In England, the vindaloo is an ear-tinglingly hot curry, but it wasn’t always that way. It started life as vinho e alhos, a popular Portuguese dish that made its way over to Goa with Portuguese explorers in the 1500s. Traditionally a wine and garlic stew, it was transformed into the modern-day dish using white wine vinegar and garlic, combined with a warming garam masala of pepper, cloves, and cinnamon.
In this recipe, the sweet potato works really well with the spices and tomato to make a sweet, sour, and pungent curry. And yes, it’s hot, but not mind-blowingly so.
Serves 4 as a main course
4 tablespoons canola oil
1 star anise
20 black peppercorns
3-inch cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
1¾-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
5 tablespoons white wine vinegar
¾ level tablespoon ground red chile (or to taste)
2 medium onions, finely sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 x 14-ounce can of plum tomatoes
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1½-inch chunks
yogurt, to serve
Put 1 tablespoon of the oil into a large lidded frying pan over medium heat and, when hot, add the cloves, star anise, black peppercorns, cinnamon stick, and cumin seeds. Stir-fry for around 2 minutes, until the peppercorns and cloves swell and you can smell all the spices, then take off the heat.
Put the spices in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and grind them up. Add the garlic, ginger, and vinegar, grind some more until you have a smooth paste, then mix in the ground red chile.
Put the remaining oil into the same pan over medium heat and, when hot, add the onions. Cook for 15 minutes, or until brown and caramelized, stirring occasionally, then add the spice paste, salt, and sugar. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the plum tomatoes, tipping them out of the can with one hand while crushing them with the other. Fill the tomato can half full with water and pour into the pan. Put the lid on the pan and cook for around 5 minutes, then add the sweet potatoes.
Bring the curry to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover with the lid again. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are completely tender, stirring occasionally. Serve with dollops of yogurt and hot basmati rice.