• Grandma's lamb curry (Sai Yogant)Source: Sai Yogant

This curry recipe was passed down from my grandmother to my mum and it is utterly delightful. 






Skill level

Average: 3.1 (63 votes)

Traditionally my grandmother prepared this dish with good quality farmed goat meat, using the slow cooking method. Though goat meat is not very popular in the Western cuisine, it is extensively eaten in Sri Lanka. Lamb works perfectly well for this curry. It is our family favourite and the foremost curry for Sunday lunches.


  • 500 g lamb leg steaks 
  • Salt to taste
  • 3-4 tsp curry powder (Jaffna-style)
  • 2 tsp dark roasted aromatic spice powder (see below)
  • ½ tsp ginger, freshly grated
  • ½ tsp garlic, freshly minced
  • ½ cup coconut milk or cream
  • ¾ cup water 
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 sprig curry leaves 
  • 5cm piece pandan leaf
  • 2 green chillies, sliced
  • 1 tsp roasted fennel powder (optional, see below)

Dark roasted aromatic spice powder

  • 2 cups coriander seeds
  • 20-25 dried chillies
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 2 tbsp black peppercorns
  • ½ cup cumin seeds
  • ½ cup fennel seeds
  • 15-20 cloves
  • 15-20 cardamom
  • 2 cinnamon stick
  • 2 sprigs of curry leaves

Roasted fennel powder

  • ⅕ cup cumin seeds
  • ½ cup fennel seeds
  • 1 sprig of curry leaves

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Resting time 2 hrs or overnight

1. To make the dark roasted aromatic spice powder, place all the ingredients in a heavy bottom pan and gently roast for 15-20 minutes. Continuously stir to avoid burning the spices. The toasted spices should be aromatic and lightly coloured. Chillies need to be lightly browned around the edges. Remove from the heat and cool in the pan. Grind into a fine powder and store in an airtight bottle. Keep it in a cool, dark place and it can be kept for up to a month.

2. To make the roasted fennel powder, place all the ingredients in a heavy bottom fry pan and lightly roast for 8-12 minutes. Continue to stir until golden brown in colour and highly aromatic. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool in the pan. Grind into a fine powder and store it in an airtight container, in a cool, dark place. It can be kept fresh for up to a month.

3. To make the curry, trim away any visible fat and dice the lamb into 2cm sized pieces. Retain the bones for extra flavour. 

4. In a large bowl, rub the meat with salt, curry powder and dark roasted spice powder, and leave for a couple of hours or overnight in the refrigerator. 

5. Using a heavy-based saucepan, heat the coconut milk or cream over low heat until it begins to release the oil.

6. Add the onion, a sprig of curry leaves (reserve the other), garlic, ginger, chilli and pandan leaf to the reduced coconut milk. Cook until the mixture is fragrant and begins to caramelise.

7. Add the marinated lamb pieces, cover and cook over low heat for 15-18 minutes or until the meat starts to release the juices. As the curry begins to boil steadily, incorporate the water. Cover and cook over a low temperature for 1-1½ hours. 

8. Each piece of meat should be coated well with the thickened curry. Add the reserved curry leaves and remove from heat. Sprinkle roasted fennel powder, mix to combine and serve with rice and side dishes of your choice. 


The recipe and image are from A Kitchen Well-Travelled by Sai Yoganathan, published by Five Dogs Books.