Japanese seven spice, or shichimi togarashi, is a distinctive seasoning in this recipe that combines sesame seeds, chilli, Sichuan pepper, dried orange peel, pepper, ginger and seaweed flakes.

Japanese pork curry

Serves: 4
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 4¼ hours (slow cooker) 1¼ hours (stove-top)
40g butter
1 tablespoon rice bran oil or grapeseed oil
1 white onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
75 g plain flour
3 tablespoons curry powder, ideally Japanese or Malaysian
1 litre beef stock
½ teaspoon shichimi togarashi
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
2 teaspoons honey
1 green apple, peeled, finely grated
4 x 150g pork neck, cut into large pieces
2 carrots, cut into 3cm pieces
8 baby potatoes, peeled
snow peas, finely sliced spring onion and steamed rice with black sesame seeds, to serve
Heat butter and oil in a large, deep frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for 4 minutes until softened. Stir in flour and curry powder, then gradually pour in stock, stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Transfer to the slow cooker and add remaining ingredients. Cook on low for 4 hours until the meat and vegetables are tender.
Serve with snow peas, spring onion and rice.

Time to buy?
If you're investing in your first slow cooker, there are a few things to keep in mind. The capacity of slow cookers ranges from modest versions, perfect for small households, to bigger models (up to 7 litres) that will feed a crowd, often with a meal or two left over for the freezer as well.
Dishes made in the slow cooker require less liquid than those cooked on the stove-top or in the oven, as the liquid cannot evaporate (as a general rule,you'll need about half the amount of liquid in the slow cooker). Since slow cookers take a while to heat up, resist the urge to lift the lid while cooking; if you do need to stir or check the food, replace the lid as soon as possible so the slow cooker doesn't lose too much heat. As with any kitchen equipment, there are some safety points to remember when using your slow cooker:
* Never cook any meat from frozen, or partially frozen, in a slow cooker, as this can allow food-poisoning bacteria to multiply. Always thaw meat fully before cooking.
* If your slow cooker's ceramic insert has been refrigerated or frozen, let it come to room temperature before cooking, or the sudden change in temperature could cause it to crack.
* Never cook dried kidney-shaped beans from their raw state in a slow cooker, as the temperature won't be high enough to destroy the natural toxin found in these beans. Tinned beans are safe for immediate use, but dried red kidney beans (and other similar-shaped beans) should be soaked overnight, then boiled vigorously in fresh water for 10 minutes before being added to the slow cooker.

Olivia Andrews is the author of Whole Food Slow Cooked (Murdoch Books; $35.00), from which these recipes and images are reproduced with kind permission, and available now in all good bookstores and online.