I may not get back to Sri Lanka any time soon, but in the meantime this mellow, coconut curry served with a spiky coriander sambol and fried eggs transports me back to fond, sunny memories of loitering at the hotel breakfast buffet in Colombo. Serve with rotis, parathas or poppadoms to dunk in the sauce and the runny yolks.
rapeseed or sunflower oil 100ml
For the coriander sambol
fresh or frozen coconut 100g, finely grated
fresh coriander 1 bunch, coarsely chopped
long green chillies 1-2 (depending how hot you want it), finely chopped
small red shallots 3 (or 1 banana shallot) very finely chopped
jaggery or light brown sugar 1 tsp to taste
lime juice of 1
For the coconut curry
garlic 5 cloves
coconut oil 1 tbsp
green chillies 2, slit lengthwise
cinnamon stick 1
green cardamom pods 4-5
peppercorns ½ tsp
curry leaves 15
gram flour 1 tbsp
coconut milk 400ml
tamarind concentrate 1 tbsp
jaggery or light brown sugar 2 tsp
ginger thumb-sized piece, cut into fine matchsticks
crispy shallots 3 tbsp (available in Asian supermarkets)
Begin by making the coriander sambol. Simply mix together all the ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
To make the coconut curry, blend together the onion and garlic with a little water in a blender until you have a smooth paste.
Heat the coconut oil in a pan over medium heat; add the aromatics – the green chilli, cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom pods, peppercorns and curry leaves. Fry for a few seconds until the spices crackle. Add the onion and garlic paste and cook over a low heat until the rawness has cooked out and it has begun to caramelise.
Sprinkle in the gram flour and again cook for a few minutes to toast it, then whisk in 200ml water and the coconut milk. Stir in the tamarind and sugar. Bring to the boil, then simmer over a low heat and cook for a further 20-25 minutes or until it has thickened up slightly.
To fry the eggs, heat the oil in a wok or frying pan over a high heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, crack in an egg. Cook until the egg is just set, then remove from the wok and drain well on kitchen paper. Repeat with the remaining eggs. To serve, put the eggs on a plate and ladle around the coconut curry. Spoon over the sambol, ginger strips and crispy shallots and serve as it is, or with rotis, parathas or poppadoms on the side.
Ravinder Bhogal is chef-patron of Jikoni, London, and author of the Jikoni cookbook (Bloomsbury, £26)