Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Not-So-Spicy Chicken Vindaloo

Vindaloo sometimes scares people off because it can be incredibly spicy when you order it in a restaurant, however when I lived in New York, the first Indian dish I ever tried was a Lamb Vindaloo and I fell in love with it. That first Vindaloo certainly had a kick, but it wasn't as spicy as some others I've had since then and it was absolutely delicious! Before trying it I thought I didn't like Indian food or lamb - I found out that night that I was wrong. 

After that first experience, I repeatedly tried other Vindaloo dishes throughout the city - it became my go-to order in Indian restaurants and then of course I'd try whatever my date was having so I could broaden my horizons a bit. While some were very good, many were much more spicy and not quite the same as that first experience. I love a good fiery kick, but sometimes it can take away from the flavor of the dish if it's too hot - at least that's my opinion. 

A few weeks ago, I decided to start trying some Vindaloo recipes myself at home. I've always wanted to learn to cook some Indian dishes from scratch, so I decided to start with my very first favorite. After trying a few different recipes, fiddling with them, taking this from that one and that from this one, I think I've come up with something that's rather close to that first taste I had in New York City that I loved so much. Whether or not this is true to authentic Indian Vindaloo - I don't know, but it tastes great and isn't that all that really matters? It's pretty easy to make too... 

1/3 cup white wine vinegar
6 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
1 large-ish piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons curry powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons regular olive oil, plus more if needed
1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
500g skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 tablespoons regular olive oil
2 echalion shallots, finely chopped
1 jar passata
1 cinnamon stick
Basmati rice and papadums to serve (optional)

1. Add the white wine vinegar, garlic, ginger, curry powder, ground cumin, ground nutmeg, ground cloves, dried chili flakes and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a blender or food processor and blitz until a paste forms. If necessary, add more oil as needed until you get a pasty consistency.

2. Add the paste and the chicken pieces to a bowl and toss to coat. Set aside.

3. Heat the remaining oil in a large, heavy pot or flame-proof casserole with a lid on medium heat and cook the shallots until soft.

4. Add the marinated chicken and stir to combine before increasing the heat to medium-high.

5. Add the passata and fill the bottle about 1/4 of the way with water. Shake to get all the remaining passata out of the jar and pour the water into the pot as well. Finally, add the cinnamon stick and stir to combine.

6. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender, stirring occasionally.

7. Add the mustard seeds and simmer uncovered for another 10 minutes.

8. Season to taste with salt & pepper if necessary and remove the cinnamon stick from the mixture. Serve hot with basmati rice and papadums. 

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