There’s always a jar of homemade curry powder or garam masala on the shelf above my cooker. It varies in its blend of spices, but those that make the most regular appearance are a turmeric mix, which I stir into frothed hot milk, a panch phoran – whole mustard, fenugreek and fennel seeds – to temper (toast and top) curries, and this Sri Lankan blend with roasted rice, black pepper and clove. It’s the one I come back to in colder months: it is warming, fragrant and uplifting all at once.
Sri Lankan curry powder
This curry powder uses toasted rice as a base, which adds a buttery, nutty note and works well with the warming spices. The recipe makes enough for quite a few curries, and will keep for up to two months. If you don’t think you will use it that quickly, I suggest halving it. As the spices are already toasted here, this works really well sprinkled over warm, buttered chapatis or naans, or on top of yoghurt, raita or even mashed avocado.
Prep 10 min
Cook 10 min
Makes 1 small jar
2 tbsp basmati rice
2 whole kashmiri dried chillies or ½ tsp dried red chilli
4 tbsp coriander seeds
3 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp whole cloves
1 heaped tsp cardamom seeds (from the pods)
2 heaped tsp fennel seeds
Zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
Put the rice in a dry nonstick large pan and put over a medium heat until it starts to turn light brown.
Add the spices and dried chilli and toast for three minutes, until they also start to brown, toast and become aromatic.
Keep moving the pan to prevent the spices from burning. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon zest, then leave to cool.
Once cooled, use a spice grinder (or a pestle and mortar) to grind them into a powder and keep in an airtight jar for later.
Sri Lankan potato, coconut and chard curry
A dark, intensely flavoured curry freshened by chard and lemons. It might seem strange to use preserved lemon in a curry, but I enjoyed salted lemons in Sri Lanka. If you don’t have preserved lemon, then a whole lemon sliced thin and salted with half a teaspoon of sea salt will stand in. If you don’t have the time or inclination to make the curry powder, use a shop-bought garam masala, adding an extra half-teaspoon of ground cloves, a tablespoon of mustard seeds and the zest of a lemon.
Prep 10 min
Cook 55 min
3 tbsp coconut oil or ghee
3 onions, peeled and finely sliced
6 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
1 large thumb fresh ginger, peeled and grated
600g small potatoes
2 whole preserved lemons, roughly chopped
½ tbsp Sri Lankan curry powder (see above)
400ml (1 tin) coconut milk
400ml (1 tin) tomatoes
Rotis or chapatis and rice, to serve
For the cashews
100g cashew nuts
½ tsp dried kashmiri chilli or a pinch of dried chilli
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp maple syrup
½ tsp salt
Put a large, heavy-based pan over a medium heat, add two tablespoons of the oil and the onions, and cook until soft, sticky and sweet – 15-20 minutes.
Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another couple of minutes over a high heat, then add the potatoes, preserved lemons and curry powder, and cook for another three to four minutes, stirring all the time.
Add the coconut milk and the tinned tomatoes, and simmer for 20 minutes with the lid on, stirring every now and again.
While the curry is simmering, toast the cashews in a frying pan over a medium heat until golden, toss in the spices and toast for 30 seconds more. Turn off the heat, add the maple syrup and salt, and scoop on to a plate for serving.
Pull the chard leaves off the stems, tear the leaves into large bite-sized pieces and finely chop the stalks. Once the curry has had 20 minutes, add the chard and the stalks, and cook for a final 10 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked through.
Serve the curry with warm bread and rice, and top with crunchy cashews and a good squeeze of lemon.