Japanese Chicken Curry with HYPERJapan and S&B (collaboration)

Guess who was panicking in an airport M&S looking for ingredients for a Japanese curry the afternoon before an event where she had to present the recipe? That’s right, me. Some time in August, HYPERJapan came to me with an invitation to a Curry Party with chef Avinash Shashidhara. As the weeb I am, I couldn’t say no, even if I knew it was the day after I would be flying back from visiting my family (and dinosaurs) in Italy. It sounded like a fun challenge too, especially when I expected to get a cosy Waitrose delivery on Sunday morning to get all the right ingredients to show off my knowledge of niche Japanese food (katsu chicken is not the only thing you eat with a curry roux) and make some nice Hokkaido-style venison curry (it may not be Sika deer but it’s still a deer). 

Of course, things never go to plan, and that’s how this recipe came to be. 

Ingredients (makes 4+ portions)
* A box of S&B Golden Curry in Medium Hot (gifted)
* 600g of chicken thighs
* A min of 300 ml of vegetable stock or other alternatives (I didn’t have chicken stock at hand but I would likely have used vegetable bouillon for a more gentle flavour to the roux since thigh meat has more flavour than breasts)
* 1 generous handful of white rice per person (I used a normal long grain which would be the standard rice at any supermarket because that’s what I had at hand)
* 2 handfuls of red grapes

Procedure

  • Start with a cold pan and brown the chicken thighs in their own fat (believe me on this one, the trick of the cold pan was originally from Gordon Ramsey)
  • Remove the chicken from the pan and toast the spice mix for a few seconds, then add the chicken back and coat it in the spices.
  • Add the broth to cover the meat, bring to a boil and then reduce the temperature to a low simmer for the duration of the cooking for a slow-cooked dish, or to a medium one for a faster one. I left it to cook on its own for 1h but then the meat was at rest for another 3 hours before I reheated it for dinner. The goal is to cook the meat thoroughly and reduce the roux to a thick but still runny sauce. 
  • After halfway through the cooking, add red grapes for a hint of sweetness (the longer they stay the softer they will be, but also the more flavour they will add)
  • Boil or steam the rice according to the instruction on the rice package and the instrument you use (if you have a rice cooker I am well jealous) and serve

The idea of adding grapes is, of course, unorthodox, but as much as it gives a heart attack to my mother (who refuses anything savoury that uses fruits other than tomatoes etc) it does work. I did it, initially, to provide some colour and texture knowing that I had to take photos, but all I had at hand was one of those large mixed berries fruit salads that I grabbed in a 2 for £5 offer at the airport. It was my first time using the S&B curry cubes, the only other time I cooked a Japanese curry at home I used a ready-made sauce pouch from Waitrose, but the cubes (which they sell too, by the way) are much tastier. It may have to do with the fact I have used the full box for that amount of chicken, so maybe a smaller amount will give you a similar flavour to the ready-made one, but one thing I love about curries is that they are an explosion of flavours and, in that regard, Japanese curry can be quite mild. That’s why I am excited to try Chef Avi’s original recipes from the event, which are a fusion of Japanese and the traditions of the part of India where he is from originally.

The reason why this post is going live about 10 days after the event itself has to do with the fact I wanted to try those recipes and report on them, but unfortunately, I’ve had 3 days of migraines in a row and that didn’t happen. I didn’t want to delay the post any further so it’ll be just the chicken curry this time, and I’ll make a follow up soon, especially once I (hopefully) get to go to the Japan Centre and grab some of the Sake in their Cold Sake festival to go with it. 

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5 Tips to Get Back in the Saddle

Woman on bike

I’m off on holiday, so I’m excited to have Catherine Ellis of Hill & Ellis as a guest blogger this week. I had my first grown-up bike as early as when I was 3 (my great uncle loved to splurge, I guess…) and while I was still in Central London it was not unusual to see me in the saddle (including cycling the whole of Hyde Park in one afternoon on a Boris bike). You know me, though, I’ve never been one for the sportsy aesthetic, more like the “going to a market in Paris” one, and that’s why I fell in love with this brand. Today, we talk about how to get me (and you, if you’re in the same boat as me) back on the saddle. 

With cycling in the spotlight are you planning to get back in the saddle? Here’s what you need to know.

The revival of cycling over recent months has been both unmissable and unstoppable, with many taking up cycling during lockdown for their daily exercise, followed by people swapping public transport in favour of a bike when commuting to work. Numbers are likely to increase further as the government invests in cycling infrastructure, as well as recently offering the £50 bike service voucher scheme to encourage people to get back in the saddle and get fitter.

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Afternoon Tea at Brown’s Brasserie

Afternoon Tea (Brown's)

I’ve loved Brown’s since I had breakfast in the Oxford one many moons ago. It’s a mid-price range place that covers your needs from breakfast to dinner and looks really nice inside without being stuffy and pretentious. It’s a smart casual place, which is what you need when you want to have a good time without putting in the effort to dress up. We had a couple of gift cards that came from family members that insist they need to buy Christmas presents, and it was a very welcome compromise. Back in the time before lockdown, we have attempted to go for an evening meal at the Mayfair branch after Mass at Farm Street, since the worse-half was, at the time, reading Brideshead Revisited after two years of me pleading for it to happen.

Mayfair is still closed, and I was itching for a change of pace even if it came at the cost of wearing an uncomfortable mask that makes me cough and get a headache, so we decided to turn it around and have an early afternoon tea at the Victoria branch instead, before Mass at the Oratory. It’s a quiet hidden spot in Cardinal Place, or at least it was at the time. We passed by the Botanist on Sloane Square on our way back to the station and you’d think Covid-19 was never a thing judging by how packed it was. It was still well attended and lively, even with the social distancing measures, and the staff was courteous, so it never felt like living in some kind of dystopia. 

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Micro-living: the good, the bad and the ugly

Small Loft Flat

A few days ago, a British politician made a comment about how poor people should buy 2kg bags of fresh potatoes instead of the more expensive and smaller bags of frozen ready-cut chips, and it got me thinking about how many people have no idea what life at the bottom is really like. This is not, however, a post about that. If you’d like to read more on that, you can find a lot of thoughtful pieces on the Steel Magnificat blog on Patheos Catholic. Living in small spaces is an urban thing that transcends class: nowadays, London houseshares in zone 1-2 come for a minimum of £800-£1000 per month per room depending on area. You can’t pay that much if you are earning a retail wage. Even the houses that are large by city standards are not that big when you think of how much space you’d get in the countryside. The cost of a zone 1 flat can buy you a French castle. In fact, Savills has a few going right now for the cost of a 2-bedroom flat in Battersea, let alone a 5 million+ Chelsea penthouse. 

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The Soul Care Series: Heart-Centred Goal Setting

Kawaii Stationery

I have had to take a break for the last 2-3 weeks as my health took a turn for the worse (those of you who listen to Alessia’s Divine Comedy will know already I barely managed to keep that afloat with some delays). I guess, in a way, it made this next topic in the Soul Care series more timely, since we are talking about the new coaching buzzword for planning. 

You might be wondering what’s the link with wellness, so I guess I should first explain what is meant by heart-centred goal setting. You might have heard of Daniella LaPorte and her best-selling book “The Desire Map”. Heart-Centred goal setting is an evolution of that: it’s about making decisions and plans that come from the desires of our hearts and it’s linked to wellness because a lot of undue stress in our lives comes from chasing things that won’t make us happy and having goals that are pushed on us from the outside world. 

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