Though famous for producing another pantry staple, black tea, Sri Lanka is also a key producer of high quality pepper. It is an essential ingredient in Sri Lankan cuisine, used in the spice blends of curries, such as this one, added to pickles and relishes, and even cracked over fresh tropical fruit with salt, sugar and chilli.






Skill level

Average: 2.9 (20 votes)


  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil or ghee
  • 1.5 kg boneless beef shin, cut into 5 cm pieces
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp finely grated ginger
  • 10 curry leaves (see Note) 
  • 2 long red chillies, chopped
  • 5 cm piece pandanus leaf (see Note)
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, white part only, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 400 ml coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 125 ml (½ cup) coconut cream
  • steamed rice, lime wedges and coriander (optional), to serve

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.


Toast peppercorns, coriander, cumin and fennel seeds in a small frying pan for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Grind in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder to a fine powder and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add beef and cook, turning occasionally, for 8 minutes or until golden. Remove beef from pan and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium, then add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, onion, garlic, ginger, curry leaves, chilli, pandanus leaf and lemongrass to pan, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes or until onion starts to soften. Add spice mix and turmeric, and stir to combine. Return beef to pan with coconut milk, 500 ml (2 cups) of water and lime juice and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover with a lid and cook for 2 hours or until meat is very tender and sauce is slightly reduced. Remove lid and cook for a further 30 minutes or until sauce has thickened. Stir through most of the coconut cream and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over remaining coconut cream and serve with rice, lime wedges and coriander, if desired.



• Curry leaves and pandanus leaves are available from Asian food shops and select greengrocers.


Photography by Brett Stevens. Food preparation by Phoebe Wood. Styling by Kirsten Jenkins. 


As seen in Feast magazine, March 2015, Issue 40. For more recipes and articles, pick up a copy of this month's Feast magazine or check out our great subscriptions offers here.