Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Something Savoury: Japanese Style Curry with "Breaded" Chicken (カツカレー) (Gluten and Dairy Free with No Added Sugar)

Happy Valentine's Day! As you can probably tell, I've been on a meals buzz recently. Today, my offering is Japanese style curry, with breaded chicken!

Seeing as my birthday and Valentine's Day are quite close together on the calendar, my companion and I went to a Japanese restaurant around my birthday to combine the two events into one celebration. We both ordered something with curry: I got a curry chicken katsudon, and he got curry ramen. Japanese curry is essentially like what I'd call a chip shop curry, but much spicier and darker.

I decided I would try and make it at home, but with all natural ingredients, or at least as many as possible. I didn't want to use any refined sugar or processed stock cubes, to make it as clean eating as I could. In the same way I did for my tomato soup recipe, I use an apple in this for natural sweetness.

However, because it kinda involves making a stock from scratch, it's a little time consuming. I'd say the whole curry takes about 90 minutes to two hours to prepare from start to finish, including chopping. But, it's very flavourful, and you get to revel in the satisfaction of making a takeaway meal in a mostly healthy way. Don't be overwhelmed by the long list of ingredients: you probably already have most of them.

For a Valentine's day twist, I cut some of the pieces of carrot into heart shapes using a little fondant cutter. You could cut the vegetables into any shape.

And as for the "breaded" chicken, it's actually not bread at all: it's crusted used flaked almonds, which means it's completely gluten free! The almonds are naturally dry and crunchy, so when used as a coating they stay super crusty and crispy, and crunch like glass when you eat them. They don't go soggy after five minutes of frying. So satisfying. So dangerously addictive. I think I may make more recipes using the almond breaded chicken.... (whenever making gluten free food, always check ingredient labels for allergens).

Serves four people

For the base gravy,
  • 1 medium sized sweet green apple, peeled and diced
  • 1 large onion, white or red, diced
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 inch (5 centimetre) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tablespoon (15 millilitres) tomato purée
  • 1 pint (2½ cups, 570 millilitres) water
  • 1 tablespoon (15 millilitres) cooking oil
  • ¼ teaspoon (1 millilitre) fine salt

For the curry,
  • Up to 4 teaspoons (20 millilitres) curry powder, spiciness of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon (15 millilitres) soy sauce, or tamari for gluten free option
  • 1 teaspoon (5 millilitres) white vinegar, or lemon juice
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and cut into thin coins
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and cut into one inch (2½ centimetres) chunks
  • Optional: Half a small onion, cut into slices
  • Optional: 1 or 2 teaspoons (5 or 10 millilitres) cornflour, depending on desired thickness

For the chicken schnitzel,
  • 4 chicken breasts, roughly 5 or 6 ounces (140 or 170 grammes) each
  • Cornflour, for dusting
  • 2 medium eggs
  • Roughly 5 ounces (140 grammes) flaked almonds, or crushed cornflakes if you cannot eat nuts
  • Salt and pepper

For serving
  • 4 servings of steamed white rice, long grain or Jasmine
  • Optional: Sesame seeds, for garnish
  • Optional: Thinly sliced spring onion, for garnish


First, make the base gravy,

  • In a medium sized saucepan, heat the cooking oil over medium heat. Stir fry the ginger and garlic for about a minute or so until fragrant.
  • Add the onion, carrot, apple, and the salt, and continue to cook until softened. Add the tomato purée, and cook until caramelised and the bottom of the pan is slightly brown. Get a good brown layer—called a fonde—going on the bottom of the pan: this will add more flavour to the finished curry.
  • Pour the water over the top, stir briefly, and reduce the heat to low. Cover then simmer until all the vegetables and apple are tender, about 30 minutes.
  • Once cooked, allow to cool slightly and then blend in a blender or food processor until completely smooth. (What if I don't have a blender? Cook for a full hour until completely broken down, then push a little at a time through a sieve into a large bowl).
Then, complete the curry,
  • Return the gravy to the saucepan, and add the soy sauce and vinegar, or lemon juice. Mix the curry powder with a little water in a cup, a teaspoon at a time, then stir into the curry. Add as much curry powder as you like.
  • Add the carrots, then cover and simmer the sauce over low heat for about 10 minutes. Add the potato, and onions if using, cover and simmer again for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the potato is tender but still maintaining its shape, and the carrot is tender.
  • The naturally occurring starch in the potato will thicken the curry a little bit, but if you want to adjust the thickness you can add cornflour. Start with mixing one teaspoon in a cup with a tablespoon of water, and adding to the curry. If you want it thicker, add another teaspoon mixed with water, and so on.
  • Keep covered until while you prepare the chicken, and it will keep its head very well.
To make the chicken schnitzel,

  • Place the almonds in a sandwich bag, and crush them gently with a rolling pin. Get a good range of texture, from fine crumbs to bigger flatkes: this will make it more crispy.
  • Put one chicken breast at a time into a sandwich bag, lie flat on the work surface, then bash with a rolling pin until it is roughly half an inch (1 centimetre) in thickness. Repeat with the other fillets. Place all the pieces onto a large plate or tray. You can use the same bag for all of them, unless is splits.
  • Set up two wide shallow bowls: place the almond crumbs in one, and beat the eggs with a tablespoon of water.
  • Sprinkle the fillets with cornflour on their tray and completely coat on both sides (a pastry brush is helpful here). Take one fillet at a time, dip both sides in the beaten egg, then cover both sides with the almond crumbs. After crusting, season on both sides with salt and pepper.
  • Heat a frying pan and add enough cooking oil to coat the bottom of the pan in a good layer. Test the heat with a spare almond flake: if it bubbles immediately, it's hot enough.
  • Fry one chicken fillet at a time—or two, if you have a large enough pan—for about three minutes on each side, or until golden brown on both sides.
  • As you fry the fillets, keep the cooked ones on a tray in the oven on the lowest temperature setting, to keep them warm.
To serve,
  • Divide the rice between four wide bowls and keep to one side. 
  • Cut each chicken fillet into strips and lie on top of the rice, then pour the curry onto the empty side of the bowl.
  • Sprinkle with a garnish of sesame seeds or spring onion, if you like.
I think I may do a few more recipes using the "almonded" chicken approach, because it was seriously tasty. Maybe a nice chicken burger? Or American style tenders? We'll see...

UPDATE 18/04/17: Instead of flaked almonds, you can use crushed cornflakes.

THIS TIME IN 2016: No recipe
THIS TIME IN 2014: No recipe

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