Sunday, August 26, 2007

Recipe of the week, part 2: Murg Vindaloo (Chicken Vindaloo: Goan vinegar curry)

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1 roasting chicken, about 1,5 kg (3 lbs), or equivalent weight in mixed chicken pieces
4 tbs oil for frying
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Curry paste:
2 tbs cummin seed
1 tbs black mustard seeds
3 tsp chilli powder or to taste
1 tbs chopped ginger
1 tbs chopped garlic
1/2 cup vinegar (this means regular white vinegar, not any of the flavoured kinds)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cardamom

Cut the chicken into small serving pieces: drumsticks, thighs, and divide the breast into four parts.

To make the curry paste, grind the cummin seeds, mustard seeds, chilli (if using), ginger and garlic in a blender with the vinegar. The spices should be finely ground. Add the cinnamon, cloves and cardamom.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. The pan should be steel or enamel, not iron, because it can react with the vinegar (aluminium would be too light). When the oil is hot enough to cook with, remove the pan from the heat and add the curry paste. Stir for a few seconds to heat the paste (it will not blend well with the oil, so don't try), then add the chicken pieces to the pan and stir to coat well with the paste. Let stand for an hour or longer to marinate (although Solomon doesn't mention it, do refrigerate the chicken. You don't want to risk getting food poisoning).

After an hour or more of marinating, return the chicken to the cold pan and bring to the simmering point over low heat, add salt and pepper and simmer, covered, until the chicken is tender. Stir from time to time to prevent the spices from sticking to the pan.

Serve with plain white rice.

Alterations and substitutions:
I only used half the amount of chicken given in the recipe, but made a full recipe of spice paste to ensure I had enough. I used chicken wings instead of a whole chicken. I cut the wings into three parts and discarded the tips, as these have very little meat on them.
I had to use brown mustard seeds because I couldn't find black.
Neither substitution should matter where taste is concerned, as the chicken is supposed to be chopped into pieces anyway and brown mustard tastes very similar to black.
Instead of 3 tsp of chilli powder, I put about 2 tsp of cayenne pepper.

There was one ooops! moment: I made up my mise en place before starting and didn't keep the little bowl of salt and pepper separated from the rest, so I accidentally added it to the paste (it's not good to be absentminded when working in the kitchen. At least there was no blood this time). This shouldn't matter much, except pepper tends to lose its kick when cooked too long, so I added a little more near the end of the cooking time.

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Recipe review:
Knowing the tart taste of vinegar, it can be daunting to start using it as a cooking ingredient, but millions of people the world over can hardly be wrong, so I decided to give it a try.

The spice paste smelled lovely when ready, and I could not smell any trace of vinegar. When I put the chicken in the pan, the paste was so thick that it looked as if it would immediately stick and burn to the pan once it got hot, but after a few minutes of simmering, the juices started coming out of the chicken and the spices and juices formed a sauce in the pan. At the same time, the spices would slip off the chicken and sink into the sauce, so I stirred the chicken well every few minutes to make sure every side of the pieces got to soak in the sauce and absorb its flavour.
I cooked the chicken for 30 minutes, which is enough for wings, but would give it another 15-20 minutes if mixed chicken pieces are used.

The end product was tender and spicy, but not too hot. While I like the taste of chilli in food, I prefer it not to be very hot, because I want the rest of the ingredients to be more than just texture, i.e. I want to be able to taste them. 2 tsp of cayenne was just right, but think I would like to try making the recipe with no chilli at all, just to taste the full richness of the other spices. There is a slight sharp aftertaste, no doubt due to the vinegar, which gives an extra flavour note to the dish.
Serving it with plain white rice was good, as the clean taste of the rice made a good compliment to the spiciness of the chicken.

P.S. It is even better cold.


Rebecca said...

I love making vindaloo but I always make it with lamb, you should try substituing lamb next time.

Bibliophile said...

I'm sure it will be very good with lamb too.