The Pink Bits and the Rest

Friday 14/1/2005

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Diary and Notes

Some notes on colonial history, curry history and the development of today's dinner:

It is generally believed (amongst the British at least) that they were in some way responsible for the development of the modern day curry. The view is that curries were either invented for the rulers of the British Raj and that the taste for spicy food was brought back by soldiers who had served in India (and thus explaining why Victorian cookbooks are laden with recipes for curried everything) or that curries became 'westernised' when immigrants began serving spicy food in the East End of London just after the war. There is a grain of truth in both of these stories, but this ignores the fact that in India, curry is eaten for breakfast, dinner and tea and although the mass production methods of the modern day British curry house are not employed in homes in India, the people there definitely do eat curry and have been eating what we would call curry for hundreds of years. Of course the British have had some effect on the development of the curry, but so have the Persians, Chinese and even the South Americans (who first cultivated chillis).

Today's curry in many ways emphasises one of the major differences between British colonialism and the empires of the other major European powers. Fundamentally, all of the European empires were founded on greed. The Spanish conquistadors may have claimed to be saving the souls of the locals who they sliced and shot, but what they were really after was their gold. Likewise with the British. The British empire was never intended to enslave or subjugate the peoples of India, merely to trade with them and skim as much off the top as was possible, without causing mass starvartion and mutiny (beacuse this was bad for profits). In one major respect the British empire was different however, in that nobody ever claimed that it was about anything other than profit and as such, little or no effort was made to affect the customs or religions of the people who lived in the Empire. Frankly, the British just didn't care, as long as they got rich.

The empires of the catholic nations on the other hand were slightly different and the major European empires who's invasions were sanctioned by the Vatican, had to make some pretence about God and converting the heathens in order to be able to grab the cash and still go to heaven. As such, the parts of the globe which fell under Spanish, French or Portugese rule, very soon ended up as Christian countries, speaking European languages and taking on many of the customs of their occupiers.

This is why most of India remains either Hindu or Muslim dominated (the Hindus being mostly vegetarian or eating only a little meat and the Muslims eating no pork), and why Goa (formerly a Portugese colony) is Christian and they happily eat pork. As such, today's dinner has a history all of its own. It is not British, has no British influence and can't be seen in any restaurant in Britain (as far as I know). It is however one of my favourite curries out of the entire palette of delicious things India has to offer. A fusion of true Indian cuisine, with a bit of Portugese flair thrown into the mix. The word vindaloo describes the fact that it is cooked with vinegar and doesn't mean that it is mind blowingly hot (as in British curry houses). It should however be mind blowingly hot and I recommend adding lots and lots of chillis and chilli powder. The vinegar also gives it a sharp kick.

A note on one of the ingredients: Panch Poran is a blend of five Indian spices and can be bought as a mix. The spices are never pre ground however and are in seed form. The mix contains: Cumin, fennel, fenugreek seeds, onion seeds and mustard seeds. If you don't have any panch poran use whatever of these spices you have.

I heartily recommend having a go at this one day.

Cake Blog

A very good custard danish. I love danish pastries, don't you? There was a Danish empire once, it mainly consisted of England.


  • Goan Pork Vindaloo
  • Basmati Rice
  • Chappatis


  • Green Cardamon, Cloves, Panch Poran, Black Peppercorns, Hot Chilli Powder, Salt, Ghee, Pork Steak, Wine Vinegar,, Onions, Garlic, Ginger, Green Chillis, Tomato Puree, Potatoes, Red and Green Peppers, Tomatoes, Garam Masala, Fresh Coriander Leaves


  • Wash and peel a few potatoes, chop into large pieces (about 3cm cubes) and boil them until soft but not breaking apart. Waxy spuds are best as they wont break up when added to the curry.
  • In a wok or large frying pan, dry fry the cardamon, cloves, panch poran, peppercorns and chilli powder with a little salt. When the smell begins to release, grind them in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
  • Heat some ghee in the pan, add the ground spice mix and the chopped pork. Fry until the pork begins to brown. Next add the chopped onion, some thinly sliced ginger, some finely chopped garlic, loads of chopped chillis and fry a little more until the onion is soft.
  • Add a large dash of wine vinegar and stir. Fry until almost all of the vinegar has reduced away. Next add some roughly chopped peppers and fry a little more, then put in the potatoes.
  • In a jug, mix a large dollop of tomato puree and about three times as much water to make a thick sauce, don't make it too runny. Mix well and add to the pan.
  • Simmer gently for a further 10 mins to allow the flavours to blend, then stir in some quatered tomatoes, a lot of garam masala and loads of fresh coriander.
  • Serve with plain boiled rice, some chapattis and something cool to drink.