While I mostly wake up to pictures of snow-covered decks and coffee mugs nestled between mittens on my Instagram feed, surprisingly it has started feeling spring-like in here.Spring in January? eh! I know that sounds kind of way too early & weird but its been over a week with temperatures in late 60s and a full sleeve T-shirt is enough to roam around throughout the day.The sky is clear, the air smells crisp & pleasant and I saw many jogging in shorts today at the park.
However, early mornings and evenings are still colder. The winter loving person that I am, I am holding on to the season in my stubborn ways. Which,mostly means cooking warm, spicy foods. For dinner, hiding indoors in the warmth of the house, I am still rustling up slow cooked curries and comfort dishes to keep us nourished.A couple of weeks back, I made this chicken vindaloo, one of the husband’s favorite things besides dal. It was a late, cold evening some five years back when we headed to dinner at one of our favorite indian restaurant here, choked with guests, smelling of strong spices and boasting of an elaborate buffet over the long weekend, that his love for all things coconut & curry leaves formed a good part of the conversation. I have been making this red-hot, tangy curry for quite a few years now and it has always hit the right chord with his tastebuds.Vindaloo is something I did not grow eating up but with time I have come up with what we like (and hope you like it too).
Wiki tells me that ‘Vindaloo” is derived from the Portuguese dish “carne de vinha d’alhos,” a dish of meat, usually pork marinated in wine and garlic.The Portuguese dish brought it to India (Goan region) and slowly it was modified by the substitution of vinegar (usually palm vinegar) for the red wine and the addition of red kashmiri chillies with additional spices to evolve into vindaloo and it became a curry native to indian cuisine. This recipe here is hot and that’s why I always use potatoes for those earthly,mellow bites in between. I like to de seed few of the red chillies because I do not want it searing hot, however you can use a mild chili variety.Vindaloo pairs best with steamed rice (as with most coastal cuisine). If you would want to try different meats like lamb or pork (if you want to go the traditional Portuguese route) work in this recipe too.
Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
- 2.5 tbsp distilled white vinegar (see notes)
- 10-12 whole dry red Kashmiri chilies, broken into small pieces (or use 2.5 teaspoon cayenne powder,adjust to taste)
- 5 cloves (laung, buy online here)
- 1/4 of star anise (break the whole flower and use a quarter piece)
- 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2″ cinnamon stick
- scant 1/2 tbsp whole black peppercorns
- 2-3 tbsp warm water (or as required)
- 5 fat garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 2″ ginger shoot, roughly chopped
- 1.5 tbsp fresh grated coconut
- 1tbsp tamarind pulp (easily available in indian/pakistani grocery stores)
- 5 fresh curry leaves (easily available in indian/pakistani grocery stores)
- 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed (weighed about 1.35lb, you can use cut up whole chicken or bone-in pieces too, just use dark meat portions)
- 1/3 cup oil, divided
- 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
- 3/4 cup onions, finely chopped
- 6-8 fresh curry leaves,roughly torn
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 tsp powdered jaggery (or light brown sugar, adjust to taste)
- In case you do not get tamarind pulp, bump up the vinegar quantity to 4 tbsp.
- Fresh curry leaves are not substitutable. Even though the recipe dosent remain the same, you can skip if you do not get.
Deseed all or half quantity of the dried chilies if you want. In your blender jar, add vinegar, dry chillies, cloves, star anise, mustard & cumin seeds, cinnamon. Add 2-3 tbsp warm water. Let sit for 10 minutes. Once the chilli skins are slightly soft & the spices have soaked, add garlic, ginger, tamarind, coconut & 5 fresh curry leaves to the jar, cover the lid and blend to a smooth paste.You can add more water (1-2 tbsp) if needed but do not make a very runny paste.
In a bowl, add the chicken, add 1/2 tsp salt and add about half of this paste, coat the chicken in the paste and let sit for (not more than 15 minutes). Reserve the remaining spice paste.
While the chicken is marinating, heat up 3 tbsp oil in a heavy bottomed wide pot. Once the oil is hot,add the quartered potatoes to the pot, sprinkle a generous pinch of salt and saute them, stirring on medium heat for 5 minutes till you see that their edges start to brown lightly.Take out the potatoes from the pot on a plate. Set aside. Add the remaining oil to the pot and heat up. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and on medium-low heat, saute the onions till they are golden brown. About 3-5 minutes if the onions are finely chopped. Once the onions have browned, add the reserved spice paste & torn fresh curry leaves to the pot. Stir around and on low heat, saute continually to cook till you see that the spice paste darkens in color and the water evaporates. About 3-4 minutes on medium heat.
Layer the marinated chicken in the pot. Turn the heat to medium high and let the chicken brown.After about 2 minutes, flip the chicken pieces and let brown on the other side. If you see that the heat is getting quite high, reduce it.You will slowly see lot of liquid in the pot but that’s okay. Once the chicken has browned, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and let cook for about 10 minutes on low heat(adjust this time depending on how large or small your chicken pieces are). Once the chicken is about 90 % cooked, add the browned potatoes to the pot, cover and let cook for another 10 minutes on low heat, till the chicken is completely cooked and the potatoes are fork tender (ensure that the potatoes do not turn mushy. Uncover, add the jaggery (or sugar) ,water (depending on how thick/thin you want the sauce), check & adjust the salt. Let simmer uncovered or another 5 minutes.
Let sit for 30 minutes before serving.Serve warm with steamed rice.