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Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

I had a rummage in the fridge and in the spice box for inspiration for this evening. This Sri Lankan offering is one of my current favourites as the smell is incredible, rich with sweet cinnamon, garlic and ginger. I used to call this a teacher style curry, as it is perfect for the slow cooker or for preparing the day before, but under the current circumstances, I feel I ought to re-brand it a key worker curry. If you have had a long day out, the smell of this as you walk through the door might just make your day a little brighter.

It is rich and spicy and this is for 4 people.

Ingredients: Here, you can adapt to suit whatever you can get. My onions were small and red (I am sure there is a joke in there somewhere, but I will leave that up to you to fill in the blanks) and I used passata as it was my only option.

2 - 3 tbsp coconut oil (but veg oil or even butter will work.)

1 large onion, finely sliced

4 garlic cloves grated

2 cm fresh ginger grated

1 tbsp dried curry leaves

2 ½ tbsp Suffolk Spice Company Sri Lankan Mix

1 cinnamon stick, 4cm approximately (leave it whole)

2 large skinless chicken breasts and 2 chunky thighs, skin off but bones left in. Cut the breasts into bite sized pieces but leave the thighs whole. I jointed a whole chicken this time - well I say "I", actually Julie did it, she is a master at dismembering a bird. I wonder if that ought to concern me?

2 red peppers, de-seeded and sliced.

2 tins of chopped tomatoes (400g) or a box of passata or a punnet of cherry tomatoes, cut in halves. (if you use the smaller varieties of fresh tomatoes there is no need to de-skin them.) It all depends upon what you can get a hold of.

2 tsp soft brown sugar

2 tsp good quality cider vinegar

1 tin coconut milk

Salt (Himalayan rock salt ideally) and freshly ground black pepper

Optional: 1 tsp Kashmiri Chilli to taste


This a slow cook curry so do not expect a 20 minute result. It takes a minimum of 1 hour to cook.

Melt the coconut oil in a large oven proof casserole on a medium heat. Add the onion to the oil and cook until softened without gaining too much colour.

Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook for a further minute.

Top tip! Try and grate these over the cooking pot so that any juices that are released fall into the curry and are not simply wiped from your work surface. Waste not want not.

Add the Sri Lankan Mix, curry leaves and a splash of hot water from the kettle, combine well. Cook for a few minutes until the spices start to darken and you start to smell the spices do their thing.

At this point you can add some extra heat with the Kashmiri chilli to taste if you wish. Your choice, I always make the mix on the medium side of hot, but it will take more heat if that is your preference. At this stage I added 2 teaspoons of fiery red Kashmiri and the results were sublime.

Drop in the cinnamon stick whole. Do not break it up. The last thing you want to be doing is pulling bits of cinnamon bark out of your teeth at the table, very attractive!

Add the chicken and stir it around in the spiced onion mix, get it all covered but be careful not to burn the spices.(If it looks like this is going to happen, add a splash more water)

Pour in the tomatoes (or passata), 1 tsp sugar, and turn it all once again. Bubble gently for 10 minutes with the lid off, on medium high heat stirring frequently to make sure the curry doesn’t catch the bottom of your casserole.

Now add the coconut milk and vinegar, combine well and bring the curry briefly to a boil. This will give you quite a thin sauce at this stage but do not worry, it will thicken as it reduces in the oven or on the stove.

Okay, for versatility, now you have 4 different cooking options.

1. On the stove. Lower the heat, and let it simmer with the lid closed, for the first 20- 25 minutes and then lid off for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the chicken is completely cooked. Season to taste as required. You have some sugar left to adjust the balance to your taste if needed. Do not be afraid to play with that balance, it’s your food after all!

2. In the oven. Place in a pre-heated oven (160 C) with the lid on for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally until the chicken is completely cooked. Season with salt to taste if needed. And once again you can adjust the balance with sugar and even add more vinegar if you wish. With this option you remove the lid for the last 10 minutes of cooking time to reduce the sauce and give a roasted flavour to your curry.

3. Slow cook option 1. At this stage pour the curry into your slow cooker and set it to be ready for when you get back after work. Ensure the chicken is completely cooked before serving.

4. Slow cook option 2. (the Gurkha approach) Lower the heat on the stove top, and let it simmer with the lid closed, for 30 -45 minutes, stirring occasionally until the chicken is completely cooked. Then take it off the heat and let it cool unmolested with the lid just open. Gently re-heat it the following day with the lid on, stirring occasionally to avoid it catching. The flavours will have developed and will be rich and irresistible. However, I am willing to bet nobody does this. Therefore, challenge yourself to leave just a small portion until tomorrow, even if it is only some left over sauce and try it then. You will not be disappointed.

5. NHS worker (not an) option 3. Pour yourself a glass of wine or a beer, you’ve earned it.

If at any point you feel that the curry gravy is too thin, or there's too much of it, uncover and simmer the curry for a further 10 minutes or longer. Again, this is down to personal preference.

Because this meal is made with coconut milk there will be some oil on the surface of the curry. This is just the milk splitting and releasing that oil. Don’t worry, Coconut oil is high in healthy saturated fats that can boost fat burning and provide your body and brain with quick release energy. They also raise the good HDL cholesterol in your blood, which is linked to reduced heart disease risk. So, all good.

Serve with basmati rice (remember to wash it through a sieve several times) spiced with turmeric and cardamom pods. Or cauliflower rice studded with sunflower seeds and finely chopped organic dried apricots.(Try it!)

Add in a couple of homemade (or shop bought – although they are never as good) naan bread which are essential for mopping up juices, and relax and enjoy.

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