Written with passion and respectful approach for recipes’ origins, Rick Stein’s India is a rare jewel of a book I highly recommend to all the fans of food from this part of the world. I am still far from having tested the whole content, but until now Squid Curry (I wrote about it here) is the most sensational discovery. First, I was thrilled to find my first Indian squid recipe, but most of all, I instantly fell in love with this particular curry sauce (or “gravy”, as apparently some Indians call it) and consider it not only the best Rick Stein’s curry but also my all-time favourite. It’s creamy, fiery, slightly bitter and slightly tangy… and I never get tired of it. After having prepared at least a dozen identical squid curries, I started to try other protein sources, enjoying every single experiment and this most recent one is a perfect example. Pork and broccoli are certainly not staples in India, but I dare say the result does taste and smell wonderfully Indian to me.
Apart from the usual adjustment of amounts, the replacement of frozen or fresh coconut (see the TIPS) with coconut milk and maybe some shortcuts I often try to invent as a lazy cook, this is more or less the original curry sauce, though I encourage you to discover Rick Stein’s book on your own. (Oh, and I always use coconut fat instead of the oil to fry the spices and onion; I love the additional coconut aroma it adds). Since I used here lean pork, I have treated it in a very un-Indian way, marinating it first in sake and salt, to soften the meat. If you use fattier cuts, you don’t need any marinade.
TIPS: The original recipe calls for frozen or fresh coconut, which is then mixed with water. I have never found frozen coconut; as for fresh… I do see it sometimes, but I’m too lazy to break it, peel it and mix (moreover, I’ve heard most coconuts arriving to Europe aren’t very fresh). This is why I use simply coconut milk.
Tamarind is a delicious “acidifier” of Indian – and also Thai – dishes. It is sold either fresh (but usually it’s the sweet snack version) or in hard dried blocks or in ready-to-use jam-like paste (in jars). I definitely prefer the block version because it keeps forever in the fridge and has a more lively taste than the paste (it’s dissolved in hot water and then strained to obtain “juice”). I never use the paste, so cannot tell you how much of it you should use; if it’s your choice, try to adjust the amounts to your preferences.
You can prepare the masala well in advance and keep for about a week in the fridge. You can also freeze it, but while mixing (you need some liquid to obtain a smooth paste) it’s better to add a bit of water instead of coconut milk which is not always perfect texture-wise after defrosting. The pork can be cut and put into marinade the day before you want to eat it.
Do not increase the amounts of any spices (except for chilli) when you prepare this dish for the first time, otherwise you might end up with a slightly bitter sauce (curcuma and mustard seeds are dangerous here).
I don’t eat mushy broccoli, so I add small florets at the end, until they are just heated. If you like very soft broccoli, add it together with the pork.
How to make Indian or Thai coconut milk curries lighter?
Coconut milk might be healthy, but it’s a high calorie and high fat ingredient. If you want to make a dish lighter, you can obviously add less milk, but you can also replace some of it with water or stock (I always skim the fat; it’s very easy after several hours in the fridge). It won’t be so creamy (I know, it won’t be “genuine traditional cuisine” either), but if you eat coconut milk-based dishes as often as I do, you might understand why I do this quite often… Everything depends on the dish and your preferences, but personally I find certain dishes still delicious with half of the milk replaced with water (or stock).
Do not buy low kcal or “light” coconut milk! It’s simply coconut milk with more water than the “standard” version (you can do it on your own and it will cost you -from my experience – at least twice less).
Preparation: about 30 minutes (except for the min. 1 hour marinade)
Ingredients (serves two):
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sake
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
5 cloves garlic (peeled)
3 fresh red chillies
1 teaspoon powdered turmeric
100 ml/about 1.4 fl oz coconut milk or cream (or, if you can use fresh or frozen grated coconut, combine 50 g of it with 50 ml water)
300 g thinly sliced pork (about 3mm thick); the fatter the cut, the softer it will be, but I’ve used here pork loin and thanks to the marinade and the thin slices it wasn’t tough)
florets from 1/2 big broccoli (divide them into bite-sized pieces)
1 tablespoon coconut fat (or oil of your choice)
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 small onion, sliced
5 garlic cloves, sliced
3 cm ginger, grated into a pulp
2 fresh green chillies, sliced
1/2 Kashmiri chilli powder (or any chilli powder you have)
1 small tomato, chopped (skinned or not)
1 teaspoon salt
3 cm tamarind block piece (or ready-to-use tamarind paste, but adjust the amounts to your taste)
1 teaspoon jaggery or 1/2 teaspoon brown cane sugar
fresh coriander leaves, chopped or left whole
Cut the pork slices into bite-sized pieces. Combine with the marinade ingredients and refrigerate covered for at least one hour.
If you use the tamarind block, place the piece into a glass and pour 50 ml hot water. Leave for fifteen minutes. (In the meantime start preparing the masala paste and the curry). After this time, mix it well and strain leaving the seeds. You will obtain tamarind “juice”.
Prepare the masala paste. Grind all the seeds into a powder in a spice or coffee grinder (you can of course use a pestle and mortar). Add the remaining ingredients and mix well in a food processor (baby food processor is very useful for such pastes), adding the coconut milk/cream ir fresh coconut with water (or, if you want to keep the masala several days or freeze it, add just enough water to make a smooth paste).
Heat the oil and fry mustard seeds at medium heat until they start popping. Add the onion and stir-fry it for ten minutes at medium heat until it starts browning. Add the garlic, the ginger, the green chilli and fry for one more minute. Finally, add the masala paste, the pork, the chilli powder, the tomato, salt and simmer for 10 minutes until the pork is cooked. Add the 1/2 tamarind water and sugar and finally the broccoli florets. Heat for 30 seconds. Adjust the flavours (add more sugar or tamarind juice or water or coconut milk, if using…).
Serve sprinkled with coriander leaves.