Sonoko Sakai is a California-based author and cook creating simple and seasonal dishes that allow natural flavours to speak for themselves. With a diverse cultural upbringing, her cooking reflects on the time she has spent in different places across the world - from New York and Mexico City to Tokyo and Kamakura.
For our Time to Make series, Sonoko guides us through a quick, fragrant home curry that is full of fresh vegetables, and rooted in her Japanese heritage. From her kitchen in L.A. Sonoko also demonstrates how to make a curry brick that can be used as a base, made from a unique blend of spices.
For the curry brick
3 tablespoons (40g) coconut oil or unsalted butter
3 tablespoons (25 g) all purpose flour or Mochiko rice flour
1 tbsp (6g) Japanese Curry Powder
For the curry
3 tbsp vegetable oil
Roughly 650g of vegetables such as butternut squash, zucchini, eggplant, or mushrooms, cut into about 1.5-inch pieces. You could also use chicken breast or a meat alternative
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
2 tbsp minced ginger
2 carrots, cut into bite-size pieces
1 celery stalk, cut into bite-size pieces
1 bell pepper, green, red or yellow, cut into bite-size pieces
225 g potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
1 litre stock
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp orange zest
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sake
1 small curry brick, firmed and set in the fridge or freezer (method below)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to tasteMETHOD
To make the curry brick
To begin, make a roux in a medium frying pan by melting the butter over a medium-high heat. When the butter is nearly melted, turn the heat to low. Add the flour and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly until the roux turns light brown, being careful not to let it burn.
Remove from heat, add the curry spice powder, and mix well. Pour into 3 moulds, being sure to divide evenly. Use immediately or smooth tops and place in the freezer to set (at least 20 minutes). You can use old tupperware boxes as a mould.
Remove from moulds, individually wrap tightly in plastic and place in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use. Wrapped curry bricks will keep in the fridge for up to 3 months or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
When making your curry, you can use your brick whilst it is soft in paste form, or, you can chill it to leave to firm and use another time.
To make the curry
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes until softened and slightly caramelised. Scoop out the onions and set aside.
Add remaining 1 tbsp of oil and sauté the vegetables or meat, cooking for about 6-8 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the caramelized onion, garlic, ginger, carrots, celery, potatoes, and continue sautéing for a couple of minutes.
Next, add the broth and increase the heat to medium-high, bringing it to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced, by roughly a quarter. Add the curry brick, stir to distribute evenly, and continue simmering until the sauce is thickened but still pourable. This will take about 20 minutes.
Season with honey (if using), rice vinegar, orange zest, soy sauce, and sake. Taste and make adjustments with salt and pepper! Remove from heat and serve with rice and quick pickles.A note from Sonoko:
If you want to create your own curry powder blend, you will need 1 tbsp mustard seeds, cinnamon stick, 1 bay leaf, 2 green cardamom pods, 1 tbsp coriander seeds, 1 tbsp fennel seeds, 1 tbsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp fenugreek seeds, 1/2 tsp whole cloves, 1½ tsp black peppercorns, 1 whole allspice berry, ¼ of a dried shiitake mushrooms, 1 piece dried kombu seaweed, 1 tsp sweet paprika, 1 tbsp ground ginger, 1 tbsp ground turmeric, 1 tsp cayenne pepper.
Toast the whole spices and bay leaf over low heat until fragrant for about 2 minutes. Stir often and be careful not to burn. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Place the dried shiitake and kombu seaweed into a spice grinder and grind on high for about 30 seconds, or until pulverized. You could also use a pestle and mortar. Remove from the grinder and sift into a bowl through a fine mesh strainer. Place the toasted whole spices in the spice grinder and grind on high for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Shake and tap the grinder a couple of times to ensure all spices are pulverized. Sift into the same bowl, add the powdered spices, and combine thoroughly. You should now have about 9 tablespoons of curry powder. Store your curry powder in an airtight container in a cool, dry place until ready to use. Follow steps 1-4 from the curry brick method in the same way to create your curry brick!Images by Rick Poon.
Read more about Sonoko Sakai and her recipes.