Aubergine katsu curry

Soft aubergines coated in golden, crispy breadcrumbs covered in a rich, salty homemade curry sauce. Served with brown rice, this vegan katsu curry is not only filling and healthy, it’s really tasty too. 

‘Katsu’ is a Japanese method of frying meat or vegetables in breadcrumbs. You’ll find meaty and veggie versions of this curry in eateries like Wasabi and Wagamama and I’ve always been intrigued as to what’s in the sauce.

Some recipes use coconut milk, which adds a whole lot of calories to the mix, but the version I made uses a base of vegetable stock; which is much more forgiving on the waistline.

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This was my first attempt at katsu curry and I’m not going to lie; it was a bit fiddly. But definitely worth it for the results! As the coating and frying of the aubergines takes quite a while, I would recommend trying this recipe on the weekend or when you have more time.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 tbsp plain flour
  • 1-2 medium aubergines
  • 80g natural breadcrumbs
  • 1 mug brown rice

For the sauce

  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp honey
  • ½ tsp cornflour
  • ½ tsp curry powder (I used tikka curry powder, which worked surprisingly well)
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • 300ml vegetable stock

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Serves 2-3

Method

1. Make the sauce. Put a large saucepan on a medium heat and pour in 1 tbsp of olive oil. Fry the onion and garlic for 5-7 minutes, until the onion begins to soften.

2. Meanwhile, slice the aubergines into thin discs.

3. Lower the heat and add the cornflour and curry powder, stirring well. Add the stock gradually, stirring as you do. Add the soy sauce and honey and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes and then add the garam masala.

4. Grab a medium-sized bowl and pour the plain flour in along with a tablespoon or two of water to form a runny paste. Dip each of the aubergine slices in the paste until covered on both sides.

5. Pour the breadcrumbs out onto a large plate. Place the aubergine slices on top of the breadcrumbs, one by one, making sure the paste picks up a thin layer of breadcrumbs. And then turn them over and do the same on the other side of each of the slices.

6. Put the oven on to gas mark 4.

7. At this point, put the brown rice on to cook. Brown rice takes considerably longer than standard basmati rice, so allow a good 25-30 minutes for it to cook through.

8. Next, put a large non-stock frying pan on a medium heat. Add some of the olive oil to the pan and fry the aubergine slices for five minutes or so on both sides, or until they turn golden brown and start to soften in the centre.

Aubergine in breadcrumbs

9. Place in the oven on a large baking tray for 15 minutes.

10. Return to your sauce. It should have thickened a bit after simmering. Pour it into a measuring jug or alternative container with high sides. If it’s a bit on the thin side, add the cornflour and use a hand blender to smooth it out.

11. Drain the rice and serve on one side of the plate. Add the aubergine slices to the plate and pour over a generous helping of curry sauce.

This recipe was inspired by Hef’s Kitchen and BBC Good Food.

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Yasai itameru (stir fried tofu with mixed vegetables, rice noodles and a coconut & ginger broth)

Yasai itameru is a fresh and flavoursome soupy noodle dish with a kick. It’s bursting with the wonderful flavours of garlic, sweet coconut, zingy ginger, salty soy sauce and a wealth of interesting vegetables. And the tofu soaks up all of these delights as well as you’d expect.

This recipe is taken from the Wagamama cookbook; which is, without a doubt, my favourite ‘fast food restaurant’ in London – if it can be classed as that. I mean, the food comes out fast. And it’s always brilliant. Well, apart from that one time I was given chicken gyoza instead of vegetable gyoza. But they did make up for that, so I forgave them. If you’re not familiar; go there! They have them all over the UK! Find your nearest one here. And try the salmon teriyaki – so tasty.

I absolutely love Japanese food. I’d even go as far to say it’s my favourite cuisine. I was lucky enough to visit Japan in 2010 while a good friend of mine was out there teaching. We ate out every night for two weeks; it was amazing. We gorged ourselves on sushi, curries, noodles, ramen, okonomiyaki, salads and more. There was so much to try and all of it so tasty. Just thinking about it makes me want to go back. But luckily, there are a good few Japanese restaurants in London which won’t dent my bank balance so much.

I could go into more depth about my love of Japanese food, but instead I’ll move on to the meal in hand. I’ve adapted this recipe slightly, substituting some of the fresh spices for the dried stuff to save having to buy too many unusual ingredients.

It’s quite a multi-faceted meal to make as you’ve got 2-3 pans on the go at once, but it’s not too tricky. And the results are worth it.

Yasai itameru

Ingredients

For the stir fry:

  • 3 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp crushed chillies
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 generous handfuls beansprouts
  • 200g tofu, chopped into 3-4cm cubes (the recipe suggests firm tofu, but I used Cauldron – if you opt for this, make sure you drain out the water by putting it in a bowl and popping something heavy like a frying pan on top of it for 15 minutes or so)
  • 1 small red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced lengthways
  • 5 spring onions, trimmed and cut lengthways
  • 150g rice noodles (I used vermicelli which I’d recommend)
  • 2 pak choi, with the bottoms cut off and halved lengthways
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar

For the coconut and ginger broth:

  • 4 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 250ml hot water
  • 100ml coconut milk
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp galangal paste
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 0.5 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 0.5 tsp salt

Preparation time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves 2 generous portions

Method

1. Make a start on the broth first. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a low heat for a few minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and galangal, being careful of the hot oil. Mix well and cook on a low heat for six minutes, until you can smell the mixture of aromas.

2. Add the hot water and bring to the boil, adding the salt and sugar.

3. Simmer for 20 minutes, until the liquid has reduced by half.

4. While the broth is simmering, half-fill a medium-sized saucepan with water and bring it to the boil.

5. And while the water is heating up, heat a wok over a medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add the sunflower oil and swirl it around so it covers the surface of the wok. Add the crushed chillies and garlic and fry for 10 seconds, stirring.

6. Next, add the tofu and coat it in the garlic and chillies for another 10 seconds, then add the pak choi, red onion, spring onions, sweet potato and beansprouts and stir fry for 5-10 minutes, until the pak choi has started to reduce in size.

7. When the water in the saucepan is boiling, add the noodles and cook for two to three minutes. Drain and rinse them under cold running water, and set them aside.

8. Add the salt, sugar and soy sauce to the wok and stir fry for five minutes, or until all of the ingredients are cooked – making sure the sweet potato has softened, but still has a bit of bite.

9. Check on the broth. If it has reduced, add the coconut milk and stir well. Cook on a low heat for a couple of minutes. Add the noodles and stir into the broth, and heat through for five minutes.

10. Serve the noodles in shallow bowls topped with the stir fry. Add a lime wedge and some fresh coriander sprigs as a garnish if you fancy.