The Sri Lankans I have spoken to suggest chicken is the unanimous favourite, while the dish evokes two memories: breaking fast during Ramadan and their grandmother making it for them.
Sri Lanka’s kanjee can be made with chicken, seafood or vegetables, and sits in a comfortable spot between curry and soup.
- 400 g (14 oz/2 cups) broken jasmine rice
- 2 long branches curry leaves
- 1 Thai (bird’s eye) green chili
- 3 roma or plum tomatoes, quartered
- 4 garlic cloves, halved
- ½ red onion, julienned
- ⅛ tsp ground fenugreek
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp Sri Lankan chili powder
- 2 whole chicken legs (approx. 670 g/1½ lb), leg and thigh attached, skin on
- 1.9 liters (64 fl oz/8 cups) water
- 800 ml (27 fl oz) canned coconut milk
- 1 tbsp salt
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 (5 × 10 cm/2 × 4 in) pieces pandan leaves
- 4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 cloves
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- ½ tsp brown mustard seeds
- ½ tsp tamarind paste
- 30 g (1 oz/½ cup) unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted
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.
N.B Choose either step 1 or 2 in this recipe to cook the rice and spices. If you choose step 2, it will take an additional 40 minutes cooking time.
1. In a pressure cooker, place the rice, 1 branch of the curry leaves, the green chili, tomatoes, garlic, ¼ red onion, the fenugreek, turmeric, chili powder, chicken, water and coconut milk and salt. Stir to combine, then cook for 20 minutes on high with slow release.
2. For the stovetop method, place the rice, 1 branch of the curry leaves, green chili, tomatoes, garlic, ¼ red onion, fenugreek, turmeric, chili powder, chicken, water and coconut milk and salt in a large pot and stir to combine. Bring to a gentle simmer over a medium heat and cook for 1 hour until the rice had broken down and the porridge has thickened.
3. For either method, place a heavy-bottomed pan over a medium–high heat. Add the oil, pandan leaves, remaining curry leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, mustard seeds and remaining red onion and cook for 2–3 minutes until the spices begin to smell fragrant and the mustard seeds begin to pop. Don’t let the spices burn. Immediately stir into the cooked kanjee with the tamarind paste. Remove and discard the chicken bones, then season with salt and pepper and top with coconut flakes.
Recipe and image from The Chicken Soup Manifesto by Jenn Louis, Published by Hardie Grant (RRP $45.00)