February 24, 2021
As I finalized this recipe, the outside temperature was the coldest Houston has been in over 30 years, with no power, spotty internet and a trickle of water in my home. All I was craving was a spicy stew to keep me warm.
I taught myself the fiery cuisine of Goa with frequent trips back to India. These days it is difficult to imagine Indian food without chili, but chiles actually did not arrive in India until just a few hundred years ago.
Vasco da Gama first landed in Goa off the Malabar coast in May 1458 and, within a few years, the Portuguese declared themselves landed aristocracy, wrestled control of the spice trade from the Arabs and began their ruthless domination of the East Indies spice trade that would last for most of the 16th century. It also was by means of the Portuguese that chili found its way not just to India but to the rest of the world. It is not known exactly when it arrived, but 30 years after da Gama first set foot on Indian soil, there were at least three different types of chili plants growing around Goa.
A new cuisine emerged, marrying the coastal flavors of Goa with the meat-loving Portuguese. Goa was the home of coconuts, cashews, cardamom, nutmeg and various varieties of rice. Portugal, because of the ecology of its Iberian peninsula, was suited to the cultivation of wheat, pigs, sheep, potatoes and grapes. This stew is a cross between a vindaloo and a xacuti (pronounced “shakuti”), both of which are fiery meat stews traditionally made with pork.
Though I absolutely love this meat-free version, feel free to add chunks of bacon or pork to the stew. Make sure to cook the onions to a dark caramel brown. I have made this stew using various kinds of chili, from arbol to guijilla, which adds a delicious smoky touch. Serve it with a bowl of simple white basmati rice cooked with minced cloves and coconut.
5 whole portabella mushrooms
2 tablespoons mustard oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
8 to 10 whole dried red chilis
1 small or 1/2 large onion, sliced
8 to 10 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
2-inch piece of whole unpeeled ginger, roughly chopped
1/2 cup red wine
1 pound of baby potatoes
Fresh coconut for garnish
Toasted cashews for garnish
Fragrant herbs for garnish
Remove the stems of portebellas and chop small. Marinate 4 portabella mushrooms with mustard oil, salt, and black pepper and lay them on a baking sheet. Chop the remaining one into small pieces. Pre-heat oven to 450°F.
In a wide heavy-bottom saucepan, heat the coconut oil and pop the peppercorns, coriander, mustard, and cardamom seeds. The seeds will pop and sizzle; within a few seconds, add the dried chilis, onion, and garlic. Lower the heat, cover the saucepan and let the onions cook for 10 to 12 minutes on low to medium heat or until they have turned a medium brown. This may take longer, but the onions need to be caramel brown before proceeding to the next step.
Add the chopped mushroom and continue cooking until it has cooked through. Add the turmeric, coconut milk, ginger, and wine, then bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer for another 5 minutes covered. Turn the heat off and let the mixture rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
Then, using a blender, purée until smooth and set aside. If the mixture is too thick, add a few tablespoons of water.
Pour this puréed masala back into the saucepan and add the baby potatoes. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover the pan, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes on the lowest setting until the potatoes are tender and oil has risen to the top. Add a few tablespoons of water if the stew is getting too thick.
Meanwhile, place the mushrooms in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve the mushrooms piping hot with the sauce and potatoes drizzled over them. Garnish with fresh coconut, cashews, and herbs.
If you have portabella stems, combine with the sliced mushroom and add to the sauce.
Add bacon or pork to the stew when adding potatoes and cook until the meat is tender.
The red wine is optional — replace with water and 2 tablespoons of balsamic or malt vinegar.
Find mustard oil at most Indian grocers. Replace it with vegetable oil.
December 02, 2022