Curry Flavour With Sri Lankan Food

Jul 7, 2022, 12:15 IST


Prep60 mins
Cooking30 mins
Category Mains
CuisineSri Lankan
Rambutan, Cynthia Shanmugalingam’s new book of recipes, brings us a taste of Sri Lanka


Cashew Nut Curry
Serves: 4

Prep time: 60 minutes 

Cooking time: 30 minutes


225 g raw cashew nuts
2 tbsp coconut or vegetable oil
1 onion, peeled and finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
5 fresh curry leaves
2 green chillies, sliced
½ tsp fenugreek seeds
½ tsp fennel seeds
2 whole cardamom pods, lightly bashed in a pestle and mortar
½ tsp Sri Lankan curry powder (see below)
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ stick of cinnamon
125 ml water
200 ml  coconut milk
¼ lime

For the tempering:
1 tbsp coconut or vegetable oil
10 fresh curry leaves
2 whole cardamom pods, lightly bashed in a pestle and mortar
½ tsp cumin seeds

For the Sri Lankan curry powder:
30 g coriander seeds
15 g cumin seeds
15 g fennel seeds
15 g black peppercorns
2 tbsp coconut or vegetable oil
8 to 10 fresh curry leaves
70 g dried Kashmiri or medium hot red chillies
¼ tsp ground turmeric

1. To prepare the curry powder, roast the coriander, cumin and fennel seeds and peppercorns in a dry pan over a low-medium flame for one or two minutes, stirring regularly, until really fragrant. Pour them into a bowl. Add the oil to the pan and cook the curry leaves and dried chillies for two to three minutes, stirring often. Remove from the flame and, when cool, blitz in a spice grinder until fine. Stir in the turmeric, and store in a glass jar.
2. Soak the cashews in a bowl of water for one hour. Drain well.
3. Place a wok or medium-sized saucepan over a medium flame and add the oil. When hot, add the onion, garlic, curry leaves, green chillies, fenugreek, fennel and cardamom, and cook for three to four minutes until soft and the curry leaves are still bright green.
4. Add the cashews to the mix, stirring in the Sri Lankan curry powder, turmeric, cinnamon and the water. Reduce the flame to low-medium, and simmer for five minutes.
5. Add the coconut milk, bring to a gentle bubbling boil and then lower the flame and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring until the sauce has thickened and reduced.
6. To make the tempering, heat the oil in a small frying pan set over a medium flame. When hot, add the curry leaves, which should crisp up, cardamom pods and cumin seeds, and cook until they splutter. Pour the whole lot, oil and all, onto your cashew curry. Finish with a squeeze of lime juice.

Note:  Cashew nuts (called cadju in Sri Lanka) are very beloved in the island, and were introduced by the Portuguese from Mozambique and South America.


Roast Pumpkin Curry
Serves: 4 

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes     


½ pumpkin (approx 1  kilo)
2 tbsp coconut or vegetable oil
Salt, to taste
½ tsp Sri Lankan curry powder (see first recipe) or 1 tsp chilli powder
1 medium red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
10 fresh curry leaves
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 whole cardamom pods, lightly bashed in a pestle and mortar
200 ml coconut milk
1½ tsp ground turmeric
4cm fresh root ginger, peeled and finely sliced or cut into matchsticks
1 lime

For the tempering:
1 tbsp coconut
or vegetable oil
10 fresh curry leaves

1. First, roast the pumpkin. Preheat the oven to 220°C/ Fan 200°C/ Gas Mark 7. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and discard. Cut the pumpkin into wedges around 2cm thick (leave the skin on). Place on a baking tray and toss in one tablespoon of oil and sprinkle with salt and one-fourth teaspoon of the curry powder, mixing well. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes until tender and golden and starting to brown at the edges. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the tray.
2. To make the curry, heat a medium-sized wok or saucepan over a medium-high flame. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, and, when hot, fry the onion until translucent. Add the curry leaves and garlic, and, about a minute later, add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and cardamom. Fry the mixture for one minute, being careful not to burn the spices, stirring and adding a little more oil if necessary.
3. Pour in the coconut milk and add the turmeric and remaining one-fourth teaspoon of curry powder, a teaspoon of salt and two pieces of the roasted pumpkin for flavour. Cook so that the curry is gently bubbling for three to four minutes, then turn off the flame.
4. Dish up by placing the roasted pumpkin wedges on a plate, and spooning the curry liquor over and around the pumpkin.
5. Heat up the oil for the tempering in a small pan and add the curry leaves, letting them crisp up.
6. Scatter the tempered curry leaves over the pumpkin curry, add the fresh ginger and finish with squeezing over the lime.

Tip: You can make this with any squash or pumpkin that has a dense, sweet texture.


Potato White Sodhi Curry
Serves: 4 

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes  


700 g potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
Salt and black pepper
3 tbsp coconut or vegetable oil
1 large red onion, finely sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
10 fresh curry leaves
3-cm piece of cinnamon stick
6 whole cardamom pods, lightly bashed in a pestle and mortar
3 green chillies
300 ml coconut milk
1 tsp ground turmeric
½ lime

For the tempering:
1 tbsp coconut or vegetable oil
1½ tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds

1. Put the potatoes in a large pan of cold water with half a teaspoon of salt. Bring to the boil and then lower the flame to a simmer for 10 minutes, or until the potatoes feel almost tender when you poke them with a fork. Drain and set aside.
2. In a separate large pan set over a medium flame, add two tablespoons of oil and the onion and let it cook, stirring regularly. When the onion is translucent, add the garlic and curry leaves, followed by the cinnamon, cardamom and green chillies, and stir for one to two minutes until fragrant.
3. Now add the drained boiled potatoes, coconut milk, another half teaspoon of salt and the turmeric and mix gently. Try not to break the potatoes into smaller pieces while mixing it through. Turn the heat down to a simmer, and let the potato curry cook over a low heat for seven to eight minutes, or until the potatoes are soft and the liquid is thickening up.
4. While it is simmering, make the tempering. Place a separate clean frying pan over a medium-high flame and add the tablespoon of oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds. Stir rapidly to avoid burning, for about 30 seconds to a minute, until fragrant. Turn off the flame.
5. Dish up the potato curry, and pour the tempered spices and hot oil over it. Finish with a couple of generous grinds of black pepper and a squeeze of lime juice.

Note: Sodhi or kiri hodi is a mild coconut milk broth of a curry.

Excerpted with permission from Rambutan: Recipes from Sri Lanka by Cynthia Shanmugalingam, published by Bloomsbury
All calorie counts are approximate