One of my favourite things in the world to eat is Japanese curry. I know some curry aficionados turn up their noses at Japanese curry. Such food snobs are quick to comment, and usually rather dismissively, “It’s not really curry”. And I can tell when these critics give me a certain look that they’re thinking to themselves, “And this schmuck thinks of himself of a foodie? How pathetic!” Nonetheless, I really do enjoy the taste of Japanese curry and often find myself craving a homey and comforting bowl of curry rice.
I do have to say that the above-mentioned food snobs are correct to an extent. Japanese curry isn’t a curry in the way that we, in Southeast and South Asia, would define this type of food. And that’s because Japanese curry and the way in which it is made, was brought to Japan by the British. Or to be more accurate, historians believe it came with the Anglo-Indian officers of the Royal Navy in the late 19th century. In fact, curry, when it first arrived in Japan, was classified as yoshoku, i.e. Western food. Like all yoshoku dishes, Japanese curry has, with time, evolved to incorporate local ingredients and to suit the Japanese palate.
According to a Japan Times article, the earliest recipes for raise kari (curry rice) appeared in Japanese cookbooks in 1872. Curry, according to these recipes, was made by thickening a simple meat and vegetable broth with a spoonful of flour and chopped or minced apples. Over time, Japanese chefs, who also learnt French cooking techniques swapped out plain flour and started using roux as the thickening agent. Roux is made by whisking flour into hot melted clarified butter. The result is a thick but smooth paste. Using roux in Japanese curry meant smoother, richer curries.
One of the biggest differences between Japanese curry and curries from South or Southeast Asia, is that with the former, you are essentially making curry sauce. You can then pour this sauce over whatever food you’ve prepared or add different meats into it.
One of my own favourite curry recipes (that I have written about before) comes from, of all places, the Harry’s Bar Cookbook. Now, I have absolutely no idea why this famous restaurant in Venice, Italy, has both a shrimp curry and a chicken curry on its menu, but both dishes (especially the shrimp) are delicious. The Cipriani curry recipe is amazingly similar to that of Japanese curry… which makes sense once you understand that the latter was based on a European adaptation of curry. The Cirpriani recipe asks you to cook onions, leek, carrots and apple until they are all super soft. You then flambe the ingredients, and then add flour, curry powder and stock. This is simmered for a half an hour and then strained. The only difference between the chicken curry and the shrimp curry recipes is in the stock used (chicken for the former and fish for the latter).
Japanese curry is the same. That said, I have been making big batches using minced beef, which I cook together with the sauce. The resulting minced beef curry can be eaten as is with rice and pickles, or when I’m in the mood for a meat overload, poured over a freshly fried tonkatsu.
It’s also a pretty easy dish to make. The most important thing, I think, is finding a curry powder that works best for you, and also figuring out how much of it to use. I’ve used different curry powders, some purchased commercially and some made by friends. As I am sure you know, some can be hotter than others, and some might have quite distinct ratios of the different spices that can go into a curry powder. These days, I tend to try and find a Japanese curry powder in a Japanese supermarket (or in Japan when travelling). Because I am not a huge chilli eater, I do like that most Japanese blends are actually quite mild. You could of course make your own blend but, honestly, I’m too lazy these days to do that. If you do want to, there are many recipes online.
As always, please take my recipe as only a starting point. Just as the Japanese adapted curry from the Brits who in turn adapted it from India, you should feel completely free to adapt this to your own style and taste buds. Finally, the nice thing about dishes like this is that they freeze well. Which is why I always make a hefty portion and vacuum pack most of it for a rainy day.
3 tablespoons oil cooking oil
2 apples or pears, peeled and core removed
8 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons plain flour
2 tablespoons curry powder
800l chicken stock or beef stock
3 teaspoons honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoon garam masala
1kg minced beef
Use a food processor and mince together the onions and garlic. Store in a bowl. Clean the processor and then mince the carrots and apple/pear as finely as possible. Store in a separate container.
Take a heavy bottom pot and place over medium-high heat. Pour in the oil. Once hot, spoon in the minced garlic and onion. Cook, stirring continuously, until the onions are soft, approximately 5-8 minutes. Then spoon in the carrot and fruit. Cook for another 8-10 minutes while stirring.
Stir in the minced beef and cook (keep stirring) for around 2-3 minutes.
Add the curry powder and flour, stir and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Then add the soy sauce, honey, bay leaf, and garam masala. Cook and stir for another minute. Then add in the stock. Lower the heat so that the liquid is just simmering and cook for 20-30 minutes. You want the liquid to reduce a little while the curry comes together. If it looks too dry, add some more stock. If too wet, turn the heat up and reduce a little more. You want the curry to have a nice thick gravy consistency.
Taste and adjust to your preference adding some salt or sugar if you want it saltier or sweeter.
Once done, I find it best to cool the curry down and let it sit in the fridge overnight. The next day you can pack away and freeze portions, while also keeping some to reheat and have with rice, or even with rice and tonkatsu.
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The Automatic Stainless Easy Egg Cooker allows you to cook up to 7 eggs at one time. An included measuring cup allows you to calibrate the water level to consistently prepare the eggs to your desired style; soft, medium, or hard boiled. In addition to steaming, this egg cooker allows you to gently poach two eggs with the included poaching tray. A convenient automatic shut-off indicator light lets the user know exactly when the cooking cycle is complete. The built-in timer adjusts automatically from soft to hard and cooks eggs exactly to your liking! Also included is a measuring cup with a built-in piercing pin to prevent cracked shells during cooking. It also allows you to pierce the eggs prior to cooking to release the sulfur within the egg. The result is consistently perfect golden yellow yolks. Gone are the days of undercooking or overcooking your eggs!
Indian cooks have discovered the Instant Pot and how well it works for Indian cuisine—it can be used to cook everything from rice to yogurt to complex layered meat and vegetable dishes. There are at least 10 Indian Instant Pot cookbooks on Amazon at the moment, and I suspect there are more e-books out there on the topic as well. There are also a ton of blogs that focus on Indian recipes made in the Instant Pot.
I recently purchased an Instant Pot but had never used it. I tried it out with a recipe from Instant Indian: Classic foods from every region of India made easy in the Instant Pot! By Rinku Bhattacharya. The recipe I chose was Cozy Butter Chicken. The instructions for this dish were incredibly clear, so much so that I was able to make this dish without having ever used the Instant Pot before. The author points out that timing is an issue “You need to factor in the time it takes to come to full pressure, the actual pressure cooking time, and the time for steam release. I have accounted for the complete cooking cycle by noting a total time needed with all my recipes.” But that was the problem I had with the recipe which states:
TOTAL TIME: 40 MINUTES
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Sauté Time: 15 minutes
Pressure Cook: 10 minutes
Pressure Release: 10 minutes
I found that this does not include the time it takes for the Instant Pot to come to full pressure, and an accurate time for pressure release. It took almost another 10 minutes to reach full pressure and over 15 minutes to release naturally rather than the stated 10 minutes. That is a considerable amount of additional time.
|Cozy Butter Chicken, on the right according to the instructions and on the left with the sauce reduced|
The other issue I had with this recipe was that the finished dish was incredibly watery and the chicken was somewhat overcooked and falling apart. The sauce did not resemble the thick creamy sauce I know from having had this dish in the past. I spent almost another 10 minutes reducing the sauce in a saucepan. Once I did, the sauce and the dish were absolutely delicious.
I struggled with the decision to purchase an Instant Pot because I really don’t have room for it. But I thought perhaps I would be able to replace my rice cooker and my pressure cooker with it. But I found it took longer for the Instant Pot to come up to pressure than it takes my old pressure cooker, so I’m not sure that it will replace it after all. The biggest convenience factor to making this dish was the built in timer which allows you to set the cooking time. I also like that it has settings for things like yogurt and rice.
So would I recommend the Instant Pot and using it for Indian Recipes? Probably, but I will need to do some more experimenting.
Disclaimer: A pdf of this book was given to me for review purposes
Good shortbread cookies are always buttery, with a melt-in-your-mouth texture that keeps you coming back for that second bite. They tend to be simple cookies with short ingredient lists, where the butter is the star of the show. That doesn’t mean that you can’t add extra flavors to your favorite shortbread recipe, of course, and that is exactly what I did here. This Salted Toffee Shortbread has a classic buttery shortbread base, but is studded with sweet toffee bits and topped with a sprinkling of coarse salt.
To make the shortbread, cold butter is cut into a mixture of flour, sugar and salt. I prefer to combine the ingredients in a food processor so that the butter can be very finely chopped into the dry ingredients, resulting in a very even-textured shortbread. The food processor also makes the prep for this recipe take less than a minute! If you don’t have a food processor, you also can cut the butter in by hand, but be sure to get it as fine as possible.
The shortbread mixture will be very crumbly when the butter has been incorporated and the mixture will look very dry. Don’t worry, as that is exactly how the shortbread is supposed to look! Simply stir in the toffee bits, then pour everything into your prepared baking dish and spread it into an even layer over the whole base of the pan. Next, firmly press the mixture down and pack it evenly (use your fingers or the bottom of a glass). Sprinkle the shortbread with the coarse salt, then score it lightly into pieces using a sharp knife. Scoring the dough before baking will allow you to cut it more easily once it has set.
This shortbread is similar in style to Walker’s shortbread, meaning that it the pieces are a bit taller and more tender than some other shortbreads. I really enjoy this style because it almost melts in your mouth as you eat it. If you like your shortbread to be extremely crisp, you can pack the shortbread base into a 9×13-inch pan and bake until lightly browned. The shortbread should still be scored before baking to ensure that you can cut it apart without crumbling the cookies too much.
Salted Toffee Shortbread
3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 cup finely chopped toffee bits
1/2 tsp coarse salt, for topping
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar and salt. Pulse a few times to blend.
Cut butter into large chunks and add to food processor. Whiz for about 1 minute, until dough has a very sandy and starts to clump together. Remove from food processor and stir in toffee bits. Pour into prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Use a flat-bottomed glass to press down the dough firmly, creating as smooth a surface as possible.
Score dough lightly with a sharp knife, marking 4 rows by 8 rows of shortbread pieces. Dock the dough with a fork, if desired. Sprinkle with coarse salt.
Bake for about 35 minutes, until shortbread is very lightly browned all over and is set.
While the shortbread is still hot and still in the pan, use a sharp knife or a bench scraper to cut shortbread all the way through along the lines you scored prior to baking. Allow shortbread to cool completely in the pan once it has been cut.
When cooled, shortbread pieces should break apart very easily. Store in an airtight container.
Makes 32 pieces.
Instant Pot is a smart Electric Pressure Cooker designed by Canadians aiming to be Safe, Convenient and Dependable. It speeds up cooking by 2~6 times using up to 70% less energy and, above all, produces nutritious healthy food in a convenient and consistent fashion. Instant Pot Duo is a 7-in-1 programmable cooker, it replaces 7 kitchen appliances as it has the functions of a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté, yogurt maker & warmer. 14 built-in smart programs (Soup, Meat/Stew, Bean/Chili, Poultry, Sauté, Steam, Rice, Porridge, Multigrain, Slow Cook, Keep-Warm, Yogurt, Pasteurize & Jiu Niang) cook your favorite dishes with the press of a button. A 24-hour timer allows for delayed cooking. Automatic keep-warm holds the temperature of the food until you serve it. Instant Pot generates almost no noise and leaks no steam. It traps all the aromas in the food without heating up the kitchen. The 3-ply bottom stainless steel inner pot is extremely durable and leaves no health concerns associated with non-stick coatings. The slim body design has lid holders for both left and right handed users. The brushed stainless steel exterior is finger print resistant. Its elegant and durable design makes it easy to clean and pleasurable to use for the years to come. Instant Pot Duo uses the latest technology with an embedded microprocessor, which monitors the pressure and temperature, keeps time and adjusts heating intensity. The cooking programs have been lab-tested hundreds of times for optimal effect. These greatly improve cooking result and maintain consistence. Instant Pot is carefully designed to eliminate many common errors that could cause harm or spoil food. It passed the stringent UL certification giving you uncompromised safety and peace of mind and protects you with 10 proven safety mechanisms and patented technologies.
Over the years I have bought McQuade’s Celtic Chutney to give as gifts, made recipes using her various varieties of chutney and been an all around fan of her products. Faced with a box full of peaches this year supplied to me by the Washington State Stone Fruit Growers, I knew I wanted to make chutney but couldn’t imagine just turning to any old recipe. So I called on Alison for some guidance. Her recipe uses weights, so if you don’t have a digital scale, please use this as the excuse to buy one, they are not expensive and are essential for baking. The one I currently use is a SmartWeight model that cost less than $20 and displays pounds, ounces, grams and milliliters. You’ll note the chutney is in Ball jars for gifting, and the company that produces them makes a donation to Feeding America for every package purchased (up to $150k).
An Amazon Brand.
Anyone that is a regular reader will know that I am a coffee lover. Not only do I pair baked goods with it all the time, but I also frequently incorporate it into my dishes. More often than not, coffee comes in a liquid form, but the Flat Brew Coffee Spread is a unique spreadable way to get a little caffeine fix. This product is almost like ganache, but made out of coffee instead of cacao, and it can be a treat for a real coffee fan.
The spread is made with sugar, cocoa butter, cream, butter and plenty of coffee. It is nearly black in color. Ganache is made with cacao, cocoa butter (though those two ingredients are often listed simply as “chocolate”), sugar and cream/butter. Getting the coffee to come together smoothly with those other ingredients is no small feat, yet the spread is silky smooth and melts onto your tongue almost like a traditional chocolate ganache! It has a deep and intense espresso flavor that is not particularly sweet, though there is enough sugar in the mix to bring out some of the fruity and chocolaty notes in the coffee. It is rich, packs a serious coffee kick and it doesn’t quite taste like anything else I’ve had.
I think that this spread is delicious, but unlike Nutella or sweeter spreads, it may be too potent for you to want to eat more than a small spoonful straight out of the container. Instead, consider spreading it on toast, pancakes, waffles or using it to sandwich two soft cookies together. It can also be used as a dip for breadsticks, fresh fruit or crisper cookies, such as biscotti. I picked mine up at a specialty kitchen store, but it is also available online. If you’ve tried it or have a favorite use, be sure to share in the comments!