Neela Paniz, Bombay Cafe and Madhur Jaffrey’s Chicken Vindaloo recipe
I was born in East Africa in the early 1960s. My Mother is a colonial Brit because she was born and raised in Kenya. The Brits in East Africa were interwoven culturally with the Brits in India. My mother had several indian friends in Kenya and they taught her how to cook their authentic cuisine. Most British ex pats from Africa or Asia generally have a good knowledge about Indian cuisine. I have early childhood memories of going to the ‘club’ with my parents and eating indian food on a regular basis. Also it was a meal that was much appreciated in our home. Whenever my Mother prepared an indian buffet, there would be pilau rice, lamb vindaloo, chicken curry, a dahl, poppadoms, mango chutney and an array of ‘toppings’. These would include raisins, dessicated coconut, chopped bananas and chopped unsalted peanuts. A special colonial treat. My favorite indian chef in England is Madhur Jaffrey. I don’t live there and most probably most Americans aren’t familiar with her recipes, therefore I will feature Neela Paniz.
I moved to Los Angeles in 1987 and as is my custom I sought out tasty indian cuisine in this town. There weren’t many indian restaurants that I wanted to expose my palate to. Driving along Olympic Boulevard one day I noticed ‘Chutneys’, a small take out in a strip mall at Barrington Drive. Hungry for a new experience, I went in and was pleasantly surprised. I ate there regularly. This was Neela Paniz’s first restaurant in West Los Angeles. Eventually she opened a full service restaurant called ‘The Bombay Cafe’, she was quickly discovered by food critic Ruth Reichl and was put on the map of stardom. Here are a couple of dishes from the Bombay Cafe:
Neela single handedly transformed indian food into californian cuisine.
Madhur Jaffrey is the indian equivalent to Delia Smith. Whenever I need a helping hand with a curry recipe I look through Madhur Jaffrey’s recipes. Here is my favorite recipe of hers that I make. I don’t use as much cayenne because I like a milder curry.
2 teaspoon cumin seeds, whole
1 teaspoon peppercorns, black
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
1 cinnamon (3 in stick)
1 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds, whole
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds, whole
5 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon brown sugar, light
10 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 large yellow onions, peeled and cut into; half-rings
6 tablespoon water
1 ginger, fresh (1-inch cube), peeled; and coarsely chopped
10 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely; chopped (or less)
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, ground
1/2 teaspoon turmeric, ground
2 lb chicken breast (boneless), cut into; bite-sized pieces
8 oz tomato sauce
1/2 lb new potatoes, peeled and quartered
Directions: How to Cook Chicken Vindaloo
Grind cumin seeds, black pepper, cardamom seeds, cinnamon, black mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds together in a spice grinder. In a small bowl, combine ground spices, vinegar, salt, cayenne pepper and brown sugar. Set aside.
Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Fry onions, stirring frequently, until they are a rich, dark brown. Remove onions with a slotted spoon and put them in a blender. Turn off the heat, but do not discard the oil. Add about 3 T water (or more if necessary) to the onions and blend until you have a smooth paste. Add this onion paste to the spices in the bowl. This mixture is the vindaloo paste.
Put the ginger and garlic in a blender. Add about 3 T water and blend until you have a smooth paste.
Heat the remaining oil in the saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the ginger, garlic paste. Stir until the paste browns slightly. Add the coriander and turmeric. Stir a few seconds. Add the chicken, a little at a time, and brown lightly.
Add the vindaloo paste, tomato sauce and potatoes to the chicken in the saucepan. Stir and bring to a slight boil. Cover the saucepan, reduce heat to low and simmer for about an hour, or until potatoes are tender. Serve over rice.