Category Archives: Curries

Pumpkin Curry with Coconut Milk


As you probably already know, I’m a big lover of pumpkin. Especially pumpkin soup. It’s warming, sweet, creamy and comforting. However, when I have made it for Sri Lankan relatives, especially male ones, they don’t seem to get it. I suspect this curry has a lot to do with it. Pumpkin, cooked Sri Lankan style, is heady with spices and fragrant to the max. It’s the same type of warm, comforting and creamy without the sweetness of roasted butternut. This dish is decidedly savoury, while I think pumpkin soup, especially the kind made with butternut can be a bit of a fence sitter.  I for one will always be pumpkin fan, in whatever style you serve it to me!

By the by this dish also has the added bonus of being vegan.




  • 1 small red onion finely chopped
  • 2 green chillis sliced
  • 1 handful of curry leaves
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1/2 stick of cinnamon
  • 2 cloves garlic sliced
  • 1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
  • 1 pandan leaf
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp. turmeric powder
  • 1 kg kent or jap pumkin cut into large, even chunks
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk powder
  • 2 tsp, dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp. toasted coconut to garnish *



In a shallow dish or wok fry the onion,garlic, curry leaves, cinnamon, pandan, cloves, cardomom, and green chilli with the oil. Fry over a low heat until the onion is soft and the spices are fragrant.

Add the turmeric and fry for a 1-2 minutes until it’s well incorporated and slightly toasted.

Add the chopped pumpkin and cover with enough water to submerge the pumpkin. Cook over a medium heat until the pumpkin is just soft.

Add a little water to the coconut milk powder and make a paste. Add the dijon mustard and stir well before adding to the pumpkin curry. Bring the whole mix to a gentle simmer and add salt to taste. Take off the heat and add the toasted coconut just before serving.

* to toast the coconut, add 2 tablespoons of shredded coconut to a dry pan. Cook over a gentle heat, stirring constantly until the coconut has changed is colour and is brown and fragrant.



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Parippu – Sri Lankan style dhal with coconut milk

I’m not going to mince words here. If you want to call yourself a serious Sri Lankan cook, this recipe has to be in your repertoire. No buts. Dhal really is the centre of Sri Lankan cuisine, some would probably argue the centre of many South Asian cuisines. It’s cheap, it’s quick and it’s delicious.

While many  babies born in the Western world will delve into the world of solid food with pumpkin pureed to within an inch of it’s life or smashed banana, most Sri Lankan babies I know would count this dish below as one of their first.

Of course, a dish so ubiquitous will naturally be very controversial. There are versions without coconut milk (NOOOOO), there are some that finish of with a crispy fried mixture of mustard seeds, onions and chillies (YES PLEASE) and everyone will have a different preference for how long and soft they cook their lentils. Really, you decide. The spices are easy to follow, if you like the curry hotter at more green chillies and some chilli flakes as you cook. If you like a thicker more creamy dhal cook till the lentil begin to disintegrate and add more coconut milk.  The number 1 rule as far as I was taught is simple, don’t add salt till the end. It will harden the outer shell of the lentil and would wont get that soft, melt in your mouth texture.

As you can see in the pic, I like my lentils separate and with some definition. I don’t want a mush. However, I’ve tasted mushy dhal and it’s just as delicious. It’s just not the way I make it.



  • 1 cup red lentils washed
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 1/2 a tomato chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic sliced
  • 2 green chillies sliced (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. maldive fish flakes
  • curry leaves
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • salt to taste



In a small to medium saucepan, place all the ingredients and add enough water to cover the lentils. Stir and place on a medium heat.

As the lentils cook, they will change colour, become less orange and less opaque.Test the done-ness of the lentils by squeezing a lentil between you fingers, it should crush easily. You can cook it past this point, until the lentils start to fall apart if you’re after a softer, less textural curry. At this point, add the coconut milk and bring the curry to the boil.

Turn off the heat, add the salt to taste and serve hot.




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Watakolu (Ridged Gourd) and Potato Curry



During high school I took home economics (culinary arts) like most students. During our year seven classes, the teacher would parade a rare and unusual spice and ask us to name it, dangling the grand prize of a merit award in our face. I’ll be the first to admit I was a total goody-two-shoes, desperate to please any teacher. Often times I would know the name of the spice in my native Sinhalese but not in English. I would then go home, ask my dad for the English name and come back to school and wow the teachers with my knowledge of fenugreek, cumin and nutmeg.

I still have that problem nowadays. I picked up this particular vegetable at our local Asian grocer. While I knew it was called wattakolu in Sinhalese, the English name was elusive. It took a good fifteen minutes of internet searching to discover that the name I was searching for was ridged gourd. I did give my fourteen year old self a high five at that point.

This is a really comforting dish. Creamy, mild and filling with the addition of potatoes. Pair it with a spicy meat curry, this curry will cool the big punch of meaty flavour.



  •  1 ridged gourd
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. raw curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp. fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. maldive fish
  • 2-3 green chillis sliced
  • 1/2 an onion sliced
  • 1/2 a tomato chopped
  • curry leaves
  • 1 pandan leaf
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup coconut milk


Prepare the gourd by peeling the ridges till they are the flush with the skin. This will leave some of the skin on.


Slice the gourd in half and slice into 1.5cm slices at an angle (I don’t know why but this is what my mum does, so I encourage you to follow suit). Add the gourd to a medium sized saucepan, and add the peeled and chopped potatoes to the pan. Now add all the spices and chopped onions and tomatoes. Add enough water to cover the contents and place on a medium heat.


When the potatoes are just cooked through, add the coconut milk and bring to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes before taking off the heat. Taste for seasoning and enjoy.


Serve with warm, steamed rice.



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Potato and Leek Baddum (Stir-fried potato and leek)


Leeks are like eggs I find. Oftentimes required in recipes only in part. “Use white part only” is a phrase that I hear a lot more than “Use green part only”. What happens to all those spare green parts then? I usually chop them off, pop them in a bag and watch them sit in my fridge for a few days before I think to myself….MUST DO SOMETHING ABOUT THOSE LEEKS!

The green bits are fabulous in a lankan style friend rice, or even as a simple garnish, here I’ve updated the friend potato recipe to include leeks and make like a little fancier. I personally love the green parts, a subtle oniony flavour that becomes sweet when cooked.


  • I leek green part only
  • 2 medium potatoes halved and sliced (1/2 cm pieces)
  • 1/2 medium onion slices
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1tbsp. chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. maldive fish (optional)
  • curry leaves
  • salt to taste
  • oil

In a medium sized fry pan add your sliced potatoes and cover with water. Simmer for a few minutes until the potatoes are parboiled or just soft. Drain and leave to dry for a few minutes.


In the same frypan add the oil (or ghee if you have it), maldive fish, onions, garlic and curry leaves. Stir fry on medium heat until the onions are soft. Add the turmeric and chilli and give a quick stir.


Add the drained potatoes and coat with the spice mixture. Leave on the heat, stirring often until the potato is cooked through. I usually turn the heat up, right at the end to make sure that the onions and potato get a bit of colour.




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Devilled Potatoes (Ala Theldala)




Me and this dish had a falling out some years ago.  Twice a year the Sri Lankan Buddhist community in Sydney would throw a food fair to help raise money for the temple. Groups of people would host stalls serving traditional Sri Lankan fare; string hoppers, roti, koththu etc. The hopper stall was always a favourite, with a  queue that usually extended out the doors.

Now I vaguely remember talking about rules in Sri Lankan cooking. About how meals needed particular components, a protein for example and definitely a “hodi” dish , with gravy for moistening the food.

The hopper stall for many years would serve this dish with the hoppers, it puzzled me no end. There was usually a meat curry which served as protein and gravy, and a condiment like seeni sambol (caramelised fried onions) or lunu miris. For me, at the end of my hopper eating fest the potatoes would remain defiantly on my plate, unsure of where to go. I came to resent these potatoes, even though logically I knew they weren’t to blame. I did not like them sitting there, uneaten…unwanted.

I’ve forgiven these dear potatoes since, especially as in Washington you get these beautiful gem like potatoes that are tiny and come in 3-4 colours.  And sometimes, you just need a simple, quick dish that packs a punch!


  • 8 small potatoes boiled
  • 1/2 small medium onion sliced
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • cinnamon stick
  • 1 tbsp. chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. maldive fish
  • curry leaves
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste


In a medium frypan add the oil and when it’s hot add the onions, garlic, curry leaves, cinnamon and spices. Fry until the onions are soft and brown and spices are pungent.


Add the potatoes and warm through until the potatoes are coated in the spices and the warmed through and slightly browned..



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Cashew Nut (Cadju) Curry


Did I ever tell you guys about the great cashew caper? It was the day our cousin Ruvi and he husband Pesh were leaving Sri Lanka and after a lovely lunch we  headed to ODEL to buy some devilled cashews.  We left a sleeping baby and the husbands in the car and went inside to the “nut counter”. We picked up a huge bag of cashews, paid for the purchases and walked outside.

That night as Ruvi was packing, the cashews were nowhere to be found. We searched the car, the bags and looked in all the spots that Master C could’ve hidden them. But, to no avail.

Now, I am quite an absentminded person, I lose wallets and phones and money all the time. Nuwan is forever chasing me about the house closing cupboards and draws. Shelton mama never lets a friend leave without telling them how as a 10 year old I calmly placed 10 dollars into a bin along with a the wrapper for my pork roll. I’ve learned to deal with this by developing a great recollection. I can walk through events and instances in my mind to try and find that lost wallet or keys. Otherwise, I’d probably never leave the house.

So as night fell that day I started thinking back over our trip to ODEL and mentally following that package of cashew. I remembered it being placed in the basket. I remembered walking to the counter and I remembered paying for the purchases. I also remembered that we didn’t get the cashews back. Sure enough, we called ODEL and they were there, hanging out at the counter. Ruvi left Lanka, cashews in hand.

A Sri Lankan wedding is never complete without a cashew nut curry, so make this dish for your next set of festivities.



  • 150g cashew nuts
  • 2 tsp. curry powder split
  • 1tbsp. oil
  • 1tbsp. sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. chilli powder
  • 1 piece of cinnamon
  • 1 green chilli sliced
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 small onion chopped
  • salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut cream
  • 100g of green peas


In a small pan place the cashew nuts and turmeric and curry powder with enough water to cover the nuts. Place on a medium heat and bring to the boil. Cook till the nuts are soft, I like mine to have a bit of a bite so I don’t cook mine as much as is conventional.


Drain the cashews and place the pan back on the heat. Add a splash of oil, the chilli powder, curry powder, cinnamon and sesame seeds. Fry for a few seconds until the sesame seeds are toasted.


Add the onions, garlic and chilli and fry until they are soft.


Return the cashews to the pan and add the  coconut cream.


Simmer for 5 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly and then add the green peas just before serving.



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Mustard Carrot Curry


I was speaking to a friend recently who cooked a curry for dinner and commented on the thousand and one ingredients. While she enjoyed the curry she was lamenting the fact that cooking curry from scratch is time consuming and requires a multitude of often expensive ingredients that will go off in a cupboard before you decide to cook curry again. It’s for this reason that we rarely cook rice and curry during the week. We often eat pasta, meat and veg or simple stirfrys. When the need for curry hits, I like to have  a few fail safe and easy curries that satisfy one of two requirements

1.use very few ingredients

2. take very little time to cook

If a curry fits into either (or both) of the above categories it becomes infinitely more likely that I’ll cook and enjoy it without spending half my day slaving over a hot stove.



  • 150 g carrots chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic chopped
  • curry leaves
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1.5 tsp. unroasted curry powder
  • 1/2 small tomato chopped
  • 1 tsp.seeded mustard
  • 150 ml coconut milk
  • salt to taste


In small saucepan add the carrots, onions, garlic, curry leaves, turmeric, curry powder and tomato. Add enough water to cover the carrots and place on the heat.


Cook until the carrots are soft and almost cooked. Now add the coconut milk and bring back to the boil.


Simmer for a few minutes until the curry has thickened and finally add the mustard and salt to taste.


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Brussel Sprouts Mallum


Brussel sprouts and I have a  pretty good relationship, thanks mainly to this dish. I didn’t suffer the overboiled, over cooked, covered-in-cheese-to-hide-the-taste brussel sprouts growing up. My mum discovered brussel sprouts late in life (I don’t think they exist in Sri Lanka) and so did what any Sri Lankan would do, make a mallum.  A mallum is a uniquely Sri Lankan dish of wilted greens seasoned with coconut and spices. Brussel sprouts make a lovely textured green in this dish, with just a hint of bitterness.

I love this dish additionally because there’s no finely chopping greens. In Sri Lanka, a home cook’s prowess is measured by how finely they are able to slice the greens for a mallum or sambol (the raw version). I cannot slice a nice mallum, ask my mum. My leaves are always different sizes and different shapes. Therefore, my favourite things to make mallum out of always fit nicely into a food processor. In saying that, this recipe works great with kale, parsley, carrot leaves as well as the more food processor friendly broccoli or cauliflower.



  • 350 g brussel sprouts
  • 180 g dessicated coconut, rehydrated (you’ll need 3-4 tablespoons of coconut milk and hot water for this)
  • 1 tbsp. mustard seeds
  • 1/2 red onion chopped
  • 3-4 dried red chillis chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1/2 stick of cinnamon
  • curry leaves


Trims and halve your brussel sprouts before removing any discolored or yucky outer leaves. Then give them a rinse and place them in a food processor. Process for a few minutes until they’re finely chopped.


If you’re using desiccated coconut rehydrate it at this point . In a bowl mix together the coconut, coconut milk and hot water. Place in the microwave for 30 seconds and let it cool. This helps rehydrate the coconut and get back some of the coconut flavour that is lost in the desiccation process.


In a large frying pan add a little oil, the mustard seeds, cinnamon, chillis, curry leaves and garlic. Fry for a few minutes until the mustard seeds start to pop. 


Now add the onion and allow the onions to soften.


Finally add the brussell sprouts and  coconut to the pan and stir fry for about 5 minutes until the greens are just wilted. At this point taste the mallum and add salt as needed.


Serve warm or if you always make heaps like me, cool it down and place a portion in the freezer. This mallum freezes beautifully!



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Pinto Bean Curry


I grew up in a house that didn’t often have parripu. Ammi wasn’t a huge fan and would usually find new and wonderful things to make hodi (gravy dish) with. Cucumber curry (recipe to come) and spinach curry were much more prevalent at dinner than parripu. We had friends growing up that had parippu at every meal, so I suspect as a Sri Lankan this was quite unusual. Parripu at our place was usually a sign that it was shopping day tomorrow and Ammi’s fridge was empty.

As such, when I cook Sri Lankan food at home, parripu is not often on the menu. Especially in Australia, when I cooked parrippu Mr Firehouse would pipe up and ask

“What? Is there nothing else in the fridge?”…cheeky bugger.

Nowadays I like to use the multitude of canned beans out there to make a dhal style curry. Chickpeas are an obvious choice but red kidney beans, pinto beans and lima beans are also an excellent choice for this recipe!



  • 1 can beans (pinto here) drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 1/2 small red onion chopped
  • 1 red chilli sliced
  • 1/2 stick of cinnamon
  • curry leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. chilli powder (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup of coconut milk
  • 1 small tomato chopped


In a medium fry pan add the oil, onions, garlic, cinnamon and curry leaves. Fry for a few minutes before adding the chilli, curry powder and turmeric. Keep frying until the onions are soft and slightly translucent.


Add the beans and give the curry a good stir.



Add the tomato and 1/2 cup of water and simmer on high for 5 minutes or until most of the water has evaporated.


Finally add the coconut milk and simmer for a few minutes until the curry becomes nice and thick.


   Add salt to taste and serve with bread or rice.



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Spicy Sauteed Vegetables


My mum looks after kids at home, she’s a family day care mum. About 10 years ago (wow) she looked after these too angelic boys who we’ll call J and L. The were absolutely beautiful and came from an absolutely beautiful family. Anyway, for Christmas one year J and L’s lovely mum bought my mum a spice box from a lovely little boutique. Inside were some Indian curry mixtures but a special blend of whole spices, panch phoron, was my favourite. A blend of mustard, fennel, cumin, and fenugreek seeds in equal parts. The label suggested adding it when sauteeing vegetables and we loved it so much we used up the whole packet quite quickly. Thankfully we had all the spices on hand and we quickly made up our own mixture with less of the bitter fenugreek and more mustard seeds to match our tastes.

I used 3 cups of mixed frozen and fresh vegetables. You can just as easily use green peas, chopped capsicum (pepper), parboiled diced potatoes or even sliced snowpeas. The idea is to make sure that all the vegetables are chopped to the same size and will cook at around the same time. Back in Australia I would often make this out of the frozen packet of chopped veges that had diced carrot, peas and potato. So easy and quick!



  •  3 cups chopped vegetables (I used sliced baby carrots, green beans and corn)
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 2 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. fennel
  • 1/2. tsp. fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 a red onion slices
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1/2 stick of cinnamon
  • a few curry leaves
  • 2-3 dried red chillies chopped
  • salt to taste


In a large frypan melt the butter and oil together. The oil helps keep the butter from burning. Add the mustard seeds, fennel, cumin and fenugreek. Once the mustard seeds start popping add, the cinnamon, curry leaves and chilli. Fry these off for a few minutes letting the oil absorb the flavours.


Now add the sliced onion and garlic and let the onion soften for a few minutes. When the garlic and onion have picked up a bit of colour add the mixed vegetables.


Once the vegetables are in add a cm of water and let the vegetables cook. You want them to retain some crunch but not be raw. When the water has evaporated stir the mixture and let the vegetables get some colour on them. Add salt to taste and serve with rice.



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