It’s possible that I could count on my fingers and toes how many Brits have cooked a cucumber before. But while we think of it as a British vegetable, the cucumber actually originates in India, where (and in nearby Sri Lanka) it is popularly found cooked, and in a curry in which it retains both its shape and refreshing properties.
Today’s recipe is unlike what you might classically think of as a curry: there is no fire or loud flavours here; this is a gentle, uncomplicated and soothing dish, much like a walk in the gardens of Samarkanda, a tea plantation near Galle, where I first ate it.
Sri Lankan cucumber and cashew curry
Prep 20 min
Cook 30 min
Serves 2, or 4 as part of a larger spread
2 tbsp rapeseed oil – I like Mr Organic’s
10 fresh curry leaves
1 brown onion
, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
1 stick lemongrass, bashed and bruised
1 green finger chilli
, very finely chopped
1 stick cinnamon
, cut in half lengthways, seeds removed with a teaspoon and the rest cut into 1.5cm-wide half-moons (500g prepared weight)
100g cashew nuts, roasted and unsalted
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
½-1 tbsp lime juice
(to taste), plus wedges of lime, to serve
Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat and, once hot, add the curry leaves and leave them to crackle and pop for a minute. Add the onion, turn down the heat to low and sweat the onion for 10 minutes, until soft, then stir in the garlic, lemongrass, chilli and cinnamon, and cook for another five minutes, to soften.
Now add the cucumber, cashews, turmeric and salt, stir-fry for two minutes, then add the coconut milk and stir. Bring to a simmer and cook until the cucumber is tender (but not soft) and its flesh slightly translucent – this should take about eight or so minutes; add more water, if need be, to thin out the sauce. Take off the heat, add lime juice to taste and serve in a shallow serving bowl with freshly steamed or boiled rice and lime wedges for squeezing over at the table.