Sri Lankan Beef Curry in the slow cooker is easy, delicious and filled with layers of mouth watering flavors. It is perfect cold weather food (although I love it year round)! Affiliate links have been used to link to items I am discussing.
I am pretty sure every October/November (depending on how far behind I am running) I have a post that begins with me bemoaning losing my daylight. This is that post for this year. I must have started taking the pictures right as the sun went down (this was before the time change) because each successive photo from the same photo session is darker and murkier.
The above is an example of a shot taken probably about 10-15 minutes after the top photo. It is not quite a fair comparison because the second photo is not garnished with bright red sambal oelek, but as you can see the crispness is gone from the photo along with the natural light. All of the editing in the world could not save those pictures. Alas.
This past weekend my in laws were in town and I wanted to cook some dishes and update some photos. I am only mildly ashamed to admit I asked them to please be able to have dinner around 4 pm. A food blogger’s gotta do what a food blogger’s gotta do to preserve that natural daylight for photographing the food!
Anyway, about this Sri Lankan Beef Curry, which I adapted from Olivia Andrews’ Whole Food Slow Cooked: 100 Recipes for the Slow Cooker or Stovetop (<–which I highly recommend by the way). First of all, you know it will fit into your schedule because it is a slow cooker dish. If you have to be gone all day, just brown the beef and prepare the aromatics and spices the night before and then put it all in the slow cooker when you leave that morning. Otherwise, just make it work for you, using the high or low heat settings for whatever works best for your schedule. So now that we have the easy part out of the way, how did it taste?
Fantastic! The whole family loved this Sri Lankan Beef Curry. We love curries like this year round, but I know for many Americans this food is especially tasty in the fall and winter months, making it perfect right now. When we made this I had the last of this season’s locally grown Ancient Sweet Peppers, so I had the idea to slice them into rings instead of hot chile peppers–this worked beautifully! If you cannot handle the heat (or are cooking for people who cannot), I definitely recommend slicing some sweet peppers for a garnish. In the off season a simple sweet bell pepper will work, although it will not make such pretty rings.
Adapted from Olivia Andrews; the original recipe called for goat; beef or lamb work equally well. In Sri Lanka, pandanus leaf might be used in such a curry, but I do not know where to get any here. A tiny bit of vanilla extract will actually substitute pretty well so don't be afraid to use it! I promise your curry will not taste like a sugar cookie!
- 2 t coarse sea salt, plus more to taste
- 3 lbs beef chuck
- 2 T virgin coconut oil, divided
- 6 green cardamom pods, bruised
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/4 t fenugreek (methi) seeds
- 20 fresh or frozen curry leaves
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1/2 t ground turmeric
- 1 t paprika or cayenne pepper
- 1 T minced ginger or ginger paste
- 1 T minced garlic or garlic paste
- 1 t ground cumin
- 1 t ground coriander
- 1 T tomato paste (I used the double strength paste in a tube)
- 1 15 oz can coconut milk
- 1 medium large tomato, chopped
- 1 t raw sugar
- 2 5-inch ends of lemongrass stems, bruised
- 1 t vanilla
- lime or lemon wedges
- sliced chile pepper (we used sweet pepper but hot peppers are more traditional)
- sambal oelek
- Basmati rice
Rub salt over the beef chuck and let stand for 20 minutes. Then brown the entire hunk of meat in 1 tablespoon coconut oil on both sides in either a large pan or a cooktop-safe slow cooker insert over medium heat.
Remove the meat and place in large bowl. Add the second tablespoon of coconut oil with cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and methi seeds. let roast until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add curry leaves--stand back as they will splatter. Let roast briefly, about 30 seconds.
Add the onions with a pinch of salt. Let them cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they are caramelized, about 15 minutes. While the onions are cooking, chop the browned beef chuck into 2-inch pieces and place back in the bowl.
Add turmeric and paprika to the cooking onions. Splash with water if the onions are sticking or scorching.
Add the garlic and ginger to the onions and stir. Let cook for 2-3 minutes and then add the ground coriander and cumin. Stir. Add the tomato paste and stir again. Let cook for 30 seconds.
Add the coconut milk, chopped tomato and lemongrass. Bring to a boil. Either add the contents of the pot to the slow cooker or transfer the slow cooker insert to the slow cooker base. Mix in the beef chunks (with accumulated juices) and the vanilla.
Cover with the slow cooker lid and cook for either 4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.
The beef should be fork tender when done. Taste for more salt. Serve with Basmati rice, garnished with lemon or lime wedges and sliced fresh chile pepper (sweet or hot). Those of us who enjoy heat also liked it with sambal oelek.
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