During my university years (college years to our American readers), I befriended someone who, like me, was trying to get something out of earning a degree. Besides all things technology, he and I shared a love of Indian food. It wasn’t difficult to figure out why. His mother prepared some of the best Indian dishes I have ever tasted. She taught me there are regional specificities when it comes to Indian food, food being built into the culture no matter if you are Sikh or Hindu. Moreover, techniques, equipment, spice blends, and dishes vary with cooking styles. Most of what is popularized as “Indian food” in North America has British origins. Consider the chicken tikka masala. Legend has it, a cook in a London curry house accidentally spilled tomato soup into a batch of butter chicken and created the popular menu item.
Years later, when I visited him in NYC, my friend took me to restaurants that served Northern Indian and Bangladeshi dishes. Forget Michelin stars. I was in heaven.
In Ottawa, one of the few Indian restaurants he would visit was East India Company, located off of the Elgin Street drag (210 Somerset Street W.). While it serves dishes that are more Southern Indian, he recommended the daals.
There are two restaurants under the banner East India Company. The second is located in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
East India Company also retails the spice blends it uses in its restaurants both online and locally at Ottawa’s Farm Boy locations.
We at foodiePrints started chatting with the chef of the Ottawa restaurant during the three months applications for on-street food vendor licenses were being considered. Chef Nitin Mehra originally wanted to open a dosa cart. He has been working to convince the city to let him sell dosas street-side in front of his restaurant for years. Because of scheduling conflicts this summer, he withdrew his application before the licenses were awarded.
Several weeks ago Mehra started tweeting about a Spice Up Your Life Recipe contest. Partnering with Algonquin College’s culinary school, East India Company will offer prizes for recipes, employing its spice blends. The recipes must feature said spices. Winning recipes will be chosen by a judging panel of chefs, mostly for creativity.
Jenn and I are entering recipes, one each. Here is the first, tandoori bacon.
East India Company Tandoori Bacon
[The technique for making bacon comes out of Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie. So do the ratios for the cure.]
What You’ll Need:
- 1 pork belly
- Tandoori Bacon Cure (note: this recipe produces enough cure for 5-6 pork bellies)
- 450 g larger flake coarse salt (Kosher works)
- 100 g raw (or brown) sugar
- 125 g granulated white sugar
- 50 g sodium nitrite (optional)
- 100 g of East India Company Tandoori Spices (an entire box)
Regarding the sodium nitrite, it is a preservative that prevents botulism. Some studies link (correlate) nitrite to cancer. However, the link isn’t quite “causal.” Smoked meats, treated with nitrite, are also linked. Presently, researchers are studying if it is actually the compounds deposited onto meat through smoking that are carcinogenic. Whatever the determination, using nitrite is entirely up to you.
Flavour-wise, the “picante”-ness of commercial bacon comes from nitrite. Nitrite also fixes the colour of the meat pink or red, which is why cooking pork belly treated with sodium nitrite requires a probe thermometer.
- Put all of the cure components into a container and mix thoroughly.
- Cut the bacon so it fits into your largest zip-top bag.
- Place 1/4 cup of the cure into a tray and coat one side of the belly pieces.
- Sprinkle another 1/4 cup of the cure on the other side.
- Let the excess fall off.
- Place the pieces into zip-top bags, seal them, and place them in the fridge. Depending on the thickness of the belly, it will need to cure from 5 (thinner heritage pork) to 7 days (thicker commercial pork).
- After curing, wash the cure off the belly pieces and pat them dry.
- Place the belly pieces on racks in an oven preheated to 200F until the internal temperature reaches 150F (30 – 45 minutes). Alternatively, hot smoke the bellies to the same internal temperature. For the record, we are fond of apple wood.
Treat your resultant bacon like bacon. Slice it thin and finish in a pan.
Refrigerate leftovers, which will stay good for several weeks. Frozen, the bacon will last several months.
What does tandoori spice cured bacon taste like? Think tandoori chicken seasonings…only bacon-y, owing to East India Company’s spice blend of paprika, cayenne, nutmeg, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, and green cardamom.
Have bacon will BLT!