Slow cookers bring out the best in pork and Indian flavours

By , on February 18, 2016


Goan pork vindaloo (ShutterStock)
Goan pork vindaloo
(ShutterStock)

There’s a real joy in slowing down in the kitchen. Gone is the frantic stress of trying to get dinner on the table in an instant and in its place comes a different type of gentle cooking. It allows beautiful smells to waft through the house and ingredients to mingle and develop over time into something deep, rich and flavourful.

Of all slow cooked dishes, Goan pork vindaloo is my favourite. Originally a Portuguese stew made with meat, garlic and wine, the dish made its way to India in the 1500s with Portuguese explorers. Like so many other dishes, it then was reinterpreted. Today, vindaloo curry is a sweet, hot and sour dish popular all over the world.

Though the modern recipe, like the original dish, still uses garlic and wine vinegar, it has changed to include chilies and lots of warming spices, such as cinnamon, cumin and cloves. I like to use a cheaper and fattier cut of meat, such as pork shoulder, which responds well to a slow braise and shows its true colours after a few hours to become the best type of pork—succulent, sweet and soft.

Whatever happens, rest assured that there are no wrong moves with slow cooking. It’s one of the only mediums of cooking that creates a level playing field between the pro chef and the amateur. It gives you the flexibility to taste and adjust as you go until it tastes just right. The only trouble is that after several hours of cooking, it will only take a few minutes to eat.

Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder Vindaloo

If you’re nervous about the amount of chili powder, halve the amount called for in the recipe. It will still be delicious. If your slow cooker doesn’t have a saute setting, start the dish in a large saute pan, then transfer to a slow cooker.

Start to finish: 3 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours (1/2 hour active)

Servings: 4

4 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil, divided

20 black peppercorns

1 star anise

3-inch cinnamon stick

6 whole cloves

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

6 cloves garlic, crushed

1 1/2-inch chunk fresh ginger, grated (plus extra to serve)

2 teaspoons chili powder

5 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 medium red onion, finely sliced

28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon sugar

2 1/4 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes

Plain Greek-style yogurt, to serve

Cooked basmati rice, to serve

Set the slow cooker to saute mode. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat until hot. Add the peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon, cloves and cumin. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until the peppercorns and cloves swell and are fragrant. Transfer the spices to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Grind until smooth, then add the garlic, ginger and chili powder. Grind again, then transfer to a small bowl and stir in the vinegar. Set aside.

Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in the slow cooker. When hot, add the onions and cook, stirring often, until brown and caramelized. Add the tomatoes, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the spice paste, salt and sugar. Stir well, then add the pork. Coat the pork with the paste then add just enough water to cover the meat. Stir well, then cover and cook for 3 hours on high or 5 hours on low, or until the meat is completely tender and straining to hold its shape.

Serve topped with grated ginger, dollops of yogurt and basmati rice.

Nutrition information per serving: 740 calories; 210 calories from fat (28 per cent of total calories); 24 g fat (4.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 155 mg cholesterol; 1040 mg sodium; 61 g carbohydrate; 5 g fiber; 12 g sugar; 68 g protein.