As an unashamed curry addict, I have spent a lot of time over the years tweaking and refining the standard curry sauces and pastes. My benchmark for vindaloo is the amazing sauce used by the head chef in my local Indian restaurant; it is only in the last six months that I have managed to refine my own version into a reasonable approximation of his.
Contrary to what you may believe, a good vindaloo isn’t defined by its heat, it is defined by being spicy while allowing the base flavours to shine through. The essential flavour element in a vindaloo sauce is vinegar, not the brash smack-in-the-face of raw malt vinegar, rather the smooth sourness of properly cooked-out white wine vinegar. This sauce delivers in spades.
As with all spiced dishes, allowing this sauce time to develop just makes it better, so make it the night before you intend to use it, make a reasonable batch, freeze some for later and just add chicken, lamb, beef, prawns… whatever you feel like eating on the day.
Don’t be daunted by the length of the ingredients list, this is quick to make and most of the ingredients will be in any well-stocked pantry. Jaggery is hard cane sugar, widely available in larger supermarkets and international food stores.
I haven’t specified potatoes in the recipe, but the ‘aloo’ part of vindaloo implies that a vindaloo curry will have potatoes in it. Truth is, it’s entirely optional and might be a bit odd if, for example, you made a prawn vindaloo.
RECIPE makes enough for 6-8 portions
For the paste:
1 heaped tsp ground cumin
1 heaped tsp ground turmeric
2 heaped tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp English mustard powder
1 heaped tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cayenne pepper
a big fat thumb of fresh ginger, grated
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp grated jaggery (or light brown muscovado sugar)
For the base:
150ml rapeseed or sunflower oil
8 fat garlic cloves, crushed
3 large red onions, chopped
For the body:
6 red chillies, seeds in, finely chopped
1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
1-4 tsp hot chilli powder, depending on your tolerance and taste
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Mix the paste ingredients together in a small bowl. If it is a little stiff and dry just add a little water. Set aside.
Prepare the base ingredients then, in a blender or food processor, process to a smooth consistency. In a large pan, cook the base over a gentle heat for ten minutes until aromatic but not coloured – the sauce will start out pink from the red onions, and should stay that way.
Add the paste that you made earlier, and cook it out for about five minutes before adding the red chillies, tomatoes, tomato puree and chilli powder. Bring to the gentlest simmer that you can – a plop every now and again – and leave it on the heat, uncovered, for an hour then check and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
If you find that it is not quite spicy enough for you, don’t add more chilli powder once you have cooked it, the rawness of the powder will spoil it. Instead, heat a couple of tablespoons of oil and add a tsp (or more) of dried chilli flakes to it. Let it spit for a minute or so then leave the oil to infuse for ten minutes, before stirring the oil and chilli into the sauce.
When adding meat to the sauce, it always pays to brown the meat separately first before adding it to the sauce.