Channa Dassanayaka
0 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
Craig Wood

In general, most of the recipes in this book serve four to six people.

When we eat dinner in Sri Lanka, we don’t just serve one curry: there will be several, including a meat or fish curry and one or two vegetarian dishes. One dish on the table will often have a runny consistency while another will be dry. Rice and bread will also be served, as will two or three sambols or chutneys.

Don’t stress about curry

Curries are the most common dish in the world, eaten throughout Asia, Europe, Africa, North America and Australia. But when it comes to cooking curries at home, many people think ‘curry’ and they automatically start to become stressed … they believe curries are too spicy, or they are just for winter, or they are difficult to make or they just don’t understand the ingredients.

It is important not to get stressed when it comes to making curries. Once you become accustomed to cooking them you will discover that the processes involved in cooking all curries, whether they be meat, chicken, fish or vegetable, are generally the same – it is just a matter of changing the main ingredients as you go.

And if you can’t find ingredients such as pandanus leaves, curry leaves or Maldive fish – don’t stress, simply run without them.

Essential things for a perfect curry

The colour: ‘white’ curries have a bright yellow appearance, while meat curries should look dark red to brown, regardless of how spicy they are. If you prefer a mild curry, use sweet paprika to maintain a bright colour and use turmeric for a beautiful golden orange curry.

The texture: vegetable curries should be runnier than meat curries. You can make a sauce thicker by lightly roasting two tablespoons each of rice and coconut in a pan and grinding it into a paste. Add a tablespoon of the paste to thicken the curry.

The flavour: as for flavour, curries should have either a chilli kick, a peppery kick or a sour flavour and this comes from the balance of spices. Adjust the chilli flavour to suit your taste and substitute green chillies for red if you want a milder curry. Follow the recipe, but then follow your tastebuds too, sampling the dish as you go in order to get the seasoning balance right.

Curry powder: the key

The key to these dishes is the curry powder. Recipes have been given for curry powder and roasted curry powder. You can make a curry blend and keep in an airtight container in the fridge or a dry cupboard for up to a year. Meat curries and fish curries generally use the roasted curry powder, while standard, unroasted curry powder is used in vegetarian curries. However, this rule can be broken.

Varying a curry

For adding extra flavour you can:

add chicken stock

add Maldive fish flakes to vegetable curries if you are not concerned about vegetarian issues

add a cup of diced tomatoes

finish a curry with a handful of chopped coriander leaves – you can never go wrong with this.

Cooking notes

Sambols: just as curries can be varied to suit your taste, sambols are also flexible. Each and every sambol is made slightly differently by every cook, depending on whether they prefer chilli, salt or the sour taste of lime or lemon. Always adjust to taste so your preferred balance of flavours comes through.

Tomatoes: I find tomatoes give varying degrees of flavour to a dish. If you need extra acidity to balance coconut milk and the tomatoes just don’t have it, add a tablespoon of tomato paste. You can also add a teaspoon of lemon or lime juice to round out the flavours, but only after you have taken the finished dish off the heat.

Ingredients: most of the ingredients in this book are available in supermarkets but some are only available from specialty Asian and Indian grocery stores or large produce markets. If you are having trouble finding specific ingredients, ask your nearest Indian restaurant for the name of a supermarket which sells these products.

Spices in recipes: leave them in! Cardamom pods, curry leaves, bay leaves, lemongrass, cloves, cinnamon sticks, pandanus – Sri Lankans serve dishes with all of these presented in the bowl, as it is a sure sign of the authenticity of flavour. The spices are not eaten but simply left on the plate. You can remove them just before serving if you choose.

Coconut milk: if you don’t have coconut milk you can finish off a curry by adding normal milk or yoghurt.

Eggs: when I refer to eggs in recipes I mean a 60 g egg.

Oil in recipes: the oil specified in these recipes is olive or vegetable oil, but you can use coconut oil for extra flavour.

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