Sunday, November 15, 2009


...and how I make it. Hint: I take short cuts. You can, too.

The word "vindaloo" actually comes from Portugal, like the original dish. It means, "cooked with wine and garlic." Several decades and added variations from local cooks later, it has come to mean much, much more than that. These days, it means intense, concentrated, and focused flavor, full of wonderfully aromatic spices.

And you can get those spices in a jar. At least, that's where I get them.

Patak's brand is a friend of mine. Most grocery stores with international clientelle will stock them. There are verly likely other brands. This is the one I like. You can use the one you like.

So, on to cooking...

You really do need a dutch oven with a heavy bottom and tight-fitting lid. If you don't have one, you might try using what you've got, but be prepared for some burning and bitterness.

While you're rough-chopping a couple of medium-sized cooking onions, start the heat (medium) under the dutch oven. When it reaches temperature (and not until then!) cover the bottom with a cooking oil that has a high smoking point. I use olive oil exclusively. You use whatever you like, including ghee, which is traditional. (I do not recommend using canola or corn oils!) Dump the whole pile of chopped onions into the pot immediately after the oil -- do not wait for the oil to heat up. That would cause burning.

Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon until they start to go golden brown. Meantime, chop up some fresh tomatoes (about four to six medium) and set them aside. Then chop some vegetables. I generally use carrots, rutabaga, and potatoes. Sometimes broccoli, green beans...whatever is handy and fresh and fairly firm, anything that can stew over time without falling apart (squash, for example, would not be something I'd choose to put into it, but cooking is an individual thing, and if you like squash, go ahead and use it).

How much? Oh...that's the part that's gonna be totally up to you. I used four large carrots, half a fairly large rutabaga, and two really big baking potatoes, cut up in bite-sized chunks.

If you don't like rutabage, you can leave it out and add more carrots or potatoes or something else entirely. Ignore what your mama told you: PLAY with your food!

So. The onions are turning golden brown, and it's time to add the spice paste. For a full batch in a dutch oven, I use about half a jar. That makes it fairly hot without being impossibly hot. Use less if your mouth isn't acclimated. Add the paste and mix it really, really well with the onions and oil for a couple of minutes. Inhale the steam and appreciate what your nose tells you. Aaaaaaahhhhh...

Now add the veggies, a little at a time or all at once; it's up to you. I generally chop and add as I go -- carrots first (because they take longer to cook), then rutabaga, then the potatoes. Mix well to coat everything thoroughly with the spice mix.

Then add the tomatoes. Stir to mix. Then, when it's all covered with that wonderfully aromatic blend, add only enough water to barely cover everything. Turn up the heat to high in order to start it boiling. When it reaches a boil, put the lid on.

Now...this is the reason for the tight-fitting lid...spin the lid. If it does not spin freely, wait a few seconds and try again. Keep trying until that lid spins freely, riding on a cushion of steam generated from the boiling liquid inside the pot. Then, and only then, turn down the heat to a minimum simmer and go do something else for an hour.

After an hour (and leave it alone until then), test the veggies for doneness. I usually find them to be al dente, which is fine. If you prefer them to be softer, continue cooking awhile longer.

At any rate, this is the stage where I dump in a can of drained and thoroughly-rinsed chick peas, and just let them continue to cook for another half hour or longer. You can skip this, if you like. You're the cook, which means you're the boss.

I ladle this stew over a pile of rice and serve with any kind of bread, salad, and condiments happen to be available.


Afterthought: Yes, you can use meat. In fact, most people do use meat. I made this for a potluck where food sensitivities can sometimes be an issue. If you do use meat, add it right after you put in the vindaloo paste and just before you add the vegetables.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


A new ballad by Shelley Rabinovitch, paying tribute to those who have gone before:

Is there someone who still speaks your name with regret?
Are there flowers for you on this shore?
Is your name whispered soft on Remembrance Day?
I swore then he'd lie lonely no more.
Crosses on stone, tears mixed with bone.

Go. Read.

Wear a poppy until 11:00 am on 11 November, then retire it to a field of honor.

And thank your ancestors in whatever manner your heart tells you. Thank all of them. Even the ones you didn't like or those with whom you disagreed. Because without them, and what they did with their own lives -- whether they did good or bad -- you would not be here as you are now.