Beef and Potato Curry / Mas Kulunga Kari
(1 hour, serves 6)
This was my favorite dish growing up, the one my mother always makes for me when I come home, and the first Sri Lankan dish I learned to cook, when I called home desperate from the dorms, begging her to teach me how to make it over the phone. It’s also the first Sri Lankan dish my husband, Kevin, learned to cook — I came home once from a long plane flight, walked into the house, smelled the scent of this curry, that I hadn’t even known he had learned how to make, and promptly burst into tears. Enjoy.
3-5 medium onions, chopped fine
2 TBL ginger, chopped fine
4-5 garlic cloves, sliced
3 TBL vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seed
1 tsp cumin seed
1-2 TBL red chili powder
3 lbs chuck steak, cubed, about 1 inch pieces
1/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 TBL Sri Lankan curry powder
1 heaping tsp salt
3 pieces cinnamon stick
3 cardamom pods
1 dozen curry leaves
1/2 cup milk
3 medium russet potatoes, cut into large chunks
2-3 TBL lime juice
1. In a large pot, sauté onions, ginger, and garlic in oil on medium-high with mustard seed and cumin seeds until onions are golden/translucent (not brown), stirring as needed. Add chili powder and cook 1 minute, stirring. Immediately stir in ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, curry powder, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and curry leaves.
2. Add beef and stir on high for a minute or two, browning the meat. Add milk, stirring. Cover, turn down to medium, and let cook half an hour, stirring occasionally.
3. Add potatoes, stir well, and cover again. Cook until potatoes are cooked through, adding water if needed to maintain a nice thick sauce (and to keep food from burning), stirring occasionally. Add lime juice; stir until well blended. Serve hot with rice or bread.
(20 minutes, serves 4)
3 medium onions, chopped
3 TBL vegetable oil
1 T ginger, minced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Thai green chilies, chopped fine
1/2 tsp black mustard seed
1/2 tsp cumin seed
six large carrots, sliced into thin coins
1 rounded tsp salt
1 cup coconut milk (can use milk instead, but be extra careful not to curdle)
1. Sauté onions in oil on high with mustard seed, cumin seed, and ginger until onions are golden. Add garlic, carrots and salt. Cook on medium-high, stirring frequently, until carrots are cooked through.
2. Stir in coconut milk and turn heat down to low; simmer until well-blended, stirring constantly. Serve hot.
NOTE: You’d typically also add in half a teaspoon of turmeric with the salt, but I honestly forgot this time, and it was still good.
This may be the most iconic flavor combo of my childhood — beef curry with carrot curry on rice. I think my mom made it close to weekly, and the two flavors go perfectly together — the savory spice of the beef with the sweetness of the carrots cooked in coconut milk.
When I eat it, part of me is twelve years old again, sitting at the kitchen table at dinnertime with my little sisters, reading a book. (I was a terrible conversationalist at family dinner. Mostly still am.)
(Not pictured with actual rice — was trying out shirataki. Shirataki, marketed here as ‘Miracle Rice’ would be an okay substitute for noodles, I think. It basically has no tooth, though, so if I were desperate for no-carb, almost no-calorie, rice-like thing, I might have some, but I definitely like rice + quinoa better for a lower-carb than plain white rice option. Or if I really felt like I wanted a big bed of white ‘something’ to put under curry? I am more than a little weirded out by the almost-no-calorie food concept, though.)
Five minute dinner — well, mostly because of leftovers and accompaniments. I had some rice + quinoa leftover from yesterday, and a little kale salad, and of course, I try to keep myself stocked with coconut sambol and seeni sambol in jars in the fridge.
So all I had to do was throw a tablespoon of butter in a hot pan, add a few tilapia filets, grind salt and pepper over them, flip them over a few minutes later, grind a little more salt and pepper on the other side, and when it was cooked through, serve with the rest of the food. Delish. The tilapia, seeni sambol, and rice/quinoa combo by itself would have been great — the other elements added pleasant fresher notes.
Tried making 1/2 rice + 1/2 quinoa (TJ’s mix of white, red, black) in the rice cooker. Not bad! A little chewier than just rice, but I think it might be okay with curries. Hmm…
(2 hours, serves 6)
This came out SO GOOD. I adapted this from an America’s Test Kitchen Moroccan tagine recipe, amping up the chili powder to my taste, reducing the sweetness, increasing the tang, and switching out sultanas for apricots. The result is somewhere halfway between Sri Lankan and Moroccan food, and absolutely delicious served over couscous. My daughter loved the chicken (though she is not yet a couscous fan). It only has about 30 minutes of active cooking; after that, you’re mostly just letting it simmer while your home fills up with incredible aroma. Clementines for dessert finish this meal off nicely!
4 pounds bone-in chicken thighs
salt and pepper
2 T olive oil
1 large onion, diced small
peel from half a lemon, cut into strips
1 t. chili powder
1/2 t. cumin powder
1/2 t. ginger powder
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. ground coriander
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
2 c. chicken broth
2 carrots, peeled and cut into diagonal chunks
1 c. sultanas
3 T lemon juice
1. Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper (about 1 t. each). Heat oil in extra-large frying pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add half of chicken and cook until well-browned, about five minutes per side; transfer to large plate. Repeat process with second half of chicken. Pour off all but one tablespoon of fat from the pan.
2. Add onion and lemon to pan and cook, stirring, for about five minutes. Stir in spices and cook a minute or two ore, then add broth, scraping up any browned bits. (If you wanted to add a cup of white wine here, it wouldn’t hurt.)
3. Add chicken to pan along with any accumulated juices and bring to a simmer. Reduce hat to medium, cover, and cook twenty minutes.
4. Stir in carrots, return to simmer, and then re-cover and cook on medium-low for another 40 minutes, until carrots are cooked through.
5. Transfer chicken to a bowl tented with aluminum foil and let rest while finishing your sauce. Skim off any excess oil. Discard the lemon peel, stir in the sultanas, and cook about five minutes. Add lemon juice and return the chicken and any juices to pan, simmering a few minutes more to combine. Serve hot over couscous or rice.