A Continental Cuisine Series

India Journal

Back in Newcastle: Vindaloo

I arrive at King’s Cross in plenty and time and find my seat. There is something nice about travelling in the middle of the day. The coach is empty and nice and calm. I write up a couple of blogs and relax with a coffee and a sandwich that I have to say is rather good.
The trip is about 31/2 hours and it’s a pleasant day so I relax, but I did get a chance to read the script to find put what we are up to tomorrow.

I get to Newcastle and its dark. Reza is late and director Christina and Hannah are getting in really late. I get to the hotel and check in. The room is freezing, but its very clean Sarah receptionist is very helpful and comes to the room to sort out the heating controls. I have a hot bath and warm up.
Matt cameraman calls to say he was here and shall we meet up for a beer. I book a table at a friend’s restaurant for 9.30. I have known the owner of Newcastle’s most famous restaurant Café 21 for many years. Terry Laybourne, the owner is a serious cook and is still pumping out great food. After a couple of beers and getting slightly lost we find his restaurant.
It’s smart and packed, brilliant for a Monday night. We are welcomed and have a drink. Few minutes later, the man himself turns up; it’s good to see him after so many years. We catch up and josh each other about the old days and the fact that we are now old guys!!! (speak for yourself chap) His menu is very good full of great dishes and sprinkled with some new ideas. I have scallops with cauliflower puree and raisins. It delicious and a very well balanced dish. Next a very nice beef tatare with fries, salad and extra spinach.

We all get back to the hotel and crash, I’m knackered. I sleep well until the alarm goes off at 6.00. I meet the crew and we all have a bite to eat and head straight off to our first location the famous curry restaurant Rupani to film the cooking sequence of our vindaloo’s I’m cooking a pork version with vinegar and tomatoes with cloves and coriander. Reza is plumping for a beef version, thicker and with a more beefy flavour.
We have fun and film several times, teasing each other about ingredients and cooking ability. Both dishes turn out well and we re both very happy. Rukon, owner of the restaurant and his staff are really helpful. Nothing is too much trouble. I taste his he tastes mine and we agree that it’s going to be close.

We decamp to the precinct and set up the Phil & Reza cooking marquee for the taste test with the good and the great of Newcastle. Once we are happy, the contest begins and Reza take a swift lead. I’m a bit worried, but its not long before I claw some votes back. A lot of the students of Newcastle seem to like Reza’s due to his chili kick, and mine for the sweet and sour flavour. After 1 hour its time to count the votes, its really close. In fact it couldn’t get any closer, it’s a draw, yes 42 votes each!
We film the ending a couple of times and have pictures with the public, it’s the best turnout we have had re the public. The Newcastle folk really do like their curries hot and certainly live up to the title of enjoying the hottest in Britain.
We head back to the restaurant to interview Rukon about his hottest dish.
The interview is over and we finally get a chance to try the hottest curry in the world (according to him) we taste…there is nothing for a few seconds then bang! The heat not only burns my mouth but lips to. My nose starts to run and I can feel the veins pumping in my neck. It gets hotter and I gulp down a Lassi Reza thankfully had made earlier in preparation for the event. Its so hot it’s not pleasant and I cannot understand why people do it. I quiz Rukon on how many people eat this dish a week. He explains that about 30 people a week with only 10 completely finishing the dish. Why am I not surprised? If you eat the lot, you get it free, a certificate and named on their website in the aptly named ‘Hall of Flame’ I reckon you should get a free trip to casualty to get your stomach pumped out. We end and have a laugh, then pack up and say our goodbyes.

It’s the end of another great series and I wonder if the boy and me will do some other stuff together. That would me fun, but where do we go?
This series has been a good one for me as I have never been to India. My knowledge of Indian food was pretty good but I had no idea how vast the subject was. To cook jalfrezi in Kolcatta, Vindaloo in Goa and chicken tikka masala in Delhi has been a real privilege, and to go with a master like Reza has been a once in a lifetime experience, I’m a lucky bloke.


4-6 persons

Preparation time:- 1 hour.
Cooking time:- 2 ½ hours.


  • 750g roughly, large cubed shoulder of pork, I like some extra fat
  • 4 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. salt
  • 2 dried large red dried chillis
  • 100mmls warm water
  • 1 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. whole coriander, crushed
  • 2-3 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 tsp. ground fenugreek
  • 6 tbsp. oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh ginger
  • 3 onions finely sliced
  • 8 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 20 curry leaves
  • 300mls tomato juice
  • 2 tbsp. cider vinegar
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Sugar


  1. Pre heat the oven to 180C gas 4
  2. Place the cubed pork into a bowl add the salt and sugar and mix well cover and leave for 1 hour. Mixing occasionally. After 1 hour, rinse well in a colander to remove all salt and sugar.
  3. Pat dry with kitchen paper.
  4. Place the chillis into the warm water and soak for 30 minutes. Then chop up and make a paste, a pestle and mortar is goo here, but chop them finely first.
  5. Gently toast in a large frying pan the cumin and corianders, then add the masala and fenugreek off the heat. Cool
  6. Place in a large pan the oil, then add the garlic and ginger and colour well. Then add the onions and brown well again.
  7. Next add the tomatoes, puree, paprika, curry leaves, juice, vinegar, sugar and salt and pepper.
  8. Stir well and add the spices chopped soaked chilli and water and cook down until the sauce is nice and thick.
  9. Sauté the pork quickly in hot oil to brown well and add to the sauce, check the seasoning.
  10. Bring to a simmer and cover, pop into the oven and cook for 1 hour 30 minutes.
  11. Check at that point, the meat should be tender and succulent, but not overcooked.
  12. If cooked serve with boiled rice.


Serves 4


To make the spice mix

  • 2 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 8 cloves
  • 8 cardamom pods
  • 2 x 5cm cassia barks
  • 1.5 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
  • 1.5 tsp. fennel seeds

To make the paste

  • 10 - 12 whole dried red chilies, soaked in hot water for approx. 20 - 30 mins
  • 8 plump cloves of garlic
  • 1 large chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp. chopped ginger
  • 100 ml red wine vinegar
  • Additional ingredients
  • 3 - 4 tbsp. ghee/vegetable/sunflower/rapeseed oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1kg chuck steak cut into 4cm cubes
  • 550ml beef stock
  • 3 tbsp. tomato puree and 1.5 tsp. chili powder dissolved in 2 tbsp. of water
  • 1.5 tsp. soft dark brown sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 - 2 tbsp. chopped coriander to garnish


  1. Using a frying pan, toast the whole spices over a low/medium heat, until they have released their natural oils and become fragrant.
  2. Transfer the toasted spices to a coffee grinder and ground to a fine powder. Set aside.

For the paste

  1. Put all the ingredients to make the paste into a jug blender and blend until very smooth. Add half the ground spice mixture to the blended paste. Mix well.
  2. Decant the remaining spice mix into an airtight container and store for future use.
  3. In a large mixing bowl combine the meat and paste. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Cover with cling film and leave to refrigerate over night.
  5. Remove the meat from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.
  6. In a wide, heavy bottomed pan (with fitted lid), heat the oil/ghee over a high heat and add the bay leaves. Once the oil is hot, add the marinated meat and stir-fry for 5 to 6 minutes to cook and seal the meat to trap the flavours.
  7. Heat the beef stock until the liquid is hot and add the stock to the pan. Bring the pan to the boil, cover and simmer on a very low heat for 20 minutes.
  8. Now add the diluted tomato puree/chili mixture to the pan. Stir the puree into the meat and continue to simmer for a further 40 minutes until the meat is tender. Keep checking the pan every 20 minutes to make sure the sauce has not become too dry. If it has, add a dash of hot water.
  9. The end result should be a lovely rich, thick sauce.
  10. Add the sugar and adjust seasoning. Garnish with coriander to serve.
  11. NB Chuck steak has more fat and flavour and will retain more moisture. You can use braising steak, but cooking time has to be extended to 2.5 hours, but still checking liquid levels every 20 mins. 


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