|SPICE IT UP!
October 01, 2009
When days get shorter, it seems our dinners get longer. Well, at least in our home. With the temperature cooling, my family appreciates comfort foods like hearty stews. Since I come from Bombay, India, my family enjoys the warmth of Indian foods...often accompanied with the fulfilling simplicity of rice. So this month, let me share the pleasures of pairing something ethnic on the palate with an interesting wine. I’ll be recklessly adventurous and invite you to try a dish called Pork Vindaloo (pronounced, vin-daah-loo). I say ‘recklessly’, because this dish is not for the meek! The heat on the tongue is definitely not shy. However, those who dare will be amazed by the rich burst of exquisite flavours it delivers with every bit.
Pork Vindaloo is a dish native to Goa, India. Goa was a Portuguese colony for many years. Dishes native to Goa are therefore a marriage of Portuguese and Indian ingredients, spices and influences. While fish and other meats have been experimentally substituted for pork with Vindaloo, nothing really compliments the balance of the ingredients like pork. The word “Vindaloo” has Portuguese roots, where the meat was meant to marinate or cure in wine or “vinho” and garlic “alhos”. While we don’t use wine to marinate the pork (we just save it to drink later!) the garlic certainly makes a bold presence.
I grew up with my mother in Bombay, but would visit my father’s childhood home in Goa during the summers. My grandmother lived there and every year, on the 31st of May, our family would meet for a re-union and celebrate. Along with long Litanies (prayers sung in old Latin...very Catholic...very Portuguese!) and the company of our neighbours and friends, our family would celebrate with a feast of foods. Pork Vindaloo was definitely on the menu! I would watch my grandmother, Deodita Generosa Victoria (yes...very Portuguese, again) supervise the dozens of helping hands she would have in her kitchen for this occasion. The long labourious dishes seemed effortless. Everything was a celebration.
It was many years later, that I watched my father, Diego Ladislau Victoria, cook Pork Vindaloo. It was then that he shared his tip of roasting the dry spices very lightly before grinding them to a paste...they didn’t have our fabulous food processors then!
It is therefore with fondest memories and the lessons I learnt in my family about the joys and celebration of food, that I dare to share our family recipe for Pork Vindaloo with you. With a Scottish husband and children with Caucasian blood, I have adjusted the recipe to be gentle to the Western palate, without compromising too much of the tradition or any of the flavour related to this dish. It seems labourious, but so is Beef Bourgogne...so stop complaining and give it a chance. You never know what you’ll discover!
With regard to a wine pairing for Pork Vindaloo...see, wine is not really a traditional drink in India, except in Goa, because of the Portuguese. So guess what you found there in abundance? You guessed it! Port! And lots of it! However, while I’d save that Port for later (God knows, I love it..especially a good Tawny!), I would match the history of this dish to its origin in Portugal. Bring out a bottle of a nice red from Portugal. Wineries in the Douro region work wonders with their native grape Touriga Naçional. These wines are full bodied, robust, intense and aromatic. Surprisingly, they have the required acidity to work with the flavours of Pork Vindaloo...and bring home a completely satisfying explosion of flavour!
So long then, my dears! You have a Pork Vindaloo to cook and enjoy! Indulge in one of the wine recommendations above...then finish off with a glass of LBV Port or a Tawny and you’ll have had dessert as well!
Until next time...be safe!
FOOD & WINE
Pork Vindaloo paired with Touriga Naçional (Portuguese red grape), Gerwürztraminer, or Pinot Gris
6 dried Ancho Chillies
1 tsp whole Peppercorns (about 10-12)
7-9 whole cloves
1 stick of cinnamon – about 1 1/2” long
1 tbsp. Cumin seeds
4 green cardamoms – shelled
1/2 tsp. Black mustard seeds
12 Garlic cloves
1 ½” piece of Ginger, roughly chopped
1/3 cup cider vinegar + another 1/4 cup cider vinegar (even regular white vinegar will do)
2 lbs. Boneless Pork cut into 1 ½” cubes (see note)
Salt and Pepper to season
½ cup Vegetable Oil + 2 extra tbsp for frying onions
2 large Onions, chopped
3 medium Tomatoes, chopped (or, 2 tbsp. Tomato Paste)
2 tsp sugar
1 ½ cups Chicken broth (or water...but the broth is better...trust me!)
2 Bay leaves
2 tbsp Feni (see notes below) or Vodka - optional
1) In a heavy skillet over medium heat, very lightly roast the peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, cumin seeds, cardamoms and mustard seeds, for about 2 minutes. It just “wakes” up the flavours a bit.
2) Place the roasted spices, dried Ancho chillies, garlic and ginger in a food processor. First, pulse to grind. Then gradually add the first 1/3 cup of cider vinegar, a little at a time until the mixture reaches a paste consistency.
4) In a Dutch Oven or heavy bottom pan, heat about 3 tbsp. (there is fat in the meat as well) of the oil from the 1/2 cup as mentioned in the recipe. The heat should be high. Fry the marinated pork on all sides, making sure to leave some space between the pieces of meat, so that they are not crowded. Adjust the heat to a lower setting if the pan starts scorching. Remove fried pork and set aside on a large bowl. You may need to do about 3 or more batches to finish frying all the meat. Scrape all the bits from the bottom of the pan and add to the bowl of fried pork.
5) In the same Dutch oven or heavy bottom pan, heat the other 2 tbsp of oil over high heat.
6) Add the chopped onions and fry until the edges turn slightly brown.
7) Add the chopped tomatoes or tomato paste and fry for another 2 minutes.
8) Add the fried pork cubes and sugar and stir for another minute.
10) Then add the stock and bay leaves and bring to a simmer.
11) Slow cook for about 2 hours until the meat is tender and the sauce thickens. Then taste and add salt and pepper as per your taste. Finally add the 1/4 cup of vinegar. Stir. Cover and remove from heat.
Serve with white rice. Avoid Basmati Rice or any fragrant variety of rice, as the flavours will compete with each other.
Try to get the shoulder cut of the Pork. You could ask your butcher for Pork Shoulder or Boston Shoulder. The meat has a good distribution of fat which helps keep the meat tender.
Traditionally, the chillies used for this recipe in Goa are called Kashmiri chillies (chillies from the region of Kashmir, in northern India). When I was growing up, Kashmiri chillies had pronounced flavour and rich colour without over-powering heat. Nowadays, it’s almost impossible to find the same flavours in Kashmiri chillies and the heat quotient is almost be unbearable...I suppose it reflects the political agenda of Kashmir these days! That said, even the local in India find Kashmiri chillies hot. You can imagine how overwhelming the general Western palate might find it! Therefore, I’ve substituted them with dried Mexican Ancho Chillies, whose heat level is gentler and yet the flavours are not compromised.
· “Feni” – is a distilled alcohol from Goa. It is made from coconut or the fruit from cashews. The stuff is potent! Feni is not yet available in North America (legally at least!). Hence a humble substitution will be Vodka. Remember though, Vodka is not native to Goa, and hence to the dish. Addition of this alcohol content is optional. Personally, I have had great results even without it.
· Most importantly, believe it or not, this dish is best made 5-7 days “before” you intend to serve it!! Why? Pork always improves in flavour with time. Make sure you store Vindaloo in a cool place, but once a day, gently re-heat and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Cool and refrigerate until the next day! The broth thickens and the heat in the spices will resolve beautifully, resulting in an intricately delicious dish! This is the real way to make it. If you chose to do so, then eliminate the flour in step#9. We only use it to ensure a thick sauce, which would otherwise not happen, if served on the same day it is cooked.
Wine recommendations with Pork Vindaloo:
· Douro – CARM Grande Escolha 2001
Deep plum-like colour and flavours. Mature, ripe, meaty and spicy on the palate with hints of sandalwood on the nose. This wine is a blend of Touriga Naçional along with other native grapes of Portugal, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz. It is available at the BC Liqour Store for about $40...
worth every cent!
· Quinta Do Crasto 2003
Intense and fruit forward with red berries and plum. Crushed Pepper on the palate is amazingly tamed with a creamy vanilla finish that lingers...and balances the spice in the Pork Vindaloo!
This wine is stellar! Available at most liquor stores for around $70 or so. A touch pricey...but then again, you don’t have Pork Vindaloo everyday!
For those who prefer white wine, may I suggest the following with Pork Vindaloo...
· Pfaffenheim – Pinot Gris 2007
This bright golden wine is round with tropical fruit and delightful acidity to tame the spices, yet complement the flavours of Pork Vindaloo. Available for around $20 at the BC Liqour Store.
This is a great wine just to keep at hand. It makes for a delightful aperitif as well.
· Cedar Creek – Gerwürztraminer 2007
Ah! Come home to BC! This wine is rich with lychee and stone fruit, and spicy with a round acidity and creamy mouth-feel. Great on its own, this wine will help balance the spicy top notes of Pork Vindaloo. Available at most liquour stores in BC for around $20.
WINE & HEALTH
Wine... the defender from Arthritis?
Sometimes I wonder if this is just all talk...but then, we hear of research driven suggestions, and I start to listen. It seems, there is a 50% chance of reducing the risk of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis in people who consume about 5 to 10 glasses of wine a week, compared to non-drinkers. Really! I’m not making this up! I’m not a researcher...but there are some in Sweden who claim so. Why? Well, you’ll have to take it up with them. I’m just happy to spread the good news!
“Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized. “ - Andre Simon