Around the Table
Julia Busuttil Nishimura
Slow Sundays are for herbed roast chicken and silky smooth panna cotta. Eating outside means cheddar scones and fresh, spring salads. Friends coming by for afternoon coffee calls for a simple blackberry yoghurt loaf or comforting ginger cake with cream cheese frosting.
Beloved home cook Julia Busuttil Nishimura always knows the right dish for the occasion, weather or time of day. She also understands the power food has to bring people together, whether that’s to prepare a meal or enjoy the delicious results.
With recipes ranging from quick, flavourful meals for busy weeknights to simple indulgences for summer feasts, Around the Table perfectly matches dishes to time and place. It includes recipes laden with personal meaning – Mediterranean classics from Italy and Malta, and Japanese dishes Julia has learned from her husband, Nori – that will soon become favourites around your table, too.
Japanese Curry Rice
Since curry was introduced to Japan, it has been transformed into its own unique dish and is now incredibly popular. Instead of starting with a curry paste, the meat and vegetables are simmered in water,
creating a rich broth as they cook, which is then thickened and flavoured with a roux-based curry brick. Curry bricks are essential to making Japanese curry and there are many variations available at supermarkets in Japan, as well as Japanese grocers here in Australia.
This recipe shows you how to make your own bricks. It really is rather simple and just requires an assortment of spices. After lots of experimenting with ratios, my recipe is just how we like it at home,
but feel free to vary the amounts to suit your own tastes. The quantity makes enough for four curries. I store the remainder in the fridge, where they keep for a month; alternatively, the bricks can be frozen.
When we are in Japan, we visit one of our favourite places for curry, Bird Coee, in Osaka, at least once. They serve their curry in vintage brown bowls with plenty of rice and a boiled egg. It is really comforting and so simple to make from scratch. A typical accompaniment to Japanese curry are pickles, in particular
fukujinzuke and rakkyo. The former is a type of vegetable pickle, generally a mixture of daikon, eggplant, cucumber and lotus root, usually available from a Japanese grocer. Here, I’ve given a recipe for a pickled shallot, which is the next best thing to rakkyo (small young Japanese shallots, originally from China), which are almost impossible to find where I am. I love making them, and while they need a bit of time to pickle, they are really simple to put together. While the pickled shallot isn’t identical, it still provides a nice sweet, vinegary and salty contrast to the curry. The vegetables added to the curry are traditionally cut with a rolling technique: simply make a cut on the diagonal, turn the vegetable 45 degrees, then make another cut. Keep on rolling the vegetable as you cut – this ensures that the pieces are of even size . p220-221
700 g skinless chicken thigh fillets, cut into 3 cm pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
3 cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 potatoes, peeled and roll cut (see recipe introduction) into 2 cm pieces
2 carrots, peeled and roll cut (see recipe introduction) into 2 cm pieces
1 apple, coarsely grated
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon tomato sauce (ketchup)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
To make the curry powder, toast the whole spices in a dry frying pan over medium heat for 1–2 minutes, until fragrant. Transfer to a spice grinder or a mortar and grind or pound to a powder. Transfer to a small bowl, add the remaining curry powder ingredients and stir to combine.
To make the roux, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When foaming, add the flour and curry powder and cook, stirring, for 2–3 minutes. Transfer the curry base to a sheet of baking paper and,
using the baking paper to help you, form the curry base into a square brick. Divide the brick into quarters, then place in an airtight container or wrap in baking paper or plastic wrap, and keep in the fridge until
ready to use.
To make the curry, season the chicken with salt and warm the oil in a large saucepan over medium–high heat. Brown the chicken for 2–3 minutes each side, then remove from the pan and set aside. Add
the onion and cook for 3–4 minutes, until it begins to soften, then add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute until fragrant.
Add the potato and carrot and return the chicken to the pan. Stir so that everything is well coated, then add 600 ml of hot water. Increase the heat to high and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat
to medium–low and simmer for 15–20 minutes, until the chicken and vegetables are cooked through. Add a curry brick and mix well – the brick will melt into the curry. Add the apple, soy sauce, tomato sauce
and Worcestershire sauce and simmer for 4–5 minutes, until the curry has thickened. Check for seasoning, then serve with steamed rice, jammy eggs and pickles.
NOTE: To make the pickled shallots, peel and trim 750 g small shallots, being careful not to trim too much of the root, as ideally the shallots should remain whole. You want 500 g shallots once they are peeled.
Rinse the shallots to remove any residual skin or grit, then dry them thoroughly with a clean tea towel. Place the shallots in an airtight jar with 50 g salt (10 per cent of the shallot weight). Cover with cooled boiled water, then screw on the lid, shake well and allow to sit at room temperature for 3 days, shaking the jar a few times a day. Alternatively, especially if you live in a very hot climate, they can be stored in the fridge with an increased soaking time of 1 week.
Drain the shallots and squeeze out any excess water. Clean the jar and allow it to air-dry, then return the shallots to the jar. Heat 250 ml (1 cup) rice vinegar and 80 g (⅓ cup) caster sugar in a small
saucepan over medium heat. Heat until the sugar has dissolved, then remove from the heat. Pour the amazu (sweetened pickling vinegar) over the shallots and allow to cool. Once cooled to room temperature, store in the fridge. They are ready to eat once they have cooled and will keep for many months submerged in the amazu.
25 g (¼ cup) coriander seeds
3 tablespoons cumin seeds
3 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
2 tablespoons black mustard seeds
2 tablespoons ground turmeric
½ teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
140 g unsalted butter
100 g (⅔ cup) plain flour
steamed Japanese short-grain rice (such
jammy eggs, halved
rakkyo or pickled shallots (see Note)
Around the Table by Julia Busuttil Nishimura, published by Plum, RRP $44.99,
photography by Armelle Habib