Thursday, 11 November 2010

Chicken Vindaloo

First things first, I want to set the record straight about Vindaloo. It is not a tongue-blistering, ear-ringingly hot curry. Traditionally, it should be a sensitive blend of sweet and sour and of course some spicy heat, but I can not emphasise enough that it is not so hot as to render one unconscious.

Let us cast aside images of post pub curry house eating competitions and Keith Allen chanting "vindaloo, vindaloo" all in the name of football. The song was written by Keith Allen and Alex James, Blur's bassist under the name Fat Les in 1998, by the way.

Originating from Goa, the recipe is derived from a Portuguese dish (the first Portuguese colony in India was settled in the 16th century) usually made with pork, wine and garlic, called Carne de Vinha d'Alhos. Over time, the dish was adapted by the Goans using vinegar instead of wine and copious quantities of spices. The potatoes actually shouldn't be there and this may have arisen due to the word 'aloo' being Hindi for potato. (Vind = vinegar & aloo = potato)

I have adapted this recipe from one by Madhur Jaffrey from her Ultimate Curry Bible, the only difference being that I used chicken instead of duck.
I remember watching Madhur Jaffrey's cooking programmes on television back in the 80s and let's say, I learnt an awful lot about Indian cooking from her. Before then, most people I knew would buy takeaways or chuck in a Veeraswamy concentrated curry sauce, at best, into the pot with some meat.

Hailed as the Delia of Indian cookery, Madhur Jaffrey uncovered a whole world of exciting cuisine to me. I remember my Mum's spice rack expanding with things that I'd never seen before, like cardamom and suddenly fresh ginger was sitting happily next to the salad in the fridge, not to mention lots of garlic.
Some things were still difficult to get hold of at that time, especially fresh coriander, unless you lived in or near a multi-cultural town like we did. How things have changed, now these things are commonplace in the supermarket.

Madhur Jaffrey opened my eyes to making a curry from scratch and even with the long ingredients lists I was never fazed and saw it as a thrilling challenge to create something authentic.
Even now I find the art of Indian cuisine very relaxing and rewarding.

Serves 6

half teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon bright red paprika
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 & a half teaspoons garam masala
4 tablespoons corn oil
12 or more skinless and boneless chicken thighs, each cut in half
half teaspoon whole brown mustard seeds
quarter teaspoon whole fenugreek seeds
15 curry leaves
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced into fine half rings
2 tablespoons peeled and finely grated fresh ginger
10 medium cloves garlic, peeled and crushed to a pulp
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
120 ml/4 fl oz cider vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3 medium potatoes, par-boiled and cut into chunks

Mix together the turmeric, cumin, paprika, coriander, cayenne pepper and garam masala in a small bowl and set aside.

Pour the oil into a large, wide, lidded pan and set over a medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in as many chicken thighs, as the pan will hold easily in a single layer. Lightly brown the chicken, about 2-3 minutes per side, and remove, using a slotted spoon, to a bowl. Brown all the chicken this way and remove.

Add the mustard and fenugreek seeds to the hot oil and, as soon as the mustard seeds start to pop, which will happen in a matter of seconds, put in the curry leaves and onions. Stir and fry them until the onions begin to turn brown at the edges. Now put in the ginger and garlic. Stir and fry for a minute.

Add the mixed spices from the small bowl and stir for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, until they have softened, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape the bottom of the pan as you do this.

Now add the browned chicken thighs, the vinegar, salt, sugar and 475 ml/16 fl oz water. Add the potatoes. Stir and bring to the boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook gently for 30 minutes, lifting the lid occasionally to stir.

Increase the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, a bit more vigorously, stirring more frequently, for a further 20 minutes or until the chicken is tender and the sauce has thickened slightly.

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Photo: ©childsdesign 2010


Crystal said...

Great looking dish! Make me hungry!

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