Yesterday was Pi day, which bloggers and non-bloggers took as an excuse to bake pies. And I took as an excuse to cook some pork, which has about as much to do with the mathematical constant “pi” as those pies.
Some time in the past, I came across a recipe which called itself, Southwestern-Spiced Pork Tenderloin. It had cumin, cinnamon and black pepper and something called chili powder, which is not the Indian chilli powder but a concoction that has a bunch of chilli peppers apart from garlic and oregano. The pork dish tasted so Indian that I could have easily put up a recipe called the Indian Spiced Pork Tenderloin with the same ingredients, except the oregano. But then, a whole bunch of people might have accused me of plagiarism. Because you see, the Southwestern refers to a part of the USA and not India.
Anyway, remember my hypothesis about the dish chilli? Well here is another example of a heavy import of Indian spices into the cuisine of this particular region of the USA. Anyway, so I thought to myself, how can I make this dish so Indian that nobody will think of mistaking it for the American Southwestern one? So here is the result, drum roll…the Minimalist Indian Spiced Pork Tenderloin.
Since I am wearing my minimalist hat, this recipe has half the ingredients of the original one. My son and husband could not stop praising it. I sneaked a bite, because as the chef I felt it was my duty to check out things first hand. It was delicious! And it reminded me a bit of one of those delicious north-Indian pickles. Perhaps the presence of dried mango powder or amchur had something to do with that.
You can use any kind of meat for this dish. Also the spice mix will be great on some fish or shrimps or even tofu, paneer or a slab of cauliflower. So vegetarians, don’t leave yet.
Recipe: The Minimalist Indian Spiced Pork Tenderloin
Cooking time 30 minutes, including preparation
The amount below will serve two people along with a side of roast potatoes for a light meal
For 230 gms of pork tenderloin, I took
1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
Half a teaspoon of cinnamon bits (I broke a big piece by hand)
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of amchur or dried mango powder (available in Indian or International food stores)
1 tablespoon oil
Process – Put your roasting pan into the oven and preheat your oven to 230 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, take all the whole spices in a small frying pan and toast over medium high heat, with frequent stirring. If you don’t have whole spices but only powders, toast anyway. Once you start smelling the aroma of spices and/or see the smoke rising, you will have to stir constantly. Let the spices brown nicely, but do not let them burn! The only way to avoid that is to stir constantly, I cannot repeat this enough. The whole process will probably not take more than five minutes. Here is a picture of my roasted spices:
They are just darker but not very dark. But my kitchen was ready to take off into space with the aroma!
Now remove from heat immediately and pour the spices into a bowl or plate until you are ready to grind them into a powder using your coffee grinder or spice mill, or a mortar and pestle if you feel like some muscle-work. Mix in your salt and amchur. The salt I have in the picture is called Himalayan pink salt and comes in big crystals. So naturally, I ground it with the spices. No, I am not a salt snob. My son fell in love with the bag of pretty pink crystals prominently displayed in the supermarket and had to have some. And I was in the mood to humour him. I say, just use any salt that you have. It will be just the same.
This spice mixture is called a dry-rub, because now this powder will be rubbed on the meat without the addition of any liquid. You will have to really press the spices into the meat to make it stick. In case you are using a vegetable instead of meat or tofu/paneer, see note below. For meat that is not one big chunk but comes in pieces, also see note.
Take the roasting pan out of the oven and pour the oil. Immediately, lay the meat on the oil and slide the pan back into the oven. I roasted for 8 minutes before flipping the meat. I also lowered the temperature to 200 degrees Celsius and roasted for another 10 minutes. The meat was perfectly done. The cooking time should be increased to 10 minutes at the first stage and 10-15 minutes for the second stage for meat up to one and a half kilos of meat. If you don’t have a big chunk of meat then do not roast in the oven, see note below.
After a maximum of 20-25 minutes, take out meat and rest on the countertop, lightly tented with a sheet of aluminium foil on top. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. This is very important! Serve with roast potatoes like I did. I had the potatoes roasting in the oven for an hour at 200 Celsius (tossed in oil and salt), then increased the temperature, took out the potatoes and arranged them on the sides of the baking dish. Then I put the pork in the middle and continued with the roasting procedure as usual. At the end, when I took out the meat to carve, I tossed the potatoes in the spices left over from the roast pork on the baking dish. All you need is a salad although the men in my family consider such things highly optional.
Note 1: For vegetables or pieces of meat, I would recommend to add the oil to the spice powder and then toss the meat or vegetables in it. Then either roast or stir fry over high heat until done.
Note 2: This spice mix is so delicious, both in aroma and flavour, that I would recommend making extra quantities so you can store the surplus in a jar and sneak it into all kinds of dishes for a kick. You can add more or less peppercorn depending on your tolerance for heat. You can also add paprika powder for a red colour to the mixture. A red-chilli powder like Indians use, can also be added for extra heat.