curries.
Last time I took you through the basics of a chicken curry breaking down how we Indians tackle our meat curries. My chicken curry was a North Indian specialty. This time I am taking you further south to the shores of Goa, where the cuisine has such a seductively distinct combination of spicy, sweet and sour flavors that nothing quite compares.
Four hundred years of Portuguese colonialism have had an undeniable influence on the Goan cuisine often culminating in divine harmony. The cuisine uses ingredients familiar to south Europe. Meats and chicken, seafood and spicy sausages and the entire spectrum of vegetables result in such delicacies like Sorpotel, Chicken Xacuti, Prawn Balchao or the acclaimed Pork Vindaloo.
Hinduism and Christianity are the two religions that have shaped the way the cuisine has developed over the years. While there are a few similarities in the foods of the two communities the vast differences are more predominant. Goan Christian food has been chiefly regulated by the Portuguese and by it’s oversees settlements. Catholics include beef and pork into their diets, which is taboo in most Hindu households.
The cooking methods of traditional Goan food tend to be a long a process as it is believed the longer a dish takes to make, the better it will taste. Grinding is always a big part of any recipe. The style in which each community makes its pastes and gravies completely varied. Even though they will have the same name, their taste, flavor, aroma, texture and color can be completely different. The Christians use more vinegar in their cooking, while the Hindus use tamarind and kokum to achieve the desired sharpness in a dish. Southern Goans like to grind their spices all at once, whereas northern Goans grind them individually.
Now this might seem a direct contradiction to what I mentioned in the first couple of paragraphs, I want to show you that it is possible to make even the celebrated pork vindaloo as an everyday curry using 3 spices without loosing any of the flavor.
Never put raw spices into an Indian dish, they need to be dropped into hot oil to allow the aromatic oils from the spices to be released and work their magic. In this vindaloo I have used cumin seeds as my headnote spice, which when heated transform and release their nutty and citrusy flavor.
A vindaloo does not have to be burning hot. The fiery version of the dish served in many Western restaurants often wrongly portrays it as a spicy hot dish to the restaurant goers. Traditionally it was a vinegar and garlic based watery stew made with pork or meat in Portugal. The word “Vindaloo” is derived from the Portuguese word “Vinha De Alhos” from the two main ingredients in the dish, which were "Vinho" meaning wine or wine vinegar, and "Alhos" which meant garlic. After the Portugese introduced the vindaloo in India, it was completely revamped with the addition of spices and chilies. Over the years it has morphed into one of the spiciest and most popular curry dishes all over the world.
In this version of vindaloo I used cayenne pepper for the flavor and aroma. We do not add chilies in Indian curries to make the curry hot, but rather to give the dish a nutty, roasted and smoky aroma and flavor rather than heat. The cayenne pepper provides all these bold flavors which hold up magnificently with the tangy vinegar.
A vindaloo does not have much gravy compared to other curries. It tastes wonderful if eaten a day or two after it is cooked since the vinegar and other flavors are absorbed by the meat, making this a super plan ahead meal. The pungency of the dish can be reduced or increased according to taste by increasing or decreasing the chili powder. But be careful not to lose the vinegar flavor, because after all the Vindaloo gets its distinctive taste because of the vinegar in it.
I’ve also added cashews to the curry making it richer and super to serve to dinner guests. Portuguese traders brought cashew nuts to Goa, which were prized by the settlers who used them to top many of their dishes. In this vindaloo they are stir-fried adding a nutty-roasted element to the dish. Overall each component imparts a special flavor, making this a tangy, nutty, full-bodied, with some heat, curry for curry lovers who do not want to go through the hours of grinding, crushing and cooking.
From the shores of Goa let me whisk you to the the Veneto in the heart of of the Prosecco DOCG region.
I have collaborated with Jeanne Horak-Druiff again and together we want to take you away with us to the gorgeous prosecco region just outside of Venice. You will find all the details of the Venice Food Photography and Styling Workshop on the announcement page with a preliminary programme and what the workshop includes. We've put together a pretty fantastic schedule, which comprises an interactive, stimulating and enjoyable programme, during which participants will learn the fundamental elements of food photography as well as the principles food styling.
Dates for the workshop: 2-3 May 2014
Registrations can be made via the registration form here.
I absolutely adore this curry. It's so magnificently flavorful, filled with gorgeous aromas. It had us literally licking the plates clean. Make this for a dinner party as it can be made the evening before and stored in the fridge. You'll see that the vindaloo will only benefit in flavor. Serve this with lovely, fluffy perfumed rice and warm naans or rotis. Add some mango chutney for an extra flavor level.
Let me tell you a little about my favorite mango chutney. If you love your chutneys then there can only be one - Geeta's by Geeta Samtani, who has created an awesome premium quality mango chutney that boasts on big flavor. With whole spices and chunks of mangoes I have to say this is really by far the best chutney I have tasted and believe me I have gone through many. It's like homemade chutney, capturing genuine flavors that I remember when my nani made chutney at home. Geeta's also has another chutney that I am literally mad about their Papaya and Orange Chutney is simply to sink-into-and-eat-with-a-spoon kind of chutney. Geeta's chutney and Spice & Stir mixtures are widely available in the UK but I am told they are stocking select grocery stores here in Germany, Holland, Switzerland and Austria. Make sure you grab a few jars!
This section of the post is reserved for me to share bits and pieces, finds and interesting things I come across as I surf the web. It might be a quote, a picture a moving post, interesting news and announcements, whatever makes me connect with you.
- The lovely Rosa of Rosa's Yummy Yums is a kind and gentle soul. This week her A Photographic Essay - In Bern made me happy. I hope her stunning images put a smile on your face too.
- Quote for the week: "Your Soul is Rooting for you"
- Domenica Marchetti I totally adore! She tackles a kitchen project by Making Homemade Ravioli. I am going to be following suit. Have not made fresh pasta in a while!
- My blog buddy Russell van Kraayenburg of Chasing Delicious is getting ready to release his first cookbook: Haute Dogs. Both Soeren and I are eager to get our hands on this.
- How elegant does this beautiful Persian woman look before the Islamic revolution: 1960. Reminds me of stories my friend's mother told us during the times of the Shah.
- Clean eating sucks the joy out of food. Where is the fun in that? A must read article by Saman Shad over at The Guardian.
- A Love Song by William Carlos Williams. Who are you sending Valentine love to?
More Indian Curries from What's For Lunch, Honey?:
|Aachari Alu / Potatoes in mango chutney||Egg Curry in a Creamy Coconut Gravy||Mutter Paneer – Indian Cheese with Peas in a Creamy Tomato Sauce|
All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2013 Meeta Khurana Wolff unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First