Squash & Tempeh Vindaloo

Back, a long long time ago, when I still used to eat other mammals, my partner and I used to love having vindaloo together. Since then, it had become a bit of a sore spot for us both, since they really loved the hot and sour sauce but I was no longer eating pork (or any other mammal for that matter), and tofu wasn’t so much their thing. Almost a decade later, we’ve found a compromise that makes both our mouths water and our tastebuds sing and this is what I share with you this morning.

Like Madhur Jaffrey’s original recipe from her book Indian Cookery, it’s a ton of ingredients for the sauce, a lot of work and a lot of steps. That said, the taste is worth every minute spent at the stovetop and our household diners stopped speaking for the duration of dinner; which is a rarity at our table. Unlike the original recipe, it’s been given the crunchy treatment, so the oil content and ingredients vary somewhat as compared to the original. If you want to go authentic, do feel free to use the full 5 tablespoons of vegetable oil called for and raw garlic rather than the mellower roasted garlic suggested here (oh – and also add a couple of hot red chilies to the sauce, we’re spice wimps)!

Regardless of how you choose to make it, serve the curry over mounds of fluffy rice or with a nice large slab of naan bread alongside. And perhaps a pale ale too…

Yield: 3 servings (feel free to double the recipe if you want more. Or leftovers. It’s no more work to make double and you’ll wish you had if you don’t.)

What you need:

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1” stick of cinnamon, broken up
  • 1 whole black cardamom pod
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or more or less, to taste)
  • 8 cloves roasted garlic (I roast lots ahead of time and keep them, peeled and bagged, in the freezer for use. There are lots of great tutorials on-line that provide instructions on how to roast and peel garlic.)
  • 2 or 3 medium-sized onions, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons mustard or olive oil, divided
  • a 1” piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups water, divided
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 4 cups winter squash wedges, each wedge cut in half to make a beautiful isosceles triangle
  • 8 oz tempeh, cut into triangles and deep-fried, pan-fried or roasted (see the note after the recipe on tempeh butchery for the triangles. For the pre-cooking, there are tutorials on-line that cover deep-frying, pan-frying and roasting depending on what you prefer, should you not be familiar with the methods.)
  • freshly chopped cilantro to serve (optional)

What you do:

  1. Grind the cumin seed, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, cardamom pod, mustard seeds and fenugreek together to make a fine meal. Place in a bowl and mix with the salt, maple syrup and apple cider vinegar. Set aside.
  2. Heat a frying pan (you have a lid for) over medium heat. When hot, add 1 teaspoon of the oil and the sliced onions. Stir to coat the onions in the oil and turn the heat down to medium low. Cover the pan and let the onions sweat/sauté/caramelize until soft, light gold and jam-like. You’ll have to stir and turn the heat down every so often to avoid the onions cooking too quickly or burning. Cover the pan again between interventions. The entire process will take about an hour, most of it waiting time. Feel free to use that time to prep the tempeh, cut the squash or engage in your favourite hobby between stirs of the onions.
  3. When the onions are done, transfer them to a Magic Bullet type (or other small capacity) blender. Add a cup of water to the pan and scrape all the yummy caramelized bits from the bottom and up into the water. Add the water to the blender along with the roasted garlic. Whiz until smooth and creamy. Mix this in with the mustard sauce and spices from step 1. Set the sauce aside again.
  4. Add another 1/2 cup of water to the blender and shake it around to pick up any of the sauce you weren’t able to scrape out. Add the chopped ginger. Whiz the water and ginger until smooth and foamy. Set aside (separately from the sauce).
  5. Heat a heavy-bottomed pot over medium flame. When hot, add the remaining teaspoon of oil and the squash wedges to the pot. Distribute the squash wedges in as single a layer as possible over the bottom of the pot. Sauté, lower the heat a little as necessery, until the squash is golden on most sides.
  6. Add the ginger water to the pot and scrape the caramelized bits up off the bottom and back into the liquid. The liquid will reduce and thicken quite quickly. When thick, add the coriander and turmeric powders and stir to mix. Follow it up with the mustard-spice-onion-garlic sauce and stir to combine everyting together and coat the squash in the sauce. Check the thickness of the sauce adding a bit more liquid if required or desired for your liking. Taste and adjust the salt. Bring to a simmer, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until the squash is fork-tender, 20-25 minutes.
  7. Remove the lid, add the cooked tempeh (deep-frying the tempeh is definitely recommended if you like crunch…). Stir to mix and coat the tempeh in the sauce. Cover and simmer gently another 5 minutes or so, to heat the tempeh through.
  8. Serve, garnished with fresh chopped coriander leaves atop the curry.

Note – Tempeh Butchery Tutorial – In images:

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