The Mouthfeel of Meat

The problem is not the flavor. The problem is the texture. I am confident I can achieve the flavor with relative ease. What I cannot imagine being able to do is replicate the texture to a sufficient degree to enable me to turn my vision into reality. I’m thinking, of course, of vindaloo tamales. I’m satisfied I can achieve the right texture if I use lamb or beef or chicken, but a vegetarian version of vindaloo tamales seems out of reach. Not that I’ve tried. I haven’t made vindaloo tamales of any sort. But I think I could if I tried. As long as I use meat. But the thing is, if I want to make a vegetarian version, I need a vegetable base that retains its “tooth.” I’m not sure that’s the word I want, but it will have to do in the absence of anything better. What I’m trying to describe is the resistance to one’s bite; the “mouthfeel of meat,” if you get what I mean. But with vegetables.

I may forego the vegetarian version. Lamb vindaloo tamales sound perfectly fine. Even more than perfectly fine. Beef, not so much. Chicken, even less. But lamb. Oh. Yes. Indeed. So, what I’m aiming for, then, is lamb vindaloo tamales and, if the universe were a cooperative, helpful place, vegetarian vindaloo tamales with the “mouthfeel of meat.” So, when will this undertaking occur? That’s hard to say. I need a cooperative wife or other cooperative partner; a nice girlfriend would do, I suppose, but that might create some friction with a certain wife. Regardless of the identity of the cooperative partner, I also need some lamb. And, if vegetables are to figure into this equation, one or more cooperative vegetables that will deliver the (always use quotation marks) “mouthfeel of eat.”

Here is a recipe I might try (I haven’t yet):

Lamb Vindaloo Tamales

• 3 lb boneless lamb shoulder, cut into roughly 2-in chunks (veggie alternatives???)
• 4 oz red wine vinegar
• 2 tbsp sunflower oil
• 2 tsp sea salt flakes
• 1lb potatoes, peeled and cut into roughly 1-inch pieces

For the sauce
• 4 oz sunflower oil
• 4 onions, 3 finely sliced and 1 chopped
• 6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
• 3 jalapeño or hot Asian red chile (do not deseed), roughly chopped
• 1oz fresh root ginger, peeled, roughly chopped
• 1 tbsp English mustard powder
• 1 tbsp ground cumin
• 1 tbsp ground coriander
• 1 tbsp ground paprika
• 2 tsp ground turmeric
• 2 tsp cayenne pepper
• 1 tsp ground cinnamon
• 2 tsp sea salt flakes
• 2 bay leaves

Preparation method

  1. Trim the lamb, discarding any really hard lumps of fat and sinew. Mix the vinegar, vegetable oil and salt in bowl until well combined. Add the lamb and turn to coat in the marinade. Cover and chill in the fridge for two hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350.
  3. For the sauce, heat three tablespoons of the sunflower oil in a large heavy-based frying pan and cook the sliced onions very gently over a medium-low heat for 15 minutes until softened and lightly browned, stirring occasionally.
  4. While the sliced onions are cooking, put the remaining chopped onion, garlic, chiles, ginger, mustard powder, cumin, coriander, paprika, tumeric, cayenne pepper and cinnamon in a food processor and blend to a purée.
  5. Stir the purée into the fried onions. Add two tablespoons of oil and cook together for five minutes, or until thickened and beginning to color. Remove the mixture from the pan and place into a casserole dish.
  6. Drain the lamb in a colander and reserve the marinade. Return the frying pan to the heat and add two tablespoons of the remaining oil. Fry the lamb in four or five batches over a medium-high heat, turning occasionally until lightly browned. Add a little extra oil if necessary. Add the lamb to the casserole.
  7. Pour the reserved marinade and 2- 1/4 cup water into the casserole dish. Add the salt and bay leaves and bring to a simmer. Cover the surface of the curry with a piece of greaseproof paper (parchment), then cover with a lid. Cook in the oven for 45 minutes.
  8. Remove the casserole from the oven and stir the potato chunks into the curry, re-cover with the greaseproof paper and the lid and continue to cook for a further hour or until the lamb and potatoes are very tender. The consistency of the vindaloo matters with tamales; cook until much of the liquid has dissipated and the meat and potato mix is quite thick. Season, to taste, with salt.
  9. Prepare masa using the traditional means.
  10. FILL, FOLD AND STEAM THE TAMALES Select 30 of the largest husks without tears or large holes. Arrange 1 husk on a work surface with the narrow end pointing away from you. On the wide end, spread 3 tablespoons of the Tamale Dough in a 5-by-3-inch rectangle, leaving a 1/2-inch border of husk at the bottom. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the cooled vindaloo filling in the center of the Tamale Dough. Fold in the long sides of the husk, overlapping them to enclose the filling. Fold the narrow end toward you, over the tamale; it will be open at the wide end. Stand the tamale, open end up, in a very large steamer insert. Repeat with the remaining corn husks, Tamale Dough and filling.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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