Monday, 30 June 2014

Pig Cheek Vindaloo

We're England!
We're gonna score one more than you
Fat Les - Vindaloo

Another summer, another crushing footballing disappointment. Ever since that fateful night in Turin 24 years ago, when I've never seen my Father - or anyone else for that matter - drink so much brandy, I've become used to it. So much so that the St George bunting wasn't even unfurled this year.

Not that I'm feeling too down about it, the World Cup is turning into a cracking competition despite our early exit; even the Ewing is clamouring to stay up late watching Honduras kick lumps out of Ecuador or Greece crash out against the Costa Rica And, no matter how bad we are at kick ball, we're still great at curry. 

Originally introduced to the west coast of India by the Portuguese, carne de vinha d'alhos - a dish of meat, usually pork, marinaded in wine and garlic - was modified to local tastes with the substitution of palm vinegar for wine and the addition of lots of red Kashmiri chilies to evolve into what we now know as vindaloo.

Sadly it's now become somewhat of a joke dish; hijacked by sweaty men who like to posture post-pub, pints of lager in hand, whilst making jokes about frozen loo roll. Terry Pratchett memorably described it in his Disc World novels as 'mouth-scalding gristle for macho foreign idiots'. And while it is hot, the heat is far from the only point of what should be a fragrant, and even subtle, dish.

Following on from my last post - where we ended up eating karahi in deepest darkest Whitechapel - this curry was originally devised in preparedness for my spice loving Sister coming over to stay from Oz; a vindaloo being her usual choice when she goes out for a ruby. 

As with all best laid plans, we didn't end up having time to make it for her visit, but I did get a chance to make it for my Mum, another fearless curry lover, when she last came to stay. And, even if I do say so myself, it was quite frankly top drawer stuff. Easily one of the best curries I have made at home, and something a bit different than the fare offered by our usual flock wallpapered local haunts.

Not only that, but it was hugely simple to make. Just take your meat, I used pig cheeks - the Ewing cleared the shelves at our local Waitrose - and cover in the marinade for a couple of hours to allow the vinegar to tenderise the meat. Then soften onions in a little oil, add the meat and a tin of tomatoes and cook for a in the oven until tender. 

Cheeks are ideal for this as they have very little fat but lots of connective tissue that makes a wonderfully rich and gelatinous sauce that isn't too rich or greasy. Next time I plan to try some cubed pork or lamb shoulder, or even chicken thighs, but I reckon any tough cut - especially strong flavours like goat, game or mutton - would work a treat.

Pig Cheek Vindaloo
(Adapted from Simon Majumdar)

2kg pig cheeks or pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into inch pieces
1 cup palm/cider/white wine vinegar
10 cm fresh ginger, peeled
6 Fresh chilies, finely chopped (I grated mine with a Microplane)
10 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp ground Cumin seeds
2 tsp ground Coriander seeds
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sugar

2 white onions, sliced
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Vegetable Oil for frying

Put the salt ginger and garlic into a pestle and mortar and grind to fine paste
Place the pork into a non-reactive bowl, add the garlic ginger paste, the chopped chilies and the vinegar and massage into the meat.
Mix together al the spices pour over the pork and massage well into the meat. Cover with cling film and leave to marinade for at least two hours to allow the vinegar time to penetrate and tenderise the pork.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 180c.
Heat a little oil in a large pot and fry the onions until golden.
Pour the entire contents of the bowl into the pan along with the tinned tomatoes. Add water, if needed, so the liquid just covers the meat, stir well, put on the lid and place pot in the oven.
Cook for about three hours, removing the lid a third of the way through the cooking time, or until the sauce has thickened and the meat is tender.

As with all curies, this is even better eaten a day or two after cooking. Piles of fluffy white rice or nan bread, cucumber raita to cool down burnt tongues and plenty of Cobra are obligatory.

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