In the UK cucumbers are predominantly eaten raw or pickled. A backbone of British salads, or dainty finger sandwiches, or combined with yoghurt in dishes such as raita, tzatziki and cacik. But they are also fabulous to cook with, as evidenced by this very quick and easy Sri Lankan cucumber curry from Karan Gokani’s Hoppers The Cookbook.
Once you have your ingredients measured and prepped, this curry takes less time to cook than boiling a pan of rice or reheating a pile of rotis.
Read my full review of Hoppers: The Cookbook by Karan Gokani.
Leena’s Sri Lankan Cucumber Curry
Cucumber curry is fairly common in Sri Lankan homes. I first ate this curry at Leena’s house and have been cooking it since.
You may not have eaten cooked cucumbers before, but they work so well in pickles, so why not in a warm curry that’s packed with flavour? The trick is to select the right cucumbers and cook them meticulously to retain their delicate flavour and texture. The varieties used in Sri Lanka tend to be firmer with fewer seeds and a lower water content than the western types. When cooking this curry in London I tend to prefer smaller pickling varieties or gherkins. If using small gherkins avoid peeling them and cut them into two, lengthways, or cook them whole until just tender but still retaining a bite.
- 700 g (1 lb 9 oz) cucumbers
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp coconut oil
- 1½ tsp black mustard seeds
- 1½ tsp dill seeds or caraway
- ½ tsp fenugreek seeds
- 120 g (4¼ oz) red onions, finely chopped
- ¾ tsp minced garlic
- 10 cm (4 in) piece pandan leaf
- 10-12 curry leaves
- ¾ tsp black peppercorns, crushed
- ¾ tsp ground turmeric
- 1½ tsp Unroasted Curry Powder (see link to recipe, below)
- 300 ml (10½ fl oz) coconut milk
- 1 green chilli, halved lengthways
Variation: If you still haven’t come round to the thought of eating cucumbers in a curry (though I urge you to push yourself – you won’t regret it!) swap them for courgettes. You don’t need to bother peeling or coring the courgettes, just cut them into 5mm (¼in) rings or semicircles.
Peel the cucumbers and slice in half lengthways. Then remove any seeds by scraping the core with a teaspoon and cut into 1cm (½in) pieces. Place these in a bowl and sprinkle over ½ tsp of the salt.
Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the mustard seeds, dill seeds and fenugreek seeds. Once the mustard seeds begin to splutter, add the onions, garlic, pandan leaf and curry leaves and cook for 3 minutes until everything has softened. You don’t need to brown the onions.
Add the black pepper, turmeric and unroasted curry powder and continue to cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the cut cucumber pieces, mix well, cover and cook for 4 minutes over a low heat. Remove the lid and cook for a further minute until the cucumbers have softened just slightly but still have bite. Now add the coconut milk, green chilli and remaining salt and cook uncovered for a final 4 minutes. Serve immediately.
Made the recipe? Let us know how you got on in the comments.
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Kavey Eats received a review copy of Hoppers The Cookbook by Karan Gokani from publishers Quadrille. Book photography by Ryan Wijayaratne. Home photography by Kavita Favelle.