Cooking Wild: Bear Vindaloo Recipe

This fiery recipe is just one more great reason for hunting bear.

Perhaps you harvested a huge bruin in northern Alberta or on the coast of BC this year? Perhaps you have leftover meat from your northern Saskatchewan hunt last season? My motto, when it comes to cooking bear meat, is that if a recipe works for beef, it’ll work even better for bear! Well, at least any recipe that calls for long, slow cooking such as this mouthwatering stew that’s loaded with the lively spices of Indian cuisine.

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The age-old story behind “Vindaloo” is that the dish actually derived from a Portuguese recipe known as “Carne de Vinha d’ Alhos,” made from domestic meat, usually pork or lamb, stewed in a rich sauce of wine and garlic. In the 1500s, the Portuguese introduced the original recipe to Goa, one of India’s smallest states, during Portugal’s colonial holdings in India. After Goan chefs tweaked the recipe by infusing it with traditional Indian spices commonly used in their country dishes, it took on its new name — Vindaloo and became one of the “hottest” curries ever created, second only to Tindaloo — the “king of fire!”

But don’t start sweating yet! Even though an authentic Vindaloo is hot enough to melt a spoon the good news is, when making your own version of the recipe you can easily control the heat by “upping” or “downing” the amount of chilies to suit your own tolerance.

Bear is my favourite meat for the Vindaloo pot but you can use any venison member or beef if you don’t have a stash of bear or other game meat in your freezer. And speaking of a pot, nothing beats a heavy cast-iron Dutch oven for making Vindaloo as it holds and distributes heat evenly producing a rich, thick sauce.

Some modern day North American cooks find it more convenient to use commercially prepared Vindaloo sauce that comes ready made in a jar, which is handy but once you’ve tasted authentic Vindaloo made from fresh ground spices, the bottled stuff just won’t do!

The traditional Indian spices mentioned below can be found at larger supermarkets in the spice aisle as well as in the bulk food section. Buying spices in bulk is more economical and if stored in tightly capped containers on the pantry shelf, they’ll save indefinitely. Serve Bear Vindaloo with steamed basmati rice and easy-to-make Chappatis, recipe below. Red wine compliments the dish but beer is better if you need to douse the flame.

Bear Vindaloo

  • 2 pounds bear meat (stew-cut or a shoulder roast cut into one-inch cubes)
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 3 dried chili peppers for medium-hot (more or less to suit taste)
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • Seeds from 4 green cardamom pods, shucks discarded
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 minced onions
  • 1 minced green pepper
  • Small knob of peeled ginger root
  • 4 cloves peeled garlic
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric

Using a pestle and mortar finely grind cumin seeds, chili peppers, peppercorns, cardamom seeds, fenugreek and mustard seeds. Add sugar and vinegar and blend well. Heat one tablespoon of oil in Dutch oven and fry onion and green pepper until soft. Transfer onion mixture to blender; add the spice mixture and process until smooth. Put remaining oil into the pan and sauté meat for 15 minutes. Push to the side of pot and add ginger, garlic, coriander and turmeric and sauté for three minutes. Stir in the onion and spice mixture and cook for 10 minutes over low heat. Add two cups water, cover and simmer until meat is tender and gravy is reduced to a thick sauce covering the meat. If you prefer thinner gravy, add more water throughout cooking. Serves four to six.

Easy Chappatis

Measure two cups of flour into a bowl. Add pinch of salt. Blend in enough warm water to make smooth, pliable dough. Divide into six pieces. Roll into thin circles and fry in a six to eight-inch cast-iron skillet until speckled on both sides. Do not grease the pan. Makes six.

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