Sunday, February 26, 2006

Culinary Challenge Day 6

Nearing the End
As I near the end of my week I feel the need to return to my staple breakfast of rice and miso. While there is a large part of my imagination busy creating many new and wonderful breakfasts I can mke once this week is over I have enjoyed a certain peacefulness of the routine and ritual about eating the same thing in the same fashion each day (although I am sure I won't eat rice again for at least another few weeks!). As I sit and drink my third cup of green tea (I hope all those antioxidants are being readily absorbed!) I contemplate life after.....But alas I getting ahead of myself because tonight I am going to cook one of my favourite Japanese meals....

Japanese Vegetable Garden
Today was an exceptionally busy day so my trip to the market to pick up supplies for tonight would have to be a quick one. With my head still contemplating the meals of the last few days I realised one of the biggest changes for me has been the types of vegetables I have been eating. I absolute adore vegetables in all their shapes, sizes, textures and flavours, but I realised there are some vegetables, like cabbage, daikon andleeks that I don't eat on a regular basis. It strikes me that these vegetables have a particular flavour sought after by the Japanese - savoury, oniony, slight bitterness (perhaps not the leek) that contribute to the extra taste the Japanese refer to as umami. This flavour can be fully understood by emersing yourself in Japanese food and it also describes the a level of warm satisfaction that the meal tends to give you without weighing you down - a deep savouriness that is very comforting. Hmmm.....

Curry in a Hurry
There is nothing in the world like a Japanese curry. They tend to be sweet, not hot and they also tend not to be homemade. Yes that's right the Japanese curry I love is made directly from a packet and one which I would perhaps reccomend not reading the ingredients on! But I can guarantee you if you can get past this then you will have a fast and depply satisfying meal on your hands! O.K to begin there are a few rules about Japanese curries - they must contain potatoes and usually carrots also, the vegetables are usually in nice chunks, not dainty slices and while any meat can be added I think the flavour is best with just vegetables (don't ever use fish). At this point I shoul add that if you are a Vegetarian then you must pick your packet sauce very carefully as most of them contain pork lard. As my partner is vegetarian I use Golden Curry mild which uses palm oil instead so you will be fine if you stick with that. So, the process is as follows - chop up your veegtables into chunks (best to keep it simple and only us a few different types. Heat up a little oil and quickly cook your meat if you are using (also cut into chunks). Remove from the pan once it is brown. If you aren't using meat then skip this step. Start cooking the vegetables in order from potatoes, then carrot, pumpkin. If you are using all three, leave 4-5 minutes between each. Then add the curry sauce and a little water as directed on the pack. Stir to coat the vegetables. If you are using any softer vegetables such as broccoli or eggplant add them at this stage. Also add you browned meat now too. Turn you pot down to a simmer and cook for 7-8 minutes until everything is tender and the sauce is thick and goopy. There you have it Japanese curry. It must be served with rice of course and for a more traditional approach with some pickles on the side. Curry sauces are available from Japanese or large Asian stores.


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