We had the pleasure of spending the entire weekend with some of our very best friends. A few years ago, my mom introduced us to her new neighbors, The Owens. Claud and I were inside the house lounging on the couch. My mom took the kids out to the community pool while we stayed inside and vegged. She came back a few minutes later telling us we had to go to the pool, “There’s a new couple in the neighborhood and you have to meet them. They’re British!” We weren’t amused; but, my mom doesn’t take no for an answer. So, a couple of minutes later we were heading down to the pool.
There they were… Nick, a tall slender man with a thick British accent, who looked and sounded a lot like Daniel Craig, was from London. He told us jokes while drinking scotch on the rocks and made smoking cigarettes look cool. He has this way about him, like James Dean only funnier. Julia or “Jules”, relaxed in a recliner with a golden brown tan and blonde bombshell hair and body. Her eyes were bright blue, which complimented her beaming smile. Their children, Meg and James swam and splashed around in the pool with our kids. We sat down and got to know each other over a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. Turns out, Jules was Welsh, and beautiful, and nice, and just as funny as Nick.
Is it bizarre to experience love at first sight with another couple? I don’t mean the sensual sort of love at first sight. I mean the kind of feeling deep within when you know that you really like someone. We can talk all of the time or a couple of months might pass without a word. It doesn’t matter because once we see each other again; it is like we were never apart. It’s friendship love. I am pretty sure this feeling is mutual; but, I shouldn’t assume, right? Wouldn’t it be funny if they were reading this and laughing with each other saying, “She really thinks we like her? It’s Claud we like. She’s weird.”
Since that day at the pool we have been thick as thieves…all four of us. Whenever we can, we get together. Whenever we do, we have a blast. We call ourselves "The Monrowens". Often times we spend our time over a home cooked meal and a couple bottles of wine. Nick and Jules are both incredible cooks. Nick creates the most amazing Indian dishes. We had dinner together on Thursday night and Nick agreed to teach me how he makes his vindaloo masala. Friday, we headed over to their house for this special meal and my lesson in cooking.
Nick’s enthusiasm and passion for cooking this dinner was inspiring. He cooked us his Indian dishes before. However, I was usually chatting with Jules and not paying attention until we reached the eating part. Then, I noticed how delicious it all tasted. I never realized his meticulous ways of preparing it all and the love he puts into each and every step. This time, he explained each detail of the process and then told me why we needed each ingredient or procedure. He also made lamb kebabs and chicken tika masala that night.
The reason I chose to focus on the vindaloo masala is because it is not only delicious, it is also very versatile. This sauce adds spice and flavor to almost anything. Nick told me that this sauce is the basis for so many other Indian dishes. This masala is spicy (or as spicy as you like it). I love that he used three big jalapenos and made the sauce spicy and flavorful. This masala is colorful, and filled with so many incredible ingredients and spices. You can use it for lamb, fish, potatoes, vegetables, paneer (Indian cheese), or whatever you want. Nick told me that he makes a big batch like the one we were making. Then, he freezes it into small baggies to pull out and use for a variety of different dishes.
Nick was precise and insightful in his teaching. I was moved by his passion for the meal. In the end, he presented our plates which were set out in a beautiful picture perfect way. He included a wedge of lemon and a sprinkle of cilantro to add extra flavor and color to the meal.
Then, we sat down and tasted the food. Everything Nick made was delicious that night. I kept adding more and more spoonfuls of the masala. I couldn’t get enough of it. It was the perfect addition to an already wonderful night with amazing friends. We are so lucky my mom is stubborn and wouldn’t let us be lazy on that day one summer long ago. Nick and Jules spice up our lives with their humor, their zest for life, their love for one another, their true friendship and, of course…their food.
Time: 35 minutes
Yield: 4 cups of sauce
1 ½ large white onions, quartered
3 large jalapenos, chopped
2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and chopped
6 tablespoons crushed garlic
1 tablespoon ghee or clarified butter (or olive oil)
3 large tomatoes, diced
4 tablespoons vindaloo paste (Cub Foods in Mankato has this)
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
5 curry leaves
1 cinamon stick
In a pot, boil the onions until opaque and soft. While these boil, blend together the jalapenos, ginger, and garlic. Add the boiled onions and blend together more. In a large pan, heat the ghee or oil. Pour in the blended mixture. Let this simmer for at least ten minutes. You want to cook a lot of the water out and let it reduce. Blend together the tomatoes in a food processor while this reduces. Add the vindaloo paste and the vinegar. Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, curry leaves, cinnamon stick and the cardamoms. Allow the sauce to simmer for another fifteen mintues.