... to make con­sum­mate com­fort dishes such as this chicken katsu curry from his new book

The Guardian - Cook - - Book Extract -

The story of Ja­panese curry is one of global em­pires ris­ing and fall­ing. Be­fore the end of the 19th cen­tury, there was no curry in Ja­pan. It was in­tro­duced not from In­dia, Bangladesh, Thai­land, Malaysia – or any­where else that can be thought of as some­where curry orig­i­nates – but from Bri­tain. At that time, South Asian curry had al­ready been in­te­grated into the im­pe­rial diet, and it was Bri­tish mil­i­tary of­fi­cers and diplo­mats who in­tro­duced it to the Ja­panese. Bri­tish curry – not very spicy, thick­ened with flour – caught on, par­tic­u­larly with the Ja­panese navy and army, where it was an eco­nom­i­cal and tasty way to feed hun­dreds of hun­gry ser­vice­men.

Curry re­mains one of Ja­pan’s favourite com­fort foods, as de­li­cious as it is weirdly di­vorced from curry’s Asian ori­gins. Whereas an In­dian curry will be nat­u­rally thick from pureed onions/toma­toes/chill­ies and a whole heap of spices, Ja­pan’s curry is based on a flour-and-but­ter roux that thick­ens a lightly spiced, stock-based sauce. I do love Ja­panese curry, but I also love South Asian cur­ries with their vi­brancy and lay­ers of flavour. This recipe com­bines the two. I keep my curry sauce it­self veg­e­tar­ian, be­cause I find it just as sat­is­fy­ing that way, but if you want you can add chicken, beef or pork to this. In fact, you can add just about any­thing you want (at the restau­rant we put ham and cheese on it and it’s amaz­ing). (Note: if you want a re­ally au­then­tic and re­ally easy Ja­panese curry ex­pe­ri­ence at home, just buy a box of in­stant Ja­panese curry at an Asian su­per­mar­ket. No, re­ally

– it’s good and cheap and fast, and it re­ally doesn’t get much more au­then­tic than that!)

Katsu curry is sim­ply Ja­panese curry rice with the de­light­ful ad­di­tion of breaded, fried meat – typ­i­cally chicken. Feel free to use less veg in the sauce, if you like, since there will be more bulk from the katsu.

Chicken katsu curry

Serves 4

1 onion, cut into small chunks 2 car­rots, peeled and cut into wedges 400g floury pota­toes, peeled and cut into bite-size chunks ½ cau­li­flower, bro­ken into bite­size flo­rets

300g rice

For the curry sauce

4 tbsp oil 1 large onion, roughly chopped 2cm piece of fresh gin­ger, peeled and finely sliced

1 green chilli, chopped

2 gar­lic cloves, peeled

2 toma­toes

½ green ap­ple, peeled and chopped ½ banana

30g mild Madras curry pow­der

2 tbsp garam masala

750ml chicken or beef stock

60g but­ter

6 tbsp plain flour

2 tbsp ketchup

2 tbsp soy sauce

Salt

For the chicken katsu (op­tional)

2 skin­less, bone­less chicken breasts, cut in half hor­i­zon­tally into 2 thin escalopes Salt and black pep­per

Plain (all-pur­pose) flour, for dredg­ing 1 egg, beaten with a splash of milk or wa­ter

200g panko bread­crumbs

Oil, for shal­low fry­ing

1 For the sauce, com­bine the oil, onion, gin­ger, chilli, gar­lic, toma­toes, ap­ple, banana, curry pow­der and garam masala in a food pro­ces­sor and blitz to a paste. Pour this into a saucepan and cook on a medium-high heat, stir­ring of­ten, un­til the mix­ture be­gins to caramelise and the spices be­come aro­matic. Add the stock and bring to the boil. 2 Mean­while, melt the but­ter in a sep­a­rate saucepan and whisk in the flour. Cook on a low heat for about 8 min­utes, stir­ring con­stantly, un­til the roux thick­ens and turns a golden brown colour. La­dle the curry mix­ture from the other pan into the roux, a lit­tle at a time, whisk­ing con­stantly to in­cor­po­rate. Add the ketchup and soy sauce. Cook the mix­ture un­til it’s quite thick, then trans­fer to a blender or use an im­mer­sion blender to puree un­til very smooth. Taste and ad­just the sea­son­ing with salt.

3 Put the onion, car­rots and pota­toes in a saucepan and cover with wa­ter. Bring to the boil, add the cau­li­flower and re­duce to a sim­mer.

4 Cook for about 10 min­utes, or un­til every­thing is ten­der. Drain and re­turn to the pan, and pour in the curry sauce. Bring every­thing back to a sim­mer.

5 To make the chicken katsu, sea­son the chicken breasts well with salt and pep­per, then dredge in flour. Soak them in the beaten egg, then coat them thor­oughly with the panko. Heat a lit­tle oil (about 2mm in depth) in a large fry­ing pan over a medium heat. Lay the breaded chicken in the oil and cook for 5–6 min­utes on each side. Re­move and drain on kitchen pa­per or a wire rack. Leave to rest briefly be­fore slic­ing.

6 Serve the sliced chicken katsu with a help­ing of rice, and of curry – on top, or on the side, as you pre­fer.

Ja­panEasy: Clas­sic and Mod­ern Ja­panese Recipes to Cook At Home (Hardie Grant) is out now

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