Maverick Life


We’re all needing a little heat right now – give this Goan Beef Vindaloo a spin

We’re all needing a little heat right now – give this Goan Beef Vindaloo a spin
Image: Penguin Random House / Composite: The Reading List

Vindaloo is known to be one of the hottest curries in the world, but you can adjust the heat in this dish to suit anyone’s palate.

This recipe is from Cariema Isaacs’ new cookbook Curried, a joyful homage to one of the world’s most beloved and versatile dishes.

The book is inspired by the author’s memories of the slow-cooked Cape Malay curries of her childhood, as well as the fast-paced landscape of the Middle East, where she now lives.


Goan Beef Vindaloo

One of the reasons I am so fond of this curry is because it reminds me of a beef dish my father used to make. It was made with blade beef, which was prepared the night before, lightly salted but generously seasoned with freshly ground black pepper and slow cooked, not a single minute rushed. But no matter how hard I try, I just cannot seem to recreate it! So I’m drawing on his adoration and love of beef with this recipe instead. 

Like many Goan dishes, this one originated in Portugal and was adapted later to accommodate the local Indian palate. The traditional Portuguese ‘vinha d’alhos’ was made with pork braised in garlic and wine. Later, Goans substituted the pork and wine with beef (or lamb), vinegar and lots of chilli and aromatics to create vindaloo as we know it today. 

I feel compelled to mention here that when I sit down to eat with Ryan Fernandes, one of my buddies from Goa, he doesn’t even break a sweat when he eats anything spicy. This recipe contains two of the ingredients Goans adore: meat and heat! 

TIP: Vindaloo is known to be one of the hottest curries in the world and much as I thrive on hot and spicy curries, even I had to adjust the heat from the original recipe! This curry is also one of those curries that calls for good quality spices and ingredients, so take the time to toast the whole spices and then grind them into a fine powder. In this instance, a store-bought paste and pre-packed spice blend will certainly not guarantee the same robust and authentic flavour! 

Serves 4–6 

For the spice blend

  • 1 tsp (5 ml) coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) cumin seeds
  • ½ Tbsp (7.5 ml) black peppercorns
  • 1 whole clove
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 dried Kashmiri chillies
  • 2 black cardamom pods (optional)

For the marinade

  • 2 shallots or 1 small onion, halved
  • 1 thumb-size piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) chilli powder (reduce the chilli powder for a milder curry)
  • ½ tsp (2.5 ml) turmeric
  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) canola oil
  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) tamarind paste
  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) white or brown vinegar
  • 1½ Tbsp (22.5 ml) soft dark
  • brown sugar
  • ½ tsp (2.5 ml) salt

For the curry

  • 750 g beef shin, bone in, cut into
  • 3 cm-thick medallions, or rib-eye steak, cut into bite-size cubes
  • 2 Tbsp (30 ml) canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 medium-size ripe tomatoes, skinned and grated
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 green chilli, sliced lengthwise (optional)
  • ½ C (125 ml) water

Preparing the spice blend

  1. Heat a pan on medium heat and lightly toast all the whole spices, dried chillies and cardamom (if using).
  2. Toast for a minute or until the spices start emitting their fragrant aromas, and then remove from the heat.
  3. Place the spices into a grinder and blend to a fine powder. Set aside.

Preparing the marinade and meat

  1. Pat the meat dry with a paper towel and set it aside in a bowl.
  2. Place all the marinade ingredients into a food processor and blitz until it forms a smooth paste.
  3. Add the paste and spice blend to the meat and gently massage it into the meat.
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Preparing the curry

  1. Heat the oil in a medium-size saucepan on medium to high heat.
  2. Add the onion and adjust the heat to medium. Fry the onion for 5 minutes or until golden.
  3. Increase the heat to high, add the meat and the marinade and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Adjust the heat to medium and stir in the tomatoes, salt, chilli (if using) and water. Cook, covered, for 45 minutes or until the meat is tender.
  5. Add a dash of water if you find the curry is too dry and serve hot with fluffy basmati rice. DM/ML

Cariema Isaacs’s Curried’s is published by Penguin Random House (R350). Visit The Reading List for South African book news – including recipes! – daily.


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