The first time we visited Sri Lanka was immediately after the Indian peacekeeping force pulled out of the country in 1990 and there hadn’t been very many foreign visitors for quite a few years. Subsequently, whilst on a safari in Yala National Park our Sri Lankan guides, being ‘considerate’ of what they though were delicate western palates, suggested we had the roast beef and gravy that they had prepared specially for us. We didn’t want to appear rude, but there’s no way we had travelled half-way around the world to eat roast beef and gravy, so we asked if we could try the same food as them. At first the guides and the lodge staff were apprehensive, saying that their food might be too spicy for us. But after we convinced them that we were seasoned (with the emphasis on spices) veterans of the Rusholme curry mile in Manchester they agreed.
Despite being told that authentic Sri Lankan curries (as opposed to the tamed down versions in some hotels) were supposed to be spicier than many other regions of India, the potato and green bean curry dished up was much milder than the average madras. It had a very distinctive flavour (slightly roasted) that was quite different from the flavours of sauces from other areas of India. It was deliciously fragrant, aromatic and tasted a million times better than the chewy roast beef that most of the other ‘westerners’ on the safari had opted for.
This potato & green bean curry recipe comes pretty close to the flavour of our first authentic Sri Lankan curry.
Ingredients for Sri Lankan Potato and Green bean Curry
- 250g of potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 3 small hot green chillies, finely chopped
- 200g green beans chopped into 2cm pieces
- 2cm piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
- 400ml can of coconut milk
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 10 fresh basil leaves
- 4 tsp Sri Lankan curry powder (see Buzz Trips’ Tip below)
- 2 tbsp ssunflower oil
Preparation for Sri Lankan Potato and Green bean Curry
- Put the potatoes in a heavy bottomed pan and just cover them with water. Add the turmeric and bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- About 5 minutes before the potatoes are cooked heat the oil and fry the onoin, garlic, ginger and chillies for ¾ minutes. Add the basil and green beans an cook for another 2 minutes.
- Add the curry powder and stir to coat, then pour in the coconut milk and 150 ml water.
- Stir thoroughly and add cinnamon, the cooked potatoes, lime juice and a dash of salt.
- Bring to the boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 – 15 minutes.
Serve with plain white rice, poppadoms and mango chutney.
Buzz Trips Tip: If you can’t get hold of pre-packed Sri Lankan curry powder then cook 2 tbsp coriander seeds, 1 tbsp fennel seeds, 2 tbsp cumin seeds and 1 tsp of mustard seeds on a tray in a medium hot oven for an hour. Leave to cool, grind as finely as possible (use a pestle and mortar if you don’t have a grinder), store the finished spice in a jar and hey ho, Sri Lankan curry powder whenever you need it.