I love Indian food. The complex spices and layers of heat are both comforting and warming. When we first moved to Albania there weren’t any Indian restaurants in Tirana. Whenever we traveled outside of the country we always made sure at least one of our dinners involved an Indian restaurant. But when we were at home I took to making my own Indian food in order to fulfill my cravings. Even after one opened its doors, I still preferred to make it myself.
The ingredient list for Indian dishes may seem long due to the many spices. Sure you could take a short cut and purchase a pre-made spice mix or even buy the spices already ground but then you would be missing out on so much of the complexity of the flavors. Investing in a spice grinder was one of the first things I did when I began my foray into cooking Indian food and it is one of the best purchases I ever made. There really is nothing better than freshly roasted and ground spices.
And despite what many people think making Indian food at home doesn’t have to be difficult. This Chicken Vindaloo dish, adapted from Saveur Magazine is one such example of how easy it is to make flavorful and authentic Indian food at home. This dish is fiery hot but if you prefer milder flavors reduce the number of chili peppers you use and choose a mild or smoked paprika rather than a hot variety. I make my Vindaloo hot and temper it with the potatoes and rice and wash it all down with a cold beer. And to please the youngest palate in the house, I sometimes I also serve cumin dusted carrots along with the chicken.
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
5 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 cup Hungarian paprika
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
16 cloves minced garlic, divided
1 2″ piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
5 red chilis, stemmed, seeded and minced
5 green chilis, stemmed, seeded and minced
1 pound small potatoes, peeled
Cooked white rice, for serving
- Heat peppercorns, mustard, cumin and coriander seeds, cloves, and cinnamon in a 12″ skillet set over medium-high heat.
- Cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the spices are lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.
- Working in batches, transfer spices to a spice grinder and process until finely ground.
- Transfer the ground spices to a small food processor and add the paprika, vinegar, turmeric, sugar, ¼ of the garlic, and half the ginger; puree until smooth.
- Move to a larger bowl and add the chicken. Use your fingers to rub the spice mixture into the chicken. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to overnight.
- When ready to proceed, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
- Add the onions, and cook, stirring, until caramelized, about 25 minutes.
- Add remaining garlic and ginger along with chiles, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add the chicken along with any remaining paste in bowl, the potatoes, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, covered and stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes.
- Remove from heat, and season with salt; serve with rice.