Sometimes spelled Vadavam, this Franco-Indian creole flavor originated in the French colony of Pondicherry, and from there spread to various regions in SE India. Those of you who have been to la Porte des Indes restaurant in London, (also in Brussels and part of the Blue Elephant chain of Thai restaurants, which possibly has a facility in Dubai) may be familiar with it. It is used as a seasoning paste, and is excellent with almost anything. This is not the recipe from the La Porte des Indes cookbook, which includes various dhals, but adapted from the recipe of another French restaurant.
This has recently become very popular with innovative restaurants. Try it with baked potatoes, or sauteed chicken breasts. Or in sandwiches. It kicks almost anything up a notch.
Apologies for the picture, I took it myself with a cheapo camera.
Makes about. 300 ml
350 g onions, cut into 2 cm pieces
150 shallots, coarsely chopped
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
50- 75 ml vegetable oil
5 g fenugreek seeds
6 fresh curry leaves, cut into thin slices (optional)
5 g ground cumin
5 g brown mustard seeds
5 g ground turmeric
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
Pinch ground cloves
30 g sea salt
15 g teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180° C. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the onions in the bowl of a food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped, then transfer to a bowl. Repeat with the shallots, then the garlic, adding them to the same bowl. Heat 50 ml of the oil in a large, deep nonstick skillet over high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the onion mixture and cook, stirring often, for 25 to 30 minutes, until the mixture is golden and browned in spots. Add the remaining oil if needed. Meanwhile, use an electric spice grinder or a mortar and pestle to grind the fenugreek seeds.
Add to the skillet, along with the curry leaves, if using, the cumin, mustard seeds, turmeric, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, cloves, salt and pepper, stirring to mix well. Transfer the mixture to the lined baking sheet, spreading it evenly to the edges of the paper. Bake, stirring occasionally, for 60 to 90 minutes, until the vadouvan has browned and is barely moist. Let it cool slightly, then transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse just until no large chunks of onion or shallot remain; the consistency will be somewhat coarse and a little loose. Let cool completely before serving or storing. It will keep indefintely, refrigerated.