Although this delicious Garlic Clove Curry from Eleanor Ford’s The Nutmeg Trail is suggested as a side dish, it’s so good that it deserves to be the star of the meal! Hailing from Sri Lanka, whole cloves of garlic are cooked in a savoury curry of coconut milk and spices. Despite the relatively short cooking time there’s no vampire-warding pungency here; the garlic cloves become wonderfully sweet and tender!
Read our full review of The Nutmeg Trail by Eleanor Ford to find out more about the book. We were captivated by the history and stories of spices and how they travelled around the world.
Sri Lankan Garlic Clove Curry
- 250 g (9oz) garlic cloves (about 5 heads)
- 1 large onion
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil
- 10 fresh curry leaves
- ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- 2 green chillies, slit lengthways
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder
- 200 ml (generous ¾ cup) coconut milk
- 12 cm (4½ inch) pandan leaf (optional)
Peel or defrost the garlic cloves (see introduction). Trim the onion, halve lengthways then slice lengthways again into wide petals.
Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium–high heat. Add the onion, curry leaves and salt and fry until the onion softens, then starts to turn golden and sticky. Add the garlic cloves and cook for a few minutes, to sear the outsides. Add the tomato, chillies and spices and cook for about 5 minutes so the tomato breaks down into a sauce.
Pour in the coconut milk with the pandan and bring to a simmer. Cook on a low heat for around 30 minutes, being careful not to stir too much as the garlic softens. You may need to add a little water towards the end. Taste a clove – it should be very soft, sweet and any harsh rawness cooked out. The timing will depend on the age and size of your garlic cloves, so taste is the best judge. Start checking at about 25 minutes and be ready to cook for 45 minutes, if needed.
This is a dish that works well being made in advance. Serve warm rather than piping hot.
Rice or roti and other vegetarian dishes, such as dal
Consider also a Mint sambal: Grind together in a food processor 30g (1/3 cup) grated coconut, leaves from a small bunch of mint, 1/2 red onion, 1 garlic clove, 3 green chillies with or without their seeds, and a pinch of salt. Add a squeeze of lime juice and a little water to loosen the blades.
Feeling lazy, we had our garlic clove curry on its own with some ready-made naan and it was a fantastic meal. Whilst I agree that it could form part of a larger meal, we thoroughly enjoyed it on its own too.
This dish seems really unusual but it’s definitely one worth trying for yourself. Don’t be put off by the large volume of garlic – it works!
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Kavey Eats was provided with a review copy of The Nutmeg Trail by Eleanor Ford from publisher Murdoch Books. Photography by Ola O. Smit.