Around the world in 80 dishes No.22: Sri Lanka

Sweet pumpkin with roasted coconut, by Channa Dassanayaka

Ingredients to serve 4

20g dessicated coconut

Half a teaspoon ground mustard seeds

1 small butternut pumpkin (squash), about 680g, cut into 3cm cubes

500ml water

A quarter to half a cup (70ml to 140ml) coconut milk

Half a teaspoon of salt

For tempering spices:

2 tablespoons coconut or vegetable oil

2 salted chillies (see method to make these)

1 cinnamon stick

Quarter teaspoon fenugreek

Quarter teaspoon brown mustard seeds

10cm piece of rampe (pandanus leaf)

10 curry leaves (or two bay leaves)

1 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

225g chopped tomato

For the spices:

Half teaspoon ground turmeric

1 green chilli, sliced

Eighth of a teaspoon sweet paprika

One and a quarter teaspoons salt

Eighth of a teaspoon chilli powder (optional)

Half teaspoon ground coriander

Quarter teaspoon ground cumin

8 peppercorns


Most Sri Lankan kitchens have a jar of salted chillies always at hand, ready to be broken and stirred into curries. Dissolve 20g salt in 500ml of water, then soak the chillies, for as little as an hour or up to a few days.

For the recipe, lightly brown the coconut and ground mustard seeds on medium heat – about 30 seconds – taking care not to burn. Set aside. Grind into a paste using a mortar and pestle.

For tempering spices, heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat and add the salted chillies, cinnamon, fenugreek and mustard seeds and cook until mustard seeds pop up – about 20 seconds. Add rampe, curry leaves, onion, garlic and tomato and cook until onion is caramelised – about 2 minutes.

Add pumpkin and spices and sauté for about 1 minute. Add water, cover and cook for 8-10 minutes, until pumpkin is soft. Add coconut milk and the roasted coconut paste. Mix and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add extra coconut milk if you prefer a thinner liquid. Add more salt if desired. Serve with brown rice or bread.

From 'Sri Lankan Flavours' by Channa Dassanayaka (Hardie Grant £16.99).