Monday, 26 October 2009

Chicken Curry

Trying to combat the onset of winter weight is never easy, all those comforting, soul-food recipes just begging to be made as you swath yourself in warm clothes and heated rooms to chase away the chill from outside. This week I'm trying to focus on bringing lunch to work every day so that I stay away from the convenience store, so am either working on making healthy recipes (101 series, you're so good to me), or paring down the recipes I find to a healthier version. If nothing else I can lose a few pounds and enjoy putting them back on over Christmas!

The original version of this recipe can be found here, I'm sure it would also be delicious as written if you're lucky enough to not need to watch your figure.

Ingredients serves 2

1 boneless skinless chicken breast (approx 200-250g), diced
2 tbsp (30ml) canola oil
1.5 medium onions
1 garlic clove
0.5 tsp cayenne (red pepper)
0.5 tbsp coriander (or less to taste)
1 tsp garam masala
1 cup (245g) non-fat plain yogurt
0.5 tsp sea salt (or less to taste)


I used non-fat (0%) yogurt for this recipe, but it had a tendency to separate when cooked. It comes back to together again when simmering, and your whizzing this in the blender anyway so it's not a huge issue, but you may be able to help this using a yogurt with higher fat content.

Speaking of higher fast content, I really reduced the oil for this recipe. Originally you were supposed to use 2 tbsp oil for the onions/spices, and then another two for the chicken. I halved that but you don't have to.


1) First prepare the sauce: Slice or chop the onions. Using a large heavy frying pan that has a lid, saute the onions in half the oil. When they are translucent and beginning to brown, add the garlic.

I realised at the last moment I only had 1 yellow onion to hand, so I used half a red one too.

2) When its moisture evaporates, add the cayenne, coriander, and masala seasoning. Add the yogurt. Lower heat and simmer 5 minutes, partly covered. Remove from heat.

3) Puree the onion-and-spice mixture in your food processor or food mill. Don't make it into baby food, but make sure there are no stringy pieces of onion left in it.

4) Over medium-high heat, heat the other half of canola oil until very hot, then dump in the cut-up chicken all at once. Stir continuously for 2 minutes, then saute for 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

5) Add the onion-and-spice pure to the cooking chicken. Add salt. Stir the mixture until it starts to bubble, then lower heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool until ready to serve. The longer you wait, the better it will taste.

Nutritional Info:

Calories per serving: 320
Fat: 15.2 g
Carbs: 18.2 g
Protein: 29.4 g

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Thursday, 22 October 2009

Beef Pot Roast with Red Wine and Tomato Gravy

With the weather still playing games with me I take any overcast day and grab on to it greedily, going through my backlog of winter recipes for things I can make. A few days before I made this I walked into my supermarket and was shocked to see them selling reasonably big cuts of meat. Well, big by Japanese standards, the 5-700g (1.1-1.5lb) beef roasts were the biggest (possibly the only?) proper roasting pieces I've seen grace my fresh meat counter shelves in the just over two years I've been here. I bought two, and vowed that the next time the weather dropped below 20C during the day I would make something with them. A few days later the skies were cloudy enough to need a cardigan to walk to school and I started searching 'beef' on foodgawker. Oh man, doing stuff like that is a good way to torture yourself.

After passing up some truly mouthwatering looking dishes, I came to this country style pot roast with red wine tomato gravy at

I had found it.

For Japan residents who may be having trouble finding bigger cuts of meat, if you have a local Brazilian store they are usually good sources for big, cheaper pieces of meat. If that's not an option for where you're living then I have linked to The Meat Guy in my sidebar, it's easy to order what you need.


1 large boneless beef chuck roast (5 1/2-6 pounds), tied
Salt and pepper
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 medium onions, chopped
1 large celery rib, chopped
4 medium carrots, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup red wine
800g (28 ounce can) crushed tomatoes
500ml (2 cups) low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


This recipe was intended for a slow cooker, but mine was a little small for everything so I used a dutch oven on my stove, at the lowest heat my gas was capable of giving me. It worked out fine (I'd say the equivalent of a slow cooker on 'high' for the sake of this recipe's timing) but I wouldn't recommend leaving the house if you do this because of the dangers of the flames going out.

I had two smaller roasts that together added up to about 900g/just under 2lb, so I halved the ingredients. This left me with a lot of sauce but I had no problem with that.

I can't stand celery, so I didn't put it in. I also forgot the parsley at the end.

My crushed tomatoes were actually two cans of chopped/diced tomatoes forced through a sieve.

Because I was using smaller joints I was tempted not to tie them up. This would have been a mistake, the meat goes spoon tender at the end, and taking it out of the pan at the end would have destroyed it if I hadn't. Go here for how to tie meat.

As the recipe itself mentions, if you're using smaller pieces of meat don't forget to reduce cooking times. I ended up simmering mine for about 3 and a half hours all told.


1) Assemble and prepare all ingredients

2) Liberally season roast with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown roast on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes (you may need a shorter time for smaller pieces, you want to seal everything in and get a nice colour, not have it go black or hard). Transfer roast to slow cooker.

3) Reduce heat to medium. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil to skillet, along with onions, celery, carrots and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker.

4) Increase heat to high. Add red wine to empty skillet, scraping up any browned bits with wooden spoon, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and broth, and bring to a boil. Add pepper flakes, bay leaves and thyme. Transfer to slow cooker.

5) Set slow cooker to high, cover, and cook until tender, 6 to 7 hours. Or, cook on low for 9 to 10 hours. (Check the temperature with a meat thermometer about 2 hours before the roast is supposed to be done to prevent overcooking). As I mentioned I cooked mine for about 3 and half hours on the equivalent of high in my dutch oven. Any big/heavy saucepan would do I think, so long as it has a well fitting lid and is reasonably thick. You'll have to be really careful with how high the temperature is if you're using a thinner pan, else you'll end up with a nasty burnt layer on the bottom.

6) Transfer roast to carving board; loosely tent with foil to keep warm. Discard bay leaves. Allow liquid in pot to settle, about 5 minutes, then use wide spoon to skim fat off surface. Puree liquids and solids in batches in blender or food processor. (Or, use an immersion blender.) Stir in parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

7) Remove strings from roast and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Transfer meat to serving platter. Pour about 1 cup gravy over meat. Serve, passing more gravy separately.

NOTE ON REDUCING RECIPE: If you cut this recipe in half, be sure to reduce your slow-cooker time to about 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low.

This was everything I'd hoped it would be. I'm toying with the idea of doing a beef order from the meat guy myself so I can make it again.

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Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Meaty Ragu

Excuse the absence everyone, I've been in Kobe for the long weekend. Given that I didn't do any of my own cooking over the weekend, today I'm posting I a recipe I tried right at the beginning of this blog and for some reason (probably the blinding heat of summer) never posted.

This recipe was taken from Bitchin Camero, a recipe site that I absolutely adore. This dish is perfect for chilly afternoons as it needs simmering on the stove for a while, leaving a rich tomato-meat smell to hang on the air and spread warmth around your kitchen and into the other rooms. As soon as the last of summer releases its death grip from the back of the neck of this year, I will be making this again.


2 tbsp. olive oil
450g (1 lb) pieces of lamb (I used boneless shoulder chops)
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
190ml (3/4 cup) red wine
800g (28 oz can) whole, peeled tomatoes (preferably San Marzano tomatoes)
coarse salt
1/2 – 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes


I substituted beef for lamb as it is incredibly hard to find here, and even when you get it it is in very small Yakiniku sized pieces. I ended up using two steaks and and yakiniku beef pack my supermarket had on offer because that was cheapest for me, but whatever works for you. Pieces big enough to pull apart when the time comes are best.

I used two cans of whole peeled tomatoes because the large ones aren't available here.


Excuse the quality of the pictures, they were taken right at the beginning of this blog.

1) Assemble ingredients, and chop onions, carrots, and garlic. You don't absolutely have to do this, but it takes time and I find it much easier to have them prepared.

2) Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium. Once it’s hot add the olive oil. Season the lamb with salt and sear it in the olive oil, allowing for about 5 minutes per side. You want a nice, brown char on the meat.

3) Remove the lamb and add the onions and carrots. Saute for 3 – 5 minutes, or until the onions just begin to get translucent.

4)Add the meat back in and cover with remaining ingredients. Mix, and once the liquid comes to a boil, reduce it to low and let simmer for about an hour.

5) After the hour (or 2 – whatever works for you) passes, remove the lamb to a plate. Using 2 forks, pull the meat apart to a shred (like pulled pork). Once all of the lamb is shredded, add it back to the pot and simmer for at least another 30 minutes.

6) Ladle over pasta and sprinkle with freshly ground Parmesan (or your cheese of choice).

Again, sorry for the pic quality, but I assure you this is wonderful.

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Saturday, 3 October 2009

Apple Cake

Autumn has finally hit Japan! It psyched me out a few times but it's finally here. After an unusually long Spring rainy season, Summer came very late this year, this in turn meant that a mere week ago I was still using a fan at night and cursing the skies every time I had to make the trek to school schlepping my laptop and books. However, at the beginning of this week the heavens opened and sent forth the rain, and it's only stopped for little breathers since.

I love the rain, maybe it's because it reminds me home, maybe it's because it signals an end to the horror of Japanese summer (I'm British! I'm just not designed to withstand the heat!). I love sitting in my apartment listening to it hit roof, I love watching lightening (though we haven't had any yet this season), and I love walking home under my umbrella instead of under the harsh beating of an unforgiving sun. I don't love the fact that my gaijin ('foreigner') proportions means I have no rain shoes, but you can't have everything in life.

This year particularly I've loved that the loss of extreme heat and humidity in my kitchen means that I can start spending more time in there. Walking home from school the other day I arrived home a little chilled and with wet feet and remembered this recipe I'd seen the previous weekend. A perfect autumn recipe, my whole house kept that sweet baked apple smell long after the cake came out. Even better, because there's so much apple in it, making the cake very moist, it can be baked in the convection oven with far less problems than the light and airy recipes I've attempted and failed with before.

This came from Kosher Camembert and actually required very little by way of modification.


For the apples:

4 apples (1 each of Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, and Crispin)
lemon juice to prevent apples from browning as you cut
2 tbsp margarine (or butter if you are making dairy)
1-2 tbsp sugar (or to taste)

For the cake batter:

125g (1 cup) flour
190g (3/4 cup) sugar
2 eggs
125ml (1/2 cup) canola oil
5g (1 tsp) baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
2-3 T demerara (coarse grained) sugar (optional)


My apples were a little on the large side so I only used 3. I have no idea what type they were as my expertise stops at 'red', 'granny smith', or 'golden delicious'. My apples were red, and a quick gander at the packaging tell me they were from Tsugaru, the western region of Aomori Prefecture, but beyond that I couldn't tell you. They were quite sweet.

I used butter to cook the apples instead of margarine because I didn't have to worry about the recipe being kosher.


1) Preheat your oven to 180C/350F. I did mine to 170C, then turned it down to 160 once the top had browned as I'm still experimenting with converting temperatures while baking when it comes to my convection oven. Grease your cake pan.

2) Peel and core the apples, then cut into slices. Sprinkle with lemon juice (you don’t need much – maybe a tablespoon or so) while the others are being sliced to prevent browning.

3) Heat margarine in pan over low heat and add apples and the 1-2 tbsp white sugar. Stir, ad allow to cook for about 10-15 minutes until apples soften. Some of the liquid will soak into the apples, but if too much of it starts to evaporate, then turn the heat down.

4) While the apples are on the stove top, mix together the remaining ingredients (except for the demerara sugar) — flour, 190g sugar, eggs, oil, baking powder, and vanilla - in a bowl.

(I added to flour to this after mixing these together, to make it easier to mix smoothly)

5) Add half the warm apples (juices and all) to the batter and mix.

6) Pour the mixture into your prepared pan, and arrange the remaining apple slices any way you like on top.

7) If using the sugar on top then sprinkle the cake pan with sugar, bake for 1 hour.

Ideally this should have been a little less brown on top, but I've so many instances where I've thought a cake is done and ended up with a raw bottom/centre because the convection oven hates full sized cakes, that I erred on the side of caution. There are enough apples in this that it stayed nice and moist inside, so the usual problem of overcooked cakes being dry wasn't an issue.

The cake can be a little difficult to move because the amount of fruit in it makes it prone to breaking apart, so wait a little for it cool before trying to take it out of the pan.

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