Curry/ Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

Written by Karen Coakley

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So that’s it….we have all gorged and drank and hit massive sugar highs and lows on the best of this seasons indulgences. The turkey and ham have had many a tale told about them and the greatest of ideas have been shared for how best to use them up. I for one have not an ounce of leftovers left in this house…something I have to say, makes me very happy! Yesterday I indulged myself, I turned on my favourite play lists and very industriously locked myself away in the kitchen all day. I made a deliciously robust Roast Pepper Soup using the cooking juices from the roasting pan of which there was roughly a pint. The moist turkey leg meat has been finely shredded to make Croquettes and mixed through a very thick bechamel sauce with sage and dijon mustard which I have spread thick on a dinner plate in my freezer ready to be rolled and dipped in egg and breadcrumb before being deep fried and served with mustard as a nibble with our drinks on New Years Eve and the very last of my champ made beautiful, golden, buttery potato cakes to accompany last nights Prawn and Spinach Pastries. It really is a far cry from the usual Turkey Curry and Turkey pies that we grew up with in the 70’s and 80’s. Our tastes have changed, we travel and we want a bit of what we eat away when at home.

I have though, always been obsessed with Curries and a recent chat with Laoise aka @cuisinegenie while she was in Sri Lanka made me think about Sri Lankan curry. My impression is that it is somewhat of a meeting between the flavours of Thailand with Coconut Milk, Lemongrass and Lime and those of India, Cumin, Corriander, Fennel, Cardamom and Cloves. Yesterday as I roasted and ground all the spices for my Sri Lankan chicken curry my senses were awakened by the smells and an excitement contained me once they hit the pan and released every ounce of their fragrance. In parts deep and heady and on another fresh and fragrant. For many years I was terrified of using my own spices, would I burn them, would they taste awful, would I know what I was doing? But now I take it gently, I toast them in a medium pan and I know they have had enough heat when they release their aroma. I love when I get them to the mortar and pestle stage and I have that most satisfying of feelings as I grind them and they release their scent. I have taken my time to explore each spice, to taste it raw and to smell it, this all has helped build my confidence and my knowledge. I did recently use a pre packed powder, one that I would have been more than happy with a few years ago, not only did it nearly break my bank…it didn’t compare to the intense flavour and satisfaction of taking your own individual spices and bringing them together to create a dish that is so complex and fragrant but yet utterly simple. The Sri Lankan Curry I made is from my new Cookbook ‘Rick Steins Far Eastern Odyssey’. It is an amazing book and I can’t wait to try more of the curries from it.

N.B I didn’t have Pandan Leaves so I used 1 Bay leaf and a sprig of Tarragon instead. Although this recipe uses Turkey, I used uncooked chicken. I don’t like to cook my chicken in my curry so I marinate it over night in a mixture of Natural Yoghurt and some of the ground spices, I then skewer it and grill it or sometimes stick in on the BBQ before adding to the sauce and heating through. Bonn Appetit 🙂

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For the roasted Sri Lankan curry powder

For the Sri Lankan turkey curry


  1. For the roasted Sri Lankan curry powder, heat a heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat. Add the uncooked rice and cook for 2-3 minutes, shaking the pan regularly, until the rice is toasted and pale golden-brown. Transfer the toasted rice to a large mortar or spice grinder and set aside to cool.
  2. Repeat the dry-frying process with the spices, then tip into a bowl and set aside to cool.
  3. Repeat the dry-frying process with the dried chillies, then tip into a bowl and set aside to cool.
  4. When the toasted rice, spices and chillies have cooled, grind them to a fine powder (do this in batches if necessary). Store the roasted Sri Lankan curry powder in an airtight jar for up to three months.
  5. For the Sri Lankan turkey curry, heat the oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan. Add the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and cloves and fry for 15-20 seconds, or until fragrant.
  6. Add the onions or shallots and fry for 4-5 minutes, or until softened and pale golden-brown. Add the garlic and ginger, stir well to combine, and fry for a further 2-3 minutes.
  7. Stir in two tablespoons of the roasted curry powder, the chilli powder and ground turmeric and fry for a further minute.
  8. Add the chopped tomatoes, curry leaves, pieces of pandan leaf, lemongrass stalk, cayenne chillies and salt. Cover the pan with a lid and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer over a low to medium heat. Continue to simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the curry sauce has thickened.
  9. Add the coconut milk and cooked turkey, then re-cover the pan with the lid, return the mixture to a simmer and continue to simmer for a further 4-5 minutes, or until the turkey has heated through. Stir in the lime juice and remove the pan from the heat. Serve with steamed rice.
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