Thursday, February 20, 2014

Rice & Lentil Porridge (Khichdi / Khichuri)

I'm always fascinated to hear about ways that cultures can be both wildly different and yet ultimately similar.

For example, when I'm sick I've got a set of comfort foods that immediately come to mind:  ginger ale and saltines for an upset stomach, orange juice and chicken soup for the flu, hot water with ginger and lemon for a sore throat or cough.  If, heaven forbid, I were to ever come down with pneumonia again I imagine I'd want white peach gelatin and bananas (no vigorous chewing required, y'see).

Through my experiences both living in Japan and spending time with my in-laws, I've found that in other parts of the world rice porridge is the food of choice for the sick.  In Japan, for example, there are even different words for porridge made from uncooked versus cooked rice.

Khichuri is a type of south Asian rice porridge that has the advantage of including lentils (dal) for an extra little protein punch.  It was one of the first Indian foods my in-laws trusted me to eat -- back when we were all still getting to know each other -- and perhaps not coincidentally was also one of the first Indian recipes I remember seeing in print.  I was introduced to it at their house over one particular visit when I was feeling under the weather, so the recipe caught my attention when a few months later I was handed an Ayurvedic cookbook by a girl at Boston Pride.

Rice porridges are great for infants, sick people, and the elderly because they're easy to digest, relatively flavorless, and often come close to mimicking the kind of food that people would be eating in that culture anyway, meaning that it's not scary-looking or insulting (as baby foods and nursing home purees so often are).  In the west I suppose the closest we come is oatmeal, porridge, or plain grits, depending on where you live, though those are breakfast foods and don't often contain any protein or vegetables.  That's where khichuri has an advantage since it's made with lentils and common variants include peas, cauliflower, and spinach with carrots.

You'll notice this version of the recipe is very plain and relatively bland -- sort of the South Asian equivalent of a saltine.  That's on purpose.  There's nothing stopping anyone from jazzing this up into a regular dal recipe, just as you can put all kinds of snazzy things atop a plain cracker.  But for me, when I'm sick and not feeling up to cooking this falls close enough to the "meal" category.  Plus it saves me the hassle of chewing, which is nice when I'm all out of energy.

And hey, if you're into Ayurvedic cooking or if you're looking for a "detox" (again, keeping in mind that detox is a ritual rather than a medical reality), there are some claims that khichri will cleanse your karma or some such thing like that.  Either way it won't hurt you, and is fairly nutritious so long as you work in a side salad or some other kind of greenery with it.

Khichuri - Rice & Lentil Porridge

This one's gonna fly by, I promise.  The overview is:  0.5 cups lentils, 1 cup rice, 3-4 cups water or stock, a tiny bit of flavoring, and boil until mushy.

Here goes.

First off you'll want to pick out your lentils.  Aim for smaller ones since they'll cook up faster.  Personally I chose half masoor dal (the orange ones) and half val dal (the white ones), though mung/moong dal (green ones) are very popular for this dish.  Chances are whatever you have on hand will probably work fine, though French lentils may never truly break down into mush.  That's fine, just be aware that your consistency will be different.  You can use all one kind or mix and match according to your tastes.

Rinse your half cup of lentils and cup of basmati rice in warm water using a fine mesh sieve until the water runs clear.  Soak them for 15 minutes or more in warm water to help the rice start plumping and get the lentils softened up a tad.  You can do all this together in the same bowl since we're going to cook everything together anyway.  This recipe is all about cutting down on effort.

While the lentils and rice and plumping, get a deep saucepan going on medium heat.  Add 1 tsp oil (ghee is the traditional choice here, but I find it hurts my stomach when I'm sick so I opted for olive oil instead), heat until shimmering, and then add 1 tsp cumin seeds.  I didn't bother to photograph this process because it's fairly straightforward and we've seen it here and here and here and here and here already, so if you're unsure go ahead and check any of those links.  If you'd like to add a bay leaf or substitute mustard seeds (such as seen here), then please feel free.  I like the smokey flavor of cumin seeds, but it's not written in stone.

Anyway, when the cumin seeds get fragrant -- this will take less than a minute -- add a finely diced onion.  I had frozen onion puree hanging around so I used that to cut down on cutting time because I was feeling pretty darn ill and just wanted to eat already.

After about 10 minutes of sauteeing the onion I added 2 tsp ginger paste, which I forgot to photograph.  Trust me, though, it's in there.  Cooked ginger has the added bonus of containing a compound called shogaol which is an anti-inflammatory.  So that's nice.  Every little bit counts when you're sick.

When the onion & ginger were cooked up I drained my rice & lentils and added them on top:

Followed immediately by 3-4 cups of liquid.  I used vegetable stock.  You can use water or broth if you'd like.  The more liquid, the more squishy yours will be.  I erred on the side of less water for the stick-to-your-ribs effect.  There's really no wrong way to do this, though.

Hard part's over!  Dial it up to medium-high, bring it to a boil.  When it boils, turn it down to low, cover it, and let it simmer until everything's gooey.

Val dal and masoor dal break down fairly fast, so mine was ready in just over half an hour.  The beauty of this is that you can let it simmer on low more or less indefinitely -- it'll just keep getting more and more goo-like the longer it's on the stove.  Once it was juuuuuust about to the right consistency I added two tsp dried curry leaves (optional, you could sub a different spice if you'd like):

And one tsp turmeric powder (also an anti-inflammatory):

I stirred all that up, covered it again, and let it simmer for another 10 minutes or so to "cook" the spices, salt to taste, and that was that!

If you want to add veggies or other/additional spices, some common ones are:  hing (asafetida), cumin powder, coriander powder, fennel powder, fenugreek powder, bay leaves, cloves, fresh cilantro, mint, cinnamon, cardamom, black peppercorn, red chili powder (naturally), green chilies, peas, cauliflower, spinach, eggplant, and carrots.  That's not an exhaustive list, obviously, but should give you a nice jumping-off point to get creative on your own.  I like mine as plain as possible so that it doesn't give my tummy too much thinking to do when I'm feeling low, but as I mentioned in the intro there's nothing at all stopping you from making this into a regular dinner.

Not entirely certain what's up next.  I've got some Mardi Gras recipes, St. Patty's recipes, and a few Japanese favorites in the pipeline for sometime between now and early March, though, so be sure to stay tuned.

Khichuri - Rice & Lentil Porridge

Ingredients (can easily be multiplied or halved):
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 0.5 cup small lentils (e.g. mung/moong dal, val dal, masoor dal)
  • 3-4 cups water or stock (or more, if a thinner consistency is desired)
  • 1 tsp oil or ghee
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
    • can sub or add: mustard seeds, bay leaf
  • 1 small onion, finely minced
    • frozen / pureed onion also ok
  • 2 tsp ginger paste
  • 2 tsp curry leaves
    • see paragraph just below the last picture, above, for substitute ideas
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder

  1. Thoroughly rinse lentils and rice in a fine-mesh sieve until the water runs clear.  Soak in warm water for 15 minutes or longer (up to several hours or overnight).  Drain and rinse again.
  2. While lentils and rice are soaking, heat a large stockpot on medium heat.  Add oil, heat until shimmering.  Add cumin seeds and heat until just fragrant -- less than 1 minute total.
  3. Add onion & ginger paste.  Saute 10 minutes or until onion is translucent and soft.
  4. Add drained lentils & rice along with stock (or water).  Turn heat up to high and bring to a boil.  If adding vegetables, place them in the pot at this time (with the exception of spinach, which should be added later, with the curry leaves & turmeric).  
  5. Once the pot boils, turn the heat down to low, cover, and let simmer until the rice and lentils begin to break down.  How long this takes will depend on the type of lentils used, but could take 30-60 minutes or longer.  
  6. Uncover, add curry leaves & turmeric powder.  Replace cover and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
  7. Add salt to taste and serve.  

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Irish Scones

I've been trying for the better part of a month to get this recipe made and uploaded.  The issue hasn't been ingredients or equipment, it's been that these scones are sublime.  If I make them I want to eat them.  So I try to save it for when I know I'll see people I can give them away to.  Even though they freeze very well, they thaw rather quickly and can be warmed up easily in a toaster oven -- meaning that even when I try to make them inconvenient they're still there.  Waiting.  Calling my name.  I find myself finding excuses to sneak another ("well, if I skip dinner tonight and go to the gym tomorrow...").

The beauty of this recipe isn't just the ease or speed of making them, or even that it calls for olive oil instead of butter.  To me the winning factor is how incredibly versatile it is.  I've made these with fresh berries of all kinds, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, cinnamon and sugar, caramel swirls, apples, pumpkin, lavender, lemon zest, maple syrup, chai spice, dried cranberries, oats, orange zest...  So while this particular version of the recipe uses blackberries and vanilla powder, I hope you'll please feel free to experiment and make these your own.

Irish Scones

Total Time:  15-20 min assembly, 10-15 min baking
Weirdest Ingredient:  buttermilk
Credits:  I wish I could say that this recipe was handed down through the Cullen or Delaney family traditions on either side of my family, but the truth is it comes from this article in The Atlantic.  The recipe itself is tucked into a set of paragraphs toward the bottom.  Their version is -- in my opinion -- unnecessarily complicated.  Once the dough is assembled they fool around with it a bunch for reasons that seem purely aesthetic.  Personally I feel I haven't got the time or patience to get fancy with this dough, so my take on it is just to plop the scones onto a baking sheet and let them be a little ugly.  The dough is so very sticky that I can only imagine I'd end up stress-eating the entire pan by the time I was done anyway.  But please do check out the original for the full story of their origin and for tips.

The overview of this recipe is dry ingredients + wet ingredients, stir gently, add optional mix-ins, & bake.  Let's get started!

While you're getting the dough ready, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.  (Scary, I know.  It always makes me uneasy when the oven goes over 400 degrees.)

The dry ingredients are:  2.75 cups White Lily* flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 0.5 teaspoon salt.  

You can sift them together if you like.  I usually just use a wire whisk to knock the lumps out.

*Flour:  The original recipe calls for White Lily, which lies somewhere between all-purpose flour and pastry flour in terms of how chewy it gets.  Two years ago I'd have put in a paragraph here explaining what the protein gluten is and why one kneads bread but not pastries.  Back then, in the dark ages, the only person I knew who avoided gluten had celiac disease (a serious digestive disorder distinct from gluten sensitivity, both of which are wildly different from and quite a lot rarer than fad dieting).  She struggled not only with meeting her nutritional needs but also with finding anything gluten-free that didn't taste like cardboard.  These days there are a lot more options out there and that's fantastic for people who have digestive disorders.  But that's not why this recipe recommends low gluten.  The reason is so that your scones will be closer to cake texture than bread texture.  The original recipe has some suggestions for substitutions.  I found White Lily in my local Walmart, but please feel free to substitute regular all-purpose flour if you want.  Don't rely solely on cake or pastry flour for this or everything will crumble apart.  Scones need the structural integrity that just a little gluten gives them, so err on that side.  (Cake flour is cut with corn starch, you see, to keep the gluten really low.  Pastry flour is slightly less diluted, making it a tiny bit tougher.)

Additional aside:  Just to be clear -- because I don't want anyone to think I'm being critical -- I've got no feelings one way or the other about gluten-free dieting.  I think it makes people more aware of what they put in their bodies and that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Otherwise, like anything else it's about moderation and choosing what's best for you based on both your own experience and the recommendations of a physician or registered dietician, who, just to lighten the mood, is different from a nutritionist.)

Anyway, getting back on track, that's your dry ingredients and a little food science.  Next up are the "wet" ingredients:  1 cup buttermilk**0.5 cup olive oil (I know, right??), 0.5 cup sugar, & 1 egg:

Whisk it all together:

**Buttermilk:  I've had luck both with substitutions and with powdered buttermilk, so no worries if you can't find it or don't want to buy a whole pint/quart just for one recipe.  I'm there with ya.  I haven't tried vegan alternatives so let me know if you find something that works for you.

You can either add your mix-ins to the wet ingredients or you can do what I do below and add them just as the dough comes together.  

The next step is to add the wet ingredients to the dry.  I use a wooden spoon to make a hole in the flour:

And then pour the wet ingredients in:

The liquid part above has 1 tsp vanilla powder in it, that's why it changed color.  If you're going to add spices or zest I'd recommend whisking them into the wet ingredients first just because the liquid helps bring out the flavor a little and our goal here is to stir the dough as little as possible.  

The trick at this point is to work quickly since once the wet and dry ingredients hit each other your baking soda is going to start doing its thing (fizzing, thereby adding fluff to your scones), and the quicker you can "capture" that in the oven the fluffier your scones will be.

Gently stir until almost all the flour is incorporated:

This is the point where I add my solid mix-ins like berries, candy chips, zest, seeds/nuts, or what have you.  Feel free to mix and match.  A few of my favorite combos are ground cinnamon & butterscotch chips, raspberries and almond slivers, and lemon & lavender.  I've found that for berries and chocolate in particular they start to soften a little into the liquid and then the flour gloms onto them in weird ways.  For this particular one I tossed in about half a cup of fresh blackberries:

At this point just stir until the mix-ins are squished into the dough and the flour's gone.  For me that was something like 4-5 more stirs:

The more delicately you treat the dough, the more "delicate" the pastry will be.  Please don't beat these to death.  I don't even use a mixer since it takes so little stirring.  Anyway, if you're going the easy route then just scoop out your dough onto a baking sheet.  I don't bother to grease the pan because they don't seem to need it, though you can if you're feeling anxious.

What I do is use a 1/4C measuring cup for the first one and then eyeball it for the rest.  That gives me about a dozen and a half scones.  

Some tips:  The dough is super sticky.  If you want neat rounds you could follow the original recipe, which calls for cutting the scones out in circles.  I feel like I'd go mad if I tried this, so I just spoon them out.  If you like your scones not to be spikey or ugly like the ones above, try wetting your fingers and patting them into a neater round.  I did this with the second tray, below, so you can see the difference.  You can also whisk up one egg to brush over the tops.  That'll help them brown up a bit and puts a nice glaze on the top.  Because I already struggle not to eat these by the handful I tend to skip that step to cut out a few calories, but when I make them for company I do brush with a very thin coating of egg using a pastry brush.  It's up to you, I think.

Okay, now, this part is very important:  Turn the oven down to 425F immediately after you put the scones in the oven.  (Please.)

The general guideline for baking time is 12 minutes.  In reality baking times vary depending on how big your scones are.  I've made bigger ones with a 1/3 or 1/2 cup of dough per each, which boosts up the baking time by a minute or two.  My recommendation here is to err on the side of too short and sneak a peak at around 10 minutes.  They bake super fast and when they're done they're not as brown as you'd think they should be.  For example, the first batch I popped in for the 15 minutes recommended in the original recipe and they got a little too brown in places (but still edible and very delish):

The second batch, the one where I used wet fingers to pat them into prettier shapes, I only baked for 12 minutes (making sure to rotate the pan 180 degrees halfway, as with any baked good).  They came out closer to the right color:

If you're panicking that they're not browned enough just remember that these are Irish scones.  They're supposed to be too pale because they burn easily.  

Well, not burn so much as dry out.  I've left them in for way too long before and they don't scorch so much as turn gradually into rocks.  I don't recommend it.

But yeah, that's it!  Whenever I post recipes like this I get nervous that too many pictures makes it look like the recipe is hard, but honestly I feel like it's just barely more involved than cake from a mix.  Or maybe I'm just motivated by the thought of hot scones, strong tea, and a little dollop of clotted cream:

These are best shared with a friend, I think. 

I have no idea what's up next.  Possibly another lentil recipe.  Got any suggestions or requests?

Irish Scones
Makes 12-18 scones, depending on size
Dry Ingredients:
  • 2.75 cups White Lily flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Wet Ingredients:
  • 1 cup buttermilk
    • substitution tips here
  • 0.5 cup olive oil
  • 0.5 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg, beaten, to brush over top
  • mix-ins of your choice
    • Note:  mix-ins are entirely optional.  The rule of thumb is 1/2 cup total mix-ins.  Add powdered mix-ins (e.g. cinnamon) to the wet ingredients to help incorporate them.  Add solid mix-ins just as dough is coming together (see photo above).  The scones pictured above used 1 tsp vanilla powder and 0.5 cup blackberries.

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
  2. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl using a wire whip.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk together wet ingredients, adding any optional powdered mix-ins such as spices.
  4. Using a wooden spoon, create a hole in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid.  Working quickly, gently stir the dough until the flour is nearly incorporated.  If adding solid mix-ins such as berries or candy chips, add them at this stage.  Gently stir a few more rounds until flour is incorporated.  Take care not to over-mix or scones will become tough.
  5. Spoon roughly 1/4 to 1/3 cup of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  6. If desired, shape the scones into neat rounds using wet fingers.  Brush the tops with the beaten egg using a pastry brush.
  7. Place scones in the oven and immediately turn down heat to 425F.
  8. Bake 10-12 minutes, rotating the pan halfway.  Finished scones will be pale in color.
Scones freeze well or can be reheated in a toaster oven.  They are pleasant plain or can be eaten with butter, jam, or clotted cream.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Japanese Curry (カレーライス)

Are you ready for a history lesson?

The story of Japanese curry is a heart-warming tale about sharing.

Actually, sorry, that's not entirely true.  If we're honest it's a tale about war, racism, and world conquest.  But also about the power of food to help build rickety bridges across cultural gaps.  I hope you'll forgive me for glossing over some of the mass murder and subjugation bits so that we can focus instead on the fascinating game of food telephone that ultimately led to Japanese curry.

Once upon a time a few English sailors came to love Indian curry.  As we cover every so often on this blog, curries can have all kinds of bases and contents.  It can take a little while to get the hang of it.  You can imagine, then, why British sailors in the late 1800s could get confused.  It's spicy, a little soupy, but often thick like a gravy.  So, lacking detailed instructions or culinary know-how, they simply started dumping large handfuls of "Indian" spices into their stews.  Stews that, for various reasons having to do with the French influence on English cooking techniques, were occasionally thickened using a roux (I'll explain what this is below in the recipe if you're not familiar).  So now you've got British sailors eating spicy, thick stews sometime around the first time in modern history that Japan was open to foreigners.  It wasn't long after that that Japanese curry was born.

Here's where I have to draw on my own conjecture a bit.  Japanese curry has a distinct lack of heat and instead features a mild sweet and tangy flavor that I haven't experienced in any other kind of curry.  I suspect these are unique features that were part of the adaptation that occurred, since Japanese food is rarely hot-spicy.  At any rate, it's certainly much more sweet than spicy and even the "hot" varieties are fairly mild.  And really, how many curry recipes do you know that call for a roux and ketchup and Worcestershire sauce?

(I know, right??  But it's really good stuff.  Trust me.)

The dish also ultimately spread to Korea because of reasons.  Kind of a bummer of a footnote, but that's world history for you.

Now, my experience is that by and large folks making Japanese curry in Japan don't make it from scratch.  There are two popular ways to make it.  One -- and my favorite when I lived there -- is simply to buy it pre-made.  It comes in a little tin foil bag that you drop in a pot of boiling water, heat for a few minutes, and then dump over rice.  Easy-peasy.  This is called, perhaps not shockingly, "curry rice."  These little bags were a staple in my Japanese pantry and were, as it turns out, one of the very first things I ever bought at the grocery store (having at that time zero experience with or knowledge of curry as a food).  It was also one of my first opportunities to document real-life Engrish:

Please forgive the terrible picture quality.  That was taken on a camera phone back in 2005.

Anyway, the second way to make Japanese curry at home is to make your own stew and then flavor it using a pre-made brick of flavoring.  The flavor brick looks like a miserable, questionable chocolate bar.  The idea is to hack off a square of the brick, dissolve it in hot water, and then add it to your stew.

Both the ready-made curry-in-a-bag and the roux block are typically available at any Asian market that sells Japanese food.  Heck, since they're both nonperishable they're also available through Amazon.

But I thought it'd be nice to make it from scratch.

Best of all, since it's just a flavored stew you can be as inventive with the ingredients as you like, including opting for a vegetarian/vegan version if that's what floats ya.  This version is vegetable-only, but please feel free to add chunks of cooked beef, chicken, pork, tofu, or other Protein of Choice.

Concise recipe at the bottom, y'all.

Japanese Curry
Total Time:  Approximately 1 hour
Weirdest Ingredient:  "Sauce"

First off, the credits:  The spice mix is S&B's blend, which I would not have been able to find without Just Hungry.  The rest of the recipe is minimally adapted from No Recipes, with a few tweaks from various curry recipes off Cookpad.

Now let's to get down to business.

(We will not be defeating the Huns.  We had enough war in the intro, thanks.)

What you need to remember is that there are two major steps:  roux + stew.

Roux, pronounced "roo," is flour that's cooked in melted butter or oil.  The basic rule is that the longer you cook a roux, the stronger the taste and the weaker the thickening power.  It's used in all kinds of recipes, like gravy (light-colored, thick) or gumbo (chocolate brown, thinner).  The idea is to make the roux, flavor it, and then whisk your liquid into it.  Which is precisely what we're going to do here.

The first step is to mix up the spice blend.  Now, if you happen to have some S&B curry powder on hand, then just use that, since this is precisely their recipe plus a little addition of my own.  To make enough of the blend for this recipe, mix together the following:  1/4 tsp cumin powder, 1/5 tsp cardamom powder, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/8 tsp ground cloves, 1 crushed/powdered bay leaf, 1/8 tsp allspice powder, 1/4 tsp coriander powder, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1.5 tsp turmeric powder, 1/4 tsp ginger powder, 1/4 tsp red chili powder, 1/4 tsp ground black pepper, and 1/4 tsp cocoa powder (yes, really).   Optional:  1/8 tsp finely ground instant coffee or espresso powder.

The blend can be easily multiplied (I've actually cut the original in half) according to your needs or how often you want to make this.  Assembling all that took me about 10 minutes since I had to crush my own bay leaf.

TIP:  Use a mortar & pestle or a clean coffee grinder to crush the bay leaf (the seeds are cardamom because I was out of powder).
TRIVIA: In Japanese bay leaves are called laurel, which is what they actually are.  As in, a laurel wreath.  Cool, huh?

Now, this step is optional but I find it helps to bring out the flavors.  Put a skillet on LOW heat and whisk the spices around on the slightly-hot pan until you just begin to smell them:

Put them in an uncovered container to cool.  If you're not using it all right away then stick the blend in an air-tight container.

Once that's set you're ready to hit the ground running.  Thickly chop up some onions (I used two onions) and cook them on medium-low in a deep pot with a splash of oil for about 20-30 minutes to caramelize them.

While those are caramelizing you've got two tasks: chopping the rest of your veggies and making the roux.  I chop first since the roux requires fairly constant attention.  For this curry I chopped up the following into bite-sized pieces:  12 baby carrots, 2 potatoes, and 1.5 bell peppers.  If you want to use meat or tofu as well, just be sure the meat is pre-cooked (you could brown it alongside the onions if you'd like).

Once the veggies are chopped up it's roux time!  Take a skillet and add 3 tablespoons of butter (or oil of choice) on medium-low heat.

When the butter is melted add 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour.

Using a whisk or paddle, mix the flour into the butter until you get an oozy paste:

It should be fairly thick and just a tiny bit runny.  Keep stirring constantly until the roux is more of a caramel brown.  It'll also be a good deal thinner than it was.

Remove the skillet from heat and quickly add:  1 tablespoon ketchup, 1 tablespoon "sauce*," the spice blend (apx. 2 tablespoons in total, or sub in your favorite curry powder),  & 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika (adjust to your taste).  

*  "Sauce" in Japanese refers most typically to a kind of fruity, tangy brown sauce that's seen on all kinds of food.  It's especially popular on fried foods like croquets or pork cutlets ("tonkatsu"), which is why one of the variations is called tonkatsu sauce.  If you don't have any (and why would you), for this recipe you could either:  (1) make your own; (2) use brown sauce instead; or, (3) substitute Worcestershire sauce.  Each of those will produce a slightly different flavor but none is really going to cause you to miss out.

Mix up the spices, sauces, and roux.  You'll find it all gloms together in a way that is just about as far from appetizing as anything could be.  There will also be a smell that walks the seldom-trod line between sickly sweet and spicy in an unfamiliar, alarming way.

Don't panic.  I promise this will be okay.  Leave it in the skillet off the heat and set it aside.  We'll come back to it in about 15 minutes.

For me the roux-cooking process took about 20 minutes, which was just enough time for my onions to finish caramelizing:

On top of the caramelized onions I added my veggies, 1/2 cup of unspiced apple sauce or apple puree (no kidding), and 2 tsp of garam masala.

I covered all this with 4 cups of vegetable stock and dialed the heat up to medium-high.

Once it boiled I turned it down to a simmer and let it cook until the potatoes were tender.  It took about 10 minutes.

Hooray, we're nearly there!  Using a heat-proof measuring cup I scooped out about 2 cups of just the hot liquid from the pot.  Be sure to only grab the liquid and not any of the veggies.  This got put back into the skillet where the roux... lump... was waiting:

About a minute and a half of whisking later I'd dissolved the roux block into the soup liquid:

Which was then added back in with the rest of the stew:

Tadaaa!  Salt and black pepper to taste and you're done.

My favorite way to eat Japanese curry (which is always served over either Japanese sticky rice or noodles, by the way) is with a plain omelet sandwiched between the rice and the curry.   So that's what I did.

With a little salad for color & crunch:

Yum!  Curry rice with omelet is among my favorite dishes, second to having it a panko-breaded donut, because of course that's a thing.  A very delicious, very unhealthy thing.

Next up is some kind of baked goodie, I think.  I'm still deciding what to send with Doc when he visits his parents this coming weekend.  Stay tuned to find out!

Japanese Curry (Curry Rice / カレーライス)

Spice Blend:
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/5 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp clove
  • 1 crushed/powdered bay leaf
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp garlic
  • 1.5 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp red chili powder (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cocoa powder
  • 3 TBS butter (or oil of choice)
  • 1/4 all-purpose flour
  • 1 TBS ketchup
  • 1 TBS tonkatsu sauce
    • can sub:  1 TBS brown sauce or 1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 TBS spice blend (above) or S&B curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika (or to taste)
    • can sub: cayenne, red chili powder
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 2 onions, cut into large chunks
  • 1.5 bell peppers, any color, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 12 baby carrots (or 1-2 large carrots, peeled) cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 cup plain, unflavored applesauce
    • can sub:  1 apple, pureed
  • 4 cups stock or water
  • salt & pepper to taste


  1. If desired, lightly toast the spice blend on low heat until just fragrant.  Place into an uncovered container and allow to cool completely.
  2. Drizzle oil in a pot large enough to hold several cups of soup on medium-low heat.  Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, 20-30 minutes or until caramelized.  
  3. To make the roux:  While onions are caramelizing, melt the butter in a skillet on medium-low heat.  Blend in the flour and stir constantly until roux is light brown, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from heat.  Add ketchup, sauce, spice blend, and paprika and mix until a dense ball forms.  Set aside, away from heat, leaving the roux block in the skillet.
  4. Once onions are caramelized, add peppers, carrots, potatoes, garam masala, apple sauce, and stock to the large pot.  Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer 10 minutes or until potatoes are fork-tender.
  5. Using a heat-proof cup scoop out approximately 2 cups of the soup liquid, taking care not to get any vegetables into the liquid.  Pour liquid into the skillet.
  6. Whisk the roux block into the hot liquid until completely dissolved and no lumps remain.
  7. Pour the liquid back into the soup pot and stir to mix.  
  8. Remove from heat.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve over Japanese rice or udon noodles.
  9. Optional: place tonkatsu (panko-breaded, fried pork cutlet) or a plain omelet on a bed of rice and ladle curry over top.