Curry, Japanese-style, was probably the first thing I learned how to make on my own when I was learning how to cook. And it's still a staple around the Momonjii house - we make it about once every couple of weeks, probably more often in the winter. Since the "curry" aspect of it is store-bought, it may not count as "cooking," at least not in polite company, but at the very least it's "meal preparation," and it's kept us alive and happy. I've worked out a number of variations that we find pretty satisfying, and here's the most recent.
Caveat: It should probably go without saying that Japanese-style curry doesn't really belong in the same category as Indian cuisine. But I'll say it anyway. If it helps, we can call Japanese curry "kare" instead.
Summer Curry #1
1 large box Java brand curry roux, medium hot (Java is one of the brands of curry readily available at Asian groceries in the US, so it shouldn't be too hard to find)
2 medium-smallish potatoes (Yukon gold)
1 summer squash
1 bunch scallions (sometimes called spring onions: the kind with the bulb at the end)
1 boneless pork chop (optional)
herb de Provence
sunflower seeds (shelled, unsalted)
Note: meat is optional in this recipe. If you're not using it, just follow the directions but ignore the meat.
1. Cut all your veggies into largish chunks. Cut the pork chop into smallish chunks.
2. Melt a little butter in a large soup kettle and sautee the pork over medium-high heat just until it starts to turn whitish-brown. Grind a little white pepper over the pork while you're sauteeing it. Add the potatoes and sautee just a little while. Sauteeing in a soup kettle, you're going to get things burning very quickly, so the object here isn't to cook the items through, but just to sear the outsides of the pork and potatoes.
3. Add a couple of cups of water, turn heat up to high and bring to a boil.
4. When the water's boiling, add the zucchini, summer squash, onions and some frozen peas, as many as you like.
5. Now you'll probably need to add more water. The one thing about Japanese curry that's hard for me to quantify is the amount of water. You can follow the directions on the box, if the importer has translated them for you, but they usually call for 5-6 cups of water, and I find that's way too much. I usually use about half, but I judge by eye rather than measure. Here's how I do it. I aim for enough water to cover the veggies, but not enough so that that they're bobbing around freely. If in doubt, err on the side of too little water. You can always add water to a curry that's too thick, but if you make it too thin there's nothing you can really do about it.
6. Add a couple of dashes of herb de Provence to the water.
7. Boil everything until the pork is done and the veggies are soft.
8. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Add the whole box of curry roux. Stir until the curry is completely dissolved.
9. Let it simmer for five or ten minutes. As soon as the curry is dissolved it's basically done, but letting it simmer for a while helps the taste blend. If you find the curry too thick for your liking at this point, you can always add a little water. If you find it too thin at this point, you can boil it at a low temperature for a while and it will thicken up a little.
10. While simmering, toss in a handful of sunflower seeds.
11. Serve over white rice. Garnish to taste with fresh-grated Parmesan cheese.
Notes: We prefer slightly spicy curries in the summer. Java Curry tends to the spicy side anyway, and with the white pepper and stuff it gets nice and tangy... This recipe will make a lot of curry; just refrigerate whatever's left and eat it the next day. Japanese curry tastes even better the second day... Parmesan cheese may sound like an odd addition to Japanese curry, but it really sets off the flavor of a tangy, summer-veggie curry like this quite nicely.