Posted in Notable Nosh

Notable Nosh- Shafali Style Lamb Vindaloo

Shafali Lamb Vindaloo 1

For about three or four successive visits to Ottawa, I had Lamb Vindaloo on my bucket list of dishes to sampled, but, as sometimes happens, the best laid plans get set aside for one reason another and it was only at my last visit just before this past Christmas that I got to indulge. On this occasion I went to Café Shafali because I have eaten there before and enjoyed it, and because it is only about three blocks from the hotel where I always stay when I am in town…

Anyway … When I was a kid, my father told me that a ‘Vindaloo’ was the hottest of the Indian curries. Of course, whether or not that is ever true obviously depends on how much chili heat a given chef adds to a given dish, but it does seem that, in the main, they tend to one of the hotter dishes on the menu in Indian restaurants. At Shafali, they advertise it on their menu like this:

shafali lamb vindaloo 2

The four little flame thingies beside the title specify the heat level and, at Shafali, the Lamb Vindaloo is the only dish to rate four flames. I should perhaps have been put on my guard by the fact that in addition to the graphic warning, they also describe the dish as containing ‘loads of chilies’…In truth, though, I often find that the way a restaurant describes ‘heat’ is often a bit arbitrary and I went ahead and ordered the dish lulled into a false sense of confidence …

Now, Vindaloo fans will know that the dish has Portuguese roots and originally involved meat marinated in garlic and wine. In later Indian, and Anglo-Indian renditions, the wine got replaced with vinegar and chilies got added in ever increasing amounts. At Shafali, they actually go back, historically speaking, and use red wine to marinate their lamb, but they certainly follow more modern traditions with the sheer amount of chili they use.

In general, this was a very nicely prepared dish. The generous chunks of boneless lamb were not cooked so long that they fell apart (often the case in Indian curries), and it was ‘al dente’ for western palates. It didn’t have the sharp tang from vinegar as is usually the case, but It was slightly sweet, and the taste of both ginger and garlic were briefly apparent before the chilies asserted themselves forcefully.

I have to say here, that it is an unfortunate truth that I am not a spring chicken anymore and over the years, I find that really hot dishes are a bit beyond me. I am lucky that I don’t suffer the intestinal distress that some people experience after a spicy meal, but, sadly, a mouthfeel of fire now inhibits, rather than enhances my enjoyment of a meal and I it takes the occasional sharp lesson like the Shafali Vindaloo to remind me I just can’t do this anymore…I am thinking, after this episode, that I should like to try doing a much milder Vindaloo at home sometime soon, and try and strike a more Portuguese weighted balance, with good wine and ‘loads of garlic’, rather than mouth-numbing quantities of chili… a report will follow!

Posted in Recipes

Spicy Shrimp Sauce

Spicy Shrimp Sauce 1

For years, I have been making a shrimp curry dish that incorporates Indian spices, along with fermented shrimp paste, in a tomato based sauce. The sauce is something I have always made on an ‘ad hoc’ basis, but I have long wanted to try a ‘make-ahead’ sauce that could be used to quickly put together a nice Shrimp curry, or even be used as a sauce with other meats or vegetables. I finally got around to doing it just a few days ago… Continue reading “Spicy Shrimp Sauce”

Posted in Recipes

Madrasi Grilled Beef

Madrasi Grilled Beef 01

A while ago, I posted a recipe for my homemade Madras Curry Paste and I wanted to try using it in something other than a ‘curry’ style dish. I came up with the idea of doing something along the lines of a Satay, but with the flavors of India and made the dish you see pictured abve. I made it is an appetizer but you could make larger (and more) skewers and serve them over rice for a more substantial course. Here, I served mine on a bed of finely shredded cabbage and Jalapeno peppers that were macerated in a little garlic salt before being tossed with some oil and lemon juice… Continue reading “Madrasi Grilled Beef”

Posted in Spicery

Spice: Homemade Madras Curry Powder

Madras Curry Powder 1

At one time, a ‘Madras Curry’ was a standard on Indian restaurant menus in the west, and was also a fairly common recipe entry in Indian cookery books. It seems, however, to be a little less frequently encountered these days and this is perhaps because the Indian City of Madras (whence the name) is now known as Chennai, and the eponymous curry was probably more of an Anglo-Indian, rather than a purely Indian creation. Whatever the case, the Madras Curry is still something of a classic and well worth adding to one’s culinary repertoire.

In my research of a wide variety of spice blends, I have found that the Madras Curry blend is the closest to what most westerners would call the ‘curry flavor’ and the typical ingredients are much the same as found in the generic ‘Curry Powder’ you can find in almost any supermarket. The one major difference between the two, as far as I have seen, is that the generic type tends to be high in Turmeric and low in Chili, while, in a Madras blend, the reverse is usually true. In this post, we will have a quick look at the general composition and then I’ll provide a fairly straightforward version that you can use as a starting point for your own culinary creations… Continue reading “Spice: Homemade Madras Curry Powder”

Posted in Recipes

Thai Shrimp Curry

Thai Shrimp Curry 1

I am not sure of the pairing of shrimp with grilled eggplant and grilled zucchini has ever actually occurred in an actual Thai recipe, but the spice paste I have put together for this dish is very Thai in spirit. I have a very dense (over 600 page) cookery book simply entitled ‘Thai Food’ written by David Thompson (no relation as far as I know), and it contains hundreds of recipes, almost all of which feature a unique spice blend based on the Thai palate. I find endless inspiration for culinary adventures in these pages and I love mixing and matching various ingredients in different quantities for my own creations. I never know exactly how a given concoction will turn out, but I am happy to report that the blend I arrived at for today’s post is a definite winner and well worth using again… Continue reading “Thai Shrimp Curry”

Posted in Recipes

Chili Coriander Beef

Chili Coriander Beef 1

Today’s dish is basically a curry, but it doesn’t belong to any particular cuisine or other aside from vaguely being South-East Asian in character. I put it together in order to try braising beef with Coconut Water as a sort of follow up to my recent Vietnamese Braised Pork dish made with that particular ingredient. By the way, the Coriander in this reparation is not the leaf Coriander also known as ‘Cilantro’ (which I hate), but rather the ground seed (which I love) …  Continue reading “Chili Coriander Beef”

Posted in Experiments, Recipes

Gomanchala Pork Curry

Gomanchala Curry 1

Gomanchala is one of the historical names for the state of Goa in western India where the popular curry known as a Vindaloo has its roots. Today’s experiment is not exactly a Vindaloo (and I will be looking at the traditional dish in a future post sometime), but it does share some basic features with the traditional preparations. Accordingly, I have decided to call this creation a ‘Gomanchala Curry’ in salute to the common origin… Continue reading “Gomanchala Pork Curry”