This Sri Lankan beef curry is a frequent favourite at the Olcote dining table, however, there are a few adaptations we make when adapting for Western palates. The key to flavour is dry toasting the ground spices for a few minutes to open up the flavours, and then marinading the beef overnight in the fridge. Traditionally we would use a lot of heat, and salt and garlic, but adjust these ingredients to your own personal taste. Please note that if you use a light (reduced fat) coconut milk, this sauce will be less thick and creamy. You can, of course, use chicken stock instead of beef.

INGREDIENTS (Serves 4) Cooking time – 2 1/2 hours, not including marinade

1 tablespoon ground coriander
3 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground fennel
3 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 -2 1⁄2 lbs boneless sirloin steaks
3 tablespoons good quality oil
3 medium onions, finely chopped
3 cubic inches of fresh ginger stem, chopped or pureed
2 tablespoons fresh garlic, chopped or pureed
1 -2 small red chilli peppers, seeded and finely chopped or pureed
1 cup beef stock (optional)
1 tin full fat coconut milk
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 -2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Dry heat the coriander, cumin, fennel and turmeric in a pan for five minutes or so, on a low to medium heat, or until the spices are aromatic and lightly toasted. Remove from the heat, and mix in the freshly ground black pepper. Cube the steak, into 1.5-inch cubes and pop into a ziplock bag (a sealed bag is more hygienic in the fridge than in a bowl). Sprinkle with the spices and the vinegar, and mix about until the meat is evenly covered. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Marinating is best suited for the tougher steak cuts such as sirloin and 24 hours is ideal. Marinading very good cuts of beef (like rib eye) can leave them worse off! The acid in the vinegar softens the meat and allows the spices to really infuse.




  1. Heat plenty of oil in a heavy bottomed pan and fry the chopped onions on a low to medium heat. Fry until the onions are soft and translucent, but not brown.
  2. Add the chopped garlic and fry for another 2 minutes on a low heat. Garlic is easily burnt, so adjust the heat down. You might want to resort to a garlic crusher, we do use rather a lot!
  3. Add the chopped chillies. Use as much or as little as you like. Seeds are far hotter than the pepper flesh and generally, the smaller the pepper, the hotter the taste! Fry for another 2 minutes.
  4. Remove the onion mixture and turn the heat up. Add more oil, and brown the beef, splitting into two batches to ensure the pan stays hot and the beef browns quickly and retains its moisture. Remove the first half of the browned meat and add it to the cooked onion mixture. Fry the second batch off.
  5. Now place the meat and the onion mixture back into the pot and add the stock and the coconut milk. Add some chilli flakes if you feel like it! Bring the mix gently to the boil and check for salt and pepper.
  6. Cover and reduce heat to low and simmer for about 2 to 2-1/2 hours or until the beef is very tender.

Serve with basmati rice and flatbread, and garnish with freshly chopped coriander leaves. Enjoy!

When you book at Olcote in Ceylon, your full stay is all-inclusive. That means our team of personal chefs prepare everything from scratch, for your pleasure. Meals are shared at the round table by the pool, in our indoor/outdoor verandah. We are happy to cook more traditional fare for everyone, especially the children, who sometimes just feel like a plain old fashioned pizza, bowl of pasta or slice of toast. Luckily we stock all of these, although we’re happy to fire up the outdoor pizza oven to give our pizzas some extra flair. To book a stay at Olcote, or to find out about availability, click here.