Cooking has been a passion of mine for the last eighteen months and not a week goes by when I don’t try something slightly different from normality. I find there is nothing more satisfying than discovering that new recipe and executing it perfectly as it makes the final eating experience well worth the preparation efforts. I try to attempt different dishes as a personal celebration and appreciation of other nationalities and cultures, often adding my own special touch which usually includes just increasing measures of certain spices or other ingredients (a whole bottle of Pilsner Urquell in my Czech Goulash).
After successfully touring India metaphorically with my cooking and happy with my knowledge of their herbs and spices, I considered myself ready to ‘take to the water’ and cross the Palk Strait to Sri Lanka, optimistic that a change in country would deliver a new depth of knowledge, technique and ingredient usage. I was not to be disappointed with my next choice of dish. The only benefit of sitting through an episode of Saturday Kitchen and tolerating that Yorkshire gobshite James Martin is the small excerpts of vintage Rick Stein. A few weeks ago the programme showed Stein visiting Sri Lanka to attempt his own Fish Curry, using a plethora of staple Sri Lankan herbs and spices. After drooling at the prospect of mixing together those ingredients, I decided that a Sri Lankan curry would be my next folly into the culinary unknown.
Sri Lanka has long been renowned for its spices. In the 15th and 16th centuries, traders from all over the world who came to Sri Lanka brought their native cuisines to the island, resulting in a rich diversity of cooking styles and techniques. – Wiki
If you prefer a curry with more taste layers and don’t mind a touch of cinnamon then why not celebrate the arrival of the Sri Lankan Cricket team by attempting the following recipe? The mixtures of spices make for a mild taste with a warm undercurrent of Chilli, whilst the Coconut Milk gives a creamy consistency similar to Caribbean or Thai curries. Do not expect anything in the region of an Indian Korma or Passanda as there is a surplus of other flavours to distract from the Coconut Milk and no addition of sugar is required. I find that the most satisfying part of the preparation is the creation of your own Sri Lankan curry powder as measures can be adjusted for your own pallet. This recipe will take you through all the preparation stages, throughout the cooking process and will include any hints and tips I believe will help you on your way. I hope you enjoy this recipe.
Sri Lankan Curry Powder
The recipe for the main dish will include a measure of Sri Lankan curry powder. Following this method will provide you with enough curry powder for 2-3 curries and will keep in an airtight container for at least two months.
Note that paying over the odds for the below spices is not necessary. A visit to an Indian or Pakistani supermarket should see you right at a reasonable price. There is no marked quality difference between well-known brands and others so don’t feel obliged to pay top dollar.
- 6tbsp Coriander Seeds
- 2tbsp Cumin Seeds
- 1tsp Fennel Seeds
- 1tsp Mustard Seeds
- 1 x 5cm Cinnamon Stick (Crumbled)
- 4 Cloves
- 4 Cardamom Pods
- 5-8 Dried Curry Leaves
- 1tsp Whole Black Peppercorns
Place all of the spices into a dry pan and heat until golden brown (the aroma is fantastic). Once complete, place herbs and spices into a grinder or use pestle and mortar to create a fine powder.
Sri Lankan Chicken Curry
- 1kg Chicken
- 4 tsp Minced Garlic
- 2 tsp Minced Ginger
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- 2 tsp Sri Lankan Curry Powder
- ¼ tsp Cayenne Chilli Powder
- 3 tbsp Vegetable Oil
- 8 Curry Leaves (Crushed)
- 2 Onions (Sliced)
- 1 x 2.5cm Cinnamon Stick
- 4 Cardamom Pods (Split)
- ¼ tsp Cloves (Crushed)
- 240ml Coconut Milk
- 1 knob of Butter
- Cut the Chicken into pieces.
- In a large bowl mix all the spices with Chicken pieces (Chicken, salt, pepper, Sri Lankan Curry Powder, Cayenne Chilli Powder, Curry Leaves, Cinnamon stick, Cardamom Pods and Cloves) make sure that chicken pieces are coated well with all of the spices.
- Heat the Vegetable Oil in a large saucepan on a medium to high heat, add the Ginger and Garlic and fry for 1 minute.
- Add Onions to saucepan and cook for 5 minutes until soft and lightly browned.
- Reduce the heat slightly and introduce the Chicken with knob of butter.
- Slowly fry the outside of the Chicken pieces until white (slowly frying will not burn the marinade and ensure succulence; slower the better.)
- Add 300ml of warm water, mixing well.
- Cover and cook on a low-medium heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring at 10 minute intervals.
- Add Coconut Milk, increase heat and bring to the boil, stirring continuously.
- Reduce heat again, leave uncovered and simmer for 15 minutes until sauce has reduced.
Make sure you put less spices in at the beginning and taste the curry before you add the Coconut Milk (step 9). Add further spices if required.
Add further salt before completing step 10 if required.
Serve with Rice and Chapattis.