Recipe: Kit Perera's lamb & pumpkin coconut curry

Kit Perera and his Sri Lankan lamb & pumpkin coconut curry.

Kit Perera and his Sri Lankan lamb & pumpkin coconut curry.

Cricket may have brought Kit Perera to New Zealand in the mid 80s, but his love of cooking has made him a firm fixture on the Auckland food scene.

Growing up in Colombo, Kit learned to cook at his grandmother's side and he still cooks a variety of lamb curries using the Ceylon spice blend she taught him as a child. In Sri Lanka, goat meat is referred to as mutton, so a goat curry becomes mutton curry. As mutton was readily available in New Zealand supermarkets in the 80s and 90s, Kit translated many recipes using mutton and now the much more prevalent lamb.

"I have adapted this recipe using New Zealand lamb, and the addition of the pumpkin gives it a real Kiwi twist," he says. "I also do a lamb shank curry using the same method – of course the cooking time is much longer."

Sri Lankan-born cook Kit Perera.

Sri Lankan-born cook Kit Perera.

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If you do use lamb shanks, the curry needs to simmer for 90 minutes or so before the pumpkin is added. While still involved in cricket, Kit now cooks and hosts dinner parties featuring his Sri Lankan specialties alongside dishes from other cuisines, which I know from experience are sensational. See

Serves 4
Preparation 15 minutes
Cooking 1½ hours

For the Sri Lankan curry powder (makes 6 tablespoons)
25g (just over 3 tablespoons) coriander seeds
15g (2½ tablespoons) cumin seeds 
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1½ teaspoons fennel seeds
½ cinnamon quill, broken into pieces
½ teaspoon whole cloves
½ teaspoon cardamom seeds
2 tablespoons dried curry leaves (if using fresh curry leaves, you can dry these in a frying pan over low heat for 2-3 minutes)

In a heavy-based frying pan over low heat, separately dry roast the coriander, cumin, fenugreek and fennel seeds, stirring constantly until each becomes fairly dark brown but not burnt. Set aside.

Using a spice grinder or a blender, blend the roasted spices on high speed with the cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom and curry leaves to a fine powder. Put in a bowl and mix well before transferring to an airtight container.

For the curry
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 dried red chillies
4 cardamom pods, bruised
sprig of fresh curry leaves
2 onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1cm piece fresh ginger, peeled, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Sri Lankan curry powder (recipe above)
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon chilli powder (optional)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1kg lamb leg steaks, trimmed, diced
300ml coconut milk 
1 stem lemongrass, bruised 
250g pumpkin, peeled, diced
1 tablespoon tamarind pulp
steamed white rice to serve
extra curry leaves, quickly pan-fried, to serve (optional)

The May issue of Cuisine is on sale now.

The May issue of Cuisine is on sale now.

Heat the oil in a saucepan over moderate heat and fry the chillies, cardamom and curry leaves for 1 minute (stand back as the curry leaves may cause the oil to spit). Add the onion and fry until golden then add the garlic, ginger, curry powder and spices and stir-fry for 1 minute. 

Add the lamb, mix well and cook for 10 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan from time to time. Add the coconut milk and lemongrass, mix well and season with salt. Cover and simmer over low heat for 40-50 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Add the pumpkin and tamarind, mix well, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Serve with steamed white rice and garnish with fried curry leaves, if using.

WINE MATCH: A juicy, approachable Aussie shiraz. We recommend the Kirrihill Regional Range Shiraz 2014.

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