Japanese instant curry bases are essentially blocks of curry-powder-flavoured roux, with meat and vegetables then added to the thickened sauce. It's easy to make your own, though, and spice it the way you like. The addition of chocolate may seem a little unusual, but it's a common feature, adding depth and lusciousness. This version is intense with curry spice, subtle sweetness from the apple and an underlying richness from the chocolate.
extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, sliced finely in half-moons
5 cloves garlic, chopped
4 carrots, cut into 3cm chunks
1 small daikon, sliced into 2cm-thick discs
2 waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 4cm dice
8cm piece ginger, finely sliced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 litre chicken stock
1 green apple, peeled and grated
2½ tbsp mirin
10 small okra, trimmed
½ cup frozen peas
4 spring onions, sliced finely on an angle
1 sheet of nori, snipped with scissors
short-grain Japanese rice, to serve
For the curry roux
40g dark chocolate, chopped
1½ tbsp garam masala
1½ tbsp hot curry powder
2 tsp salt flakes
2 tsp brown sugar
60g plain flour
1. To make the roux, melt the butter and chocolate in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add the remaining ingredients and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until a thick brown paste forms. Take off the heat and set aside.
2. Heat a splash of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until softened and starting to caramelise, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the carrot and daikon, and cook for 5 minutes.
4. Add the potato and ginger, season and cook for 5 minutes.
5. Add the roux, stir to coat the vegetables, then add the stock and apple and bring to a simmer. Add the mirin and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
6. Add the okra and cook for 10 minutes until tender. Add the peas and simmer for a minute or so.
7. Check the seasoning, garnish with shallot and nori and serve with steamed rice.
Tip: For an optional garnish, rehydrate a handful of arame seaweed in water, dry well and shallow-fry until crisp, then sprinkle over the curry when serving.
Note: The origin of Japanese curry, or kare, can be traced back to the time of the British Raj. It's a long way from its source inspirations on the Indian subcontinent, but over time it has become incredibly popular – instant curry bases now line supermarket shelves in Japan.