The first time he tried sushi, American chef Tim Anderson, who runs Japanese soul food restaurant Nanban in London's Brixton, wasn't keen.

"Sushi is the first Japanese food everybody tries and I've never understood why," he says, when we meet in Nanban's kitchen, where he's set to teach me some basics.

"I really didn't like the nori [seaweed] - the flavour or texture - it was an acquired taste. But I was really into soul food - tempura, fried rice. I loved noodles from the beginning, and the thing that blew my mind when I first tried it was tonkatsu [breaded pork cutlet] ramen."

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Sushi is not on the menu at Nanban - it's all about the ramen and soul food - but there are recipes for spicy tuna rolls and salmon avocado rolls in his new book, JapanEasy, in which Tim dispels the myth that Japanese cooking is complicated or requires a larder full of special ingredients.

"I'm really proud of my first book, Nanban," says the 2011 MasterChef winner, "but it was never going to be a huge bestseller because the recipes were so obscure and difficult, whereas this book was really fun to write and I think it's going to do a better job of actually getting people to cook Japanese food."

We're chatting while Tim prepares nasu dengaku - miso-glazed aubergines - which involves cutting a crosshatch pattern in the flesh of a halved aubergine, which is then deep-fried, slathered with sweet miso sauce and popped under the grill. It takes minutes to prepare and cook and tastes sweet and salty and delicious.

"It's a really simple thing - and it goes with all types of food," he says, as we scoop up the gooey lumps with chopsticks. "Like, if you're having lamb chops, there's no reason you can't have that as your side."

Brits have two preconceptions that stop them from cooking Japanese food, believes Tim.

"One is they don't think they can get the ingredients, which isn't true. You're not going to go to a Tesco Metro and find everything you need, but a big Tesco will absolutely have all the ingredients you need to cook the vast majority of Japanese food, and you can get everything online.

"There's a lot of Japanese dishes that don't require specialist ingredients, except for soya sauce. I made a point to not include recipes [in the book] that require obscure ingredients, especially fresh stuff, 'cos it's not fair to make people substitute stuff and you won't get the right flavour.

"Also, I think people think you have to make a beautiful Japanese meal, but really Japanese home-cooking is just as humble and unpretentious as any other home-cooking. A lot of it is one-pot or one-bowl food, like rice bowls. You don't have to have a huge spread."

Tim grew up in Wisconsin, where "we don't have a lot of Japanese food". It was watching one of the first televised cooking competition shows, Iron Chef, (which was dubbed into English and became a cult hit in America) when he was 13, that got him into Japanese food - and he moved to LA to study Japanese history, winning a research grant to study food museums in Japan when he was 20.

After graduating, he taught English in Japan for two years, soaking up the food culture, before moving to England in 2008, marrying British wife Laura and finally opening Nanban, after a hunt for the perfect location, in 2015.

"When I moved here straight from Japan, I was really disappointed by the British food culture. If you go from place to place in Japan, even the train station will have the best produce, different liquors and sweets, but in Britain, you have to go out of your way to find good local food. There's not the same sense of identity with it as they have in Japan, where food is front and centre and so important to people."

At 26, Tim became the youngest ever winner of MasterChef, wowing the judges in the final with his Kyushu-style pork ramen with truffled lobster and gyoza.

His gyoza are just as tasty today as they were then, I can attest, after watching him carefully 'crimp' circles of pre-prepared pastry around dollops of minced pork and fry them until their bottoms are crisp. He makes it look so easy, I might just be convinced to make them myself at home.

kare raisu

Ingredients

(Serves 2-4)

1 onion, cut into small chunks

2 carrots, peeled and cut into wedges

400g floury potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks

½ cauliflower, broken into bite-sized florets

4 portions of cooked rice (300g uncooked)

For the curry sauce:

4tbsp oil

1 large onion, roughly chopped

2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely sliced

1 green chilli, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled

2 tomatoes

½ Golden Delicious or similar apple, peeled and roughly chopped

½ banana

30g mild Madras curry powder

2tbsp garam masala

750ml chicken or beef stock

60g butter

6tbsp plain (all-purpose) flour

2tbsp ketchup

2tbsp soy sauce

Salt

Method

1 For the sauce, combine the oil, onion, ginger, chilli, garlic, tomatoes, apple, banana, curry powder and garam masala in a food processor and blitz to a paste. Pour this into a saucepan and cook on a medium-high heat, stirring often, until the mixture begins to caramelise and the spices become aromatic. Add the stock and bring to the boil.

2 Meanwhile, melt the butter in a separate saucepan and whisk in the flour. Cook on a low heat for about eight minutes, stirring constantly, until the roux thickens and turns a golden brown colour.

3 Ladle the curry mixture from the other pan into the roux, a little at a time, whisking constantly to incorporate. Add the ketchup and soy sauce.

4 Cook the mixture until it's quite thick, then transfer to a blender or use an immersion blender to puree until very smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt.

5 Place the onion, carrots and potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, add the cauliflower and reduce to a simmer.

6 Cook for about 10 minutes, until everything is tender. Drain and return to the pan, and pour in the curry sauce. Bring everything back to a simmer and serve with the rice.

Ramen

(Serves 4)

1 leek, white part only, finely shredded

8 rashers of streaky bacon

40g or 3tbsp butter

4 big fat scallops or 12 little scallops

Splash of white wine or sake

1.2l chicken or fish stock

1½tsp mirin

2tsp dashi powder (or more or less, to taste)

Salt

4 portions of ramen noodles

4 eggs, poached or soft-boiled, halved

2tsp chilli oil (or more or less, to taste - optional)

Toasted sesame seeds

50g pea shoots

Freshly ground black pepper

Method

1 Cover the shredded leek in very cold water. Cook the bacon in a frying pan over a medium heat until brown and crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and add the butter to the pan.

2 Add the scallops and cook for two to three minutes on each side (or one minute for little ones), until nicely browned, then remove from the pan. Add the white wine or sake to the pan and cook off the alcohol.

3 Scrape any bits off the bottom of the pan, then tip everything into a saucepan. Add the stock and mirin, and bring to the boil. Add the dashi powder and some salt, taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

4 Slice the scallops horizontally into thirds (or leave whole if little), and roughly chop the crispy bacon.

5 Bring a separate saucepan full of water to a rolling boil and cook the ramen according to the package instructions. Pour or ladle the broth into deep bowls, drain the noodles well and place in the broth. Drain the shredded leek.

6 Top the noodles with the eggs, shredded leek, chopped bacon, sliced scallops, chilli oil, if using, sesame seeds, pea shoots and some black pepper.

Tempura

Ingredients:

(Serves 4)

Appox 1.5l of oil for deep-frying (possibly a little more, depending on the size of your pan)

8 broccoli florets or Tenderstem broccoli stems

1 large or 2 small onions, cut into 7.5mm rounds

8 oyster mushrooms

1 courgette, cut in half and then into quarters lengthways

8 king prawns, peeled and deveined, scored 5-6 times on their underside to prevent them from curling

200g skinless, boneless cod or other meaty white fish, cut into 4 goujons

Salt and a wedge of lemon to season

For the batter:

1 egg

400ml sparkling water

200g plain flour

100g cornflour

Pinch of salt

Method

1 Get all your ingredients ready to go before cooking - bear in mind that this is quick, hot cooking, so anything cut too thick will risk burning before it cooks through.

2 Pour the oil into a very big, deep pan, ensuring that you keep the oil level at least 7.5cm below the rim of the pan, to be safe. Put the oil over a medium heat while you make the batter.

3 For the batter, beat the egg, and then stir it together with the sparkling water, ideally using chopsticks. Don't stir too much or you will knock the bubbles out of the water.

4 Stir both flours together with the salt in a separate bowl, then pour in the egg and sparkling water mixture. Mix until the batter comes together with a consistency of double (heavy) cream.

5 Check the temperature of the oil. If you have a thermometer, use it - the oil should be at 170-180°C. Or simply drip a few drops of the batter into the oil to test it. If the batter sinks, it's too cold. If the batter immediately floats and sizzles, it's too hot. The batter should sink just below the surface of the oil, then rise up and start to sizzle.

6 Dunk the veg and fish in the batter, one at a time, allowing excess to drip off before carefully placing them in the oil. Use tongs or chopsticks to separate the veg as they fry so they don't stick together. You'll have to do the veg in batches - the ideal way to serve and eat this is straight out of the fryer. Otherwise, just keep the tempura in a very low oven with the door slightly ajar to let out moisture until it's all ready to serve.

7 The tempura is done when it is a light golden brown and hard to the touch - use tongs or chopsticks to feel if the batter has firmed up before removing from the oil and draining on kitchen paper. Serve with wedges of lemon and sea salt.

JapanEasy: Classic & Modern Japanese Recipes To Cook At Home by Tim Anderson, photography by Laura Edwards. is published by Hardie Grant, priced £20. Available now.