It’s been a fragrant week around here.
First, I was walking home for lunch, and was waylaid by a neighbor who was engaged in cutting down several large white lilac bushes that had been attempting to take down some powerlines behind her house. The lilacs were in full bloom, and she insisted on cutting me a large bouquet to take home before they wilted on the downed shrub. I put them on the kitchen table, and every time the evening sun hits them the room fills with the scent of lilac.
Then, of course, the daphne odora is in bloom by the front porch steps. It’s old for a daphne, and beginning to list alarmingly to starboard (I may have to attempt some pruning this year), but when it blooms the smell is an astonishing sugary explosion, drowning out all other scents within a fifteen foot radius.
And finally, we made pork vindaloo. The house smelled wonderful for days.
I haven’t eaten a lot of vindaloo in my life, generally gravitating towards things like butter chicken and large bowls of creamed eggplant in Indian restaurants. But we’ve been getting more diverse in our Indian repertoire at home, and have recently discovered the joys of vinegar-based curries. I love how the sharpness of the vinegar heightens the effect of the chiles, producing a truly nose-clearing dish. (Plus it makes me think of the memorable scene in Red Dwarf: “lager – it’s the only thing that can kill a vindaloo!”)
This particular curry is pork vindaloo #3 in Rhagavan Iyer’s 660 Curries (which, dare I say, everyone should own a copy of). It’s not too complicated, and it strikes me that you could simplify even further by using ground spices to make the marinade. I have absolutely no complaints about the final product, however.
If you’re afraid of chile heat, I should say that this wasn’t nearly as hot as it sounded. The okra dish we made to go alongside turned out to be much hotter (woo! We went through a lot of kleenex at this dinner). Just make lots of white rice and have some yogurt handy, the pungency is worth it.
adapted from 660 Curries by Rhagavan Iyer
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 1 Tbsp cumin seeds
- 8 slices ginger
- 8 garlic cloves
- 8 dried red chiles
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 pound cubed pork
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 2 Tbsp canola oil
- 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
In a blender jar combine the vinegar, cumin, ginger, garlic, chiles and cinnamon. Puree into a rough paste.
Mix the pork with the paste in a bowl and add in the salt and turmeric. Refrigerate at least half an hour or overnight.
Heat the oil in a skillet and add the pork with its marinade. Cook uncovered until the liquid evaporates and the meat begins to brown. Add 1/2 cup of water, scrape the bottom of the pan, reduce the heat to medium low and cover. Let it cook 15 minutes, then uncover and stir in the cilantro.
Serve with plenty of white rice and a vegetable. Have kleenex handy. And probably a lager.