Perfect for an autumn weekend, this Sri Lankan curry is usually made with beef or fish – both are brilliant, but I found pork cheeks at the butchers so that’s the version here. I’ve tweaked it a bit, mostly because I don’t seem to be able to slow cook anything at the moment without adding ginger and star anise. It’s warm and deeply aromatic but with a lovely clean citrus/sour kick from lemongrass and tamarind.
I found this recipe in an old CAMRA pub cookbook I won in a beer festival raffle – I’ve been making this curry for years. At first, tamarind paste and fresh lemongrass were tough to find; now, they’re on most big supermarket shelves. Happy days. The rest is just chilli, turmeric, cinnamon, salt and pepper (if you’re being authentic and don’t add the ginger and star anise). You can use whole spices and strain the sauce at the end, or I’ve done it with all powdered spices too.
Start by cubing and browning your meat or fish.
Mix up the tamarind paste – usually one teaspoon to half a pint of hot water. I usually make up a pint and then just use enough to cover the meat in the pan.
Once there’s good colour on the meat, strain the tamarind water into the pan (through a sieve to stop any seeds getting into the dish).
Stir in the turmeric (about half a teaspoon), and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Add a couple of broken up lemongrass stalks, a stick of cinnamon, a chilli, roughly chopped thumb of ginger and a star anise.
Bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of hours until the meat is falling-apart tender. Or give it five hours in a slow cooker.
Remove the meat and set aside to rest then strain the sauce and put it back on the heat to reduce and thicken. If it’s too thin, mix a little water and teaspoon of cornflour and stir that in. Finally, return the meat and it’s ready to serve.
It goes really well with rice. For my pork version I served it with a mushroom risotto – good earthy flavours to sit alongside the cinnamon and citrus in the curry.