Updated: Apr 6, 2022
"If jealousy was the vindaloo of love, I'd imagined her tongue burning, and such a fire forcing her to spill her truth."
Hanif Kureishi (2009)
I put the word “Vindaloo“ in inverted commas for good reason: this is not a traditional Vindaloo recipe. It’s a skate dish where the fish is cooked in a Vindaloo masala, somewhat in the style of the modern-day take on Indian cuisine that has seen chefs such as Atul Kochhar and the restaurants of Camellia Panjabi attain Michelin stars. In fact, as I was conceiving this recipe, I was very aware that Atul Kochhar was somewhere in the influencesphere. What I mean by that is that, in his book “Fish Indian Style” there are several recipes which you might be tempted to describe as deconstructed curries.
Why was I minded to go down this route? Well, it's certainly true to say that pork Vindaloo is a traditional Catholic Goan dish. And you will find recipes that replace the pork with duck so as to be accessible to the Muslims and Hindus that coexist with the Catholics of Goa. Madhur Jaffrey deals with this in a little detail in her book "Madhur Jaffrey's Ultimate Curry Bible". But, in his distinctly fishy days, Rick Stein put a recipe for shark Vindaloo in "Rick Stein's Seafood Odyssey", which totally captured my imagination. Shark is a fish that is on sale in India and, 15-20 years ago, it was pretty easy to buy shark from fishmongers and even supermarkets in the UK. But it has become endangered as a species from overfishing (see link) and you will find it probably nowhere now. OK, we move on.
The thing is, skate is a closely related species to shark (and huss) so all I was thinking was that, seeing as shark Vindaloo is a jolly nice thing to eat, surely skate Vindaloo could be too. It is. And although there are some skate species that are also endangered, the ones we can buy from the market stall are not amongst them.
I’m really pleased with this idea - it’s delicious. And I’m looking forward to making it many more times.
This is an incredibly simple dish to prepare for two, but I’m not sure how best to do it for numbers. A large baking tray, some tin foil and a hot oven would be my first thoughts. But for the moment I write this as a recipe for two.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
Skate wing, one or two pieces, skinned and sufficient for two servings
3 tbsp Vindaloo masala
2-3 tbsp red wine or cider vinegar
Sea salt, to taste
1-2 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 or 2 tomatoes, finely chopped (ideally skinned and deseeded first)
Caster sugar, to taste
Green chillies, quantity to taste
Marinate the skate in 1 tbsp Vindaloo masala, 1 tbsp vinegar and a sprinkling of salt. Cover and leave for 20-30 minutes at room temperature.
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a saute pan (for which you have a lid) and fry the skate for a minute on each side to caramelise the exterior. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add a little more oil to the pan if necessary and fry the onion until it is golden and slightly caramelised then add 2 tbsp Vindaloo masala. Fry until the masala has lost its rawness then add the chopped tomato, 2 tbsp vinegar, a sprinkling of salt and a touch of sugar, to taste. Allow to cook for a few minutes, stirring regularly, until the tomatoes have broken down.
Pour in 125ml water and bring to the boil. Return the skate to the pan, cover with a lid and simmer gently for 10 minutes. If you wish, you can turn the fish over halfway through.
Remove the skate from the pan and put on serving plates. At this point you can boil the gravy for a few minutes to thicken it up, and adjust the seasoning with salt, sugar and vinegar according to preference. Pour the sauce over the fish and serve with rice, lime wedges, a cucumber salad and possibly a raita.
"Fish Indian Style", Atul Kochhar (2008), pp. 137: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fish-Indian-Style-Simple-Recipes/dp/1904573835
"Madhur Jaffrey's Ultimate Curry Bible", Madhur Jaffrey (2003), pp. 107: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Madhur-Jaffreys-Ultimate-Curry-Bible/dp/0091874157
"Rick Stein's Seafood Odyssey", Rick Stein (1999), pp. 36: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rick-Steins-Seafood-Odyssey-Stein/dp/0563551860