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Ceylon Chicken Kari

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  • Preparation and cooking time
    • Prep:
    • Cook:
    • Allow 15mins for rice to sit
  • More effort
  • Serves 6
This recipe came to me many, many moons ago, from a Sinhalese student when I was at university and I have abridged occasionally over the years. He insisted it was the most common Sri Lankan curry going that everyone loved on a daily basis back home. Many years later I happened to be backpacking for a month in Sri Lanka and I not once came across this dish being served up in the local restaurants!  In this recipe I have included coconut basmati rice (although Sri Lankans prefer short-grained, rather stodgier, local rice). If serving for friends I generally add frozen peas into the rice at last moment to add a bit of colour and poncyness to the rice. Remember – you can never hurry a curry. In the villages of Sri Lanka if you fancied a curry in the eve the local restaurant would want your order in the morning. If you fancied one in the afternoon your order would need to be placed the eve before!


  • 1 large chicken, skin off and chopped into smallish chunks
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 1 large root of ginger, peeled and cut into 1cm chunks 4 green chillies
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 medium onion, cut into cubes
  • ½ lemon juice
  • Good supply of water
  • 8 fresh curry leaves
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • Basmati Rice (see method below for quantity)
  • 2 heaped tspn yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 heaped tspn of peppercorns
  • 2 heaped tspn cumin seeds
  • 10 green cardamom pods
  • 2 heaped tspn coriander seeds
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 Star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ¼ bunch fresh coriander, chopped roughly
  • Good measure of sunflower, coconut, groundnut, or mustard seed, oil


  • STEP 1
    Start with 4 large tomatoes. Cored, and bottoms slashed crossways. Plunge into boiling water. Bring back to the boil for 30 secs then remove. When cool slip off the skins and pulse for a couple of secs in blender then set aside in a bowl.
  • STEP 2
    Make the kick-off paste: In a blender/food chopper add the garlic, ginger, chillies, onion, lemon juice and a little water. Blitz and add a little more water if needed until a thickish paste is formed (free of any lumps). Add a little more water and blitz again to rid the paste of lumps. Set aside.
  • STEP 3
    Make the “Kari” powder: Grind in a spice grinder… 1 heaped tspn yellow mustard seeds 1 heaped tspn cumin seeds 7 cardamom pods 1 heaped tspn coriander seeds 3 cloves Add 1 tspn hot chilli powder (optional) 1 heaped tspn of peppercorns
  • STEP 4
    Prepare the “frying spice: 1 heaped tspn yellow mustard seeds 1 heaped tspn cumin seeds 3 green cardamom pods 1 heaped tspn coriander seeds
  • STEP 5
    Heat oil in a deep large pan, when almost smoking, turn heat down to minimum, and add the “frying spices”. Cook until seeds pop - a few secs. Add the prepared ginger/garlic kick-off paste and the star anise. Turn heat down and stir in and cook gently stirring occasionally for 15mins. Remove star anise.
  • STEP 6
    Now add the pulped tomatoes. Stir in and mix and then add and mix in the prepared ”Kari powder”. Cook with lid on, occasionally stirring/shaking approx. 15 mins.
  • STEP 7
    Add the fresh curry leaves, 1 can coconut milk. Bring to boil and mix thoroughly. Turn heat down to low and cook for 15mins covered.
  • STEP 8
    Add chicken pieces. Add water to cover if needed and cook slowly in oven or on stove covered.until chicken is done. Then add chopped coriander stirred into dish and keep warm
  • STEP 9
    For the rice: Whilst chicken is cooking make the rice: For 1 part of basmati rice use combined coconut milk and water - 2 parts. Do *not* rinse the rice. In a decent sized pot add the above recommended combination of rice and water/coconut milk and cinnamon stick, and salt. Bring to fast boil for 5 mins covered. Remove from heat keep covered and allow to stand for 15-20 mins before serving.

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