Sri Lankan Fish Curry and Nana’s Tomato Beans


  • 300g cod loin (or other white fish)
  • 300g tiger king prawns
  • 1 large white onion – finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves – minced
  • 1” piece of ginger – grated
  • 400g green beans
  • 400ml light coconut milk
  • 400g plum tomatoes
  • 1 lime
  • Bunch of fresh coriander
  • Spice mix:
    • 1 tsp turmeric
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp medium curry powder
    • 1 tsp ground fenugreek
    • 1 tsp ground mustard seeds
    • 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
    • 1 tsp tamarind paste
    • 1 tsp chillies (use your favourite!)
    • 2-3 curry leaves
  • You’ll also need an extra spoonful of turmeric, cumin, 1 tsp sweet paprika, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon

I know it’s a lot of ingredients, I promise it’s worth it!


An hour or so before you want to start cooking, chop your fish into roughly 1” pieces and put into a bowl with the prawns, 1tsp of turmeric, the zest and juice of the lime and a little salt. Combine and cover, pop the bowl into the fridge.

When you’re ready to start up, heat 1 large tbsp of butter (you could use oil or ghee too!) in a large saucepan. Add the onion and soften on a medium heat with a sprinkle of salt, this keeps it from burning. Then add the garlic and ginger and soften; it’s ready when it starts to release that lovely aromatic smell.

At this point, I would steal away a little of this mixture into a frying pan. You need roughly 2 tbsp, we’ll come back to it later.

Grind any whole spices in a pestle and mortar, then add all spices to the pan with the onion, garlic and ginger. Stir through until the onion mixture is a beautiful burnt orange – although try not to actually burn the spices!

Add half the tin of tomatoes, including the juice, and let them break down and combine. Then pour in the whole tin of coconut milk – I like to use low fat coconut milk, it has an amazing velvety texture and means guilt free extra naan breads!

Take half of the green beans, remove any scrappy looking ends and chop roughly in half, add to the curry and pop a lid on the pan.

This is the point where where you can leave the sauce unattended, except for an occasional stir, bubbling away until you’re ready to finish up and serve.

I would usually start on any accompanying dishes here, wash your rice, start on your lentils, heat the oven for naans…but for this meal I made my grandmother’s tomato beans. Everyone in my family makes these differently and swears by their own essential ingredient; this is how I like them.

Parboil the remaining trimmed beans, and add a glug of olive oil to the onion mixture you kept aside earlier. Fry until fragrant and add 1 tsp of paprika, 1 tsp of cumin, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, chilli flakes, salt and pepper to taste.

Add the beans and let them catch a little, you can use a relatively high heat for this part, then add the remaining tomatoes and reduce. If the mixture starts to look a little dry, add some water a tablespoon at W time. The sauce should be rich – I like it the consistency of salsa, but make it more or less sticky as you like it.

Back to the curry! This is where I would add a handful of fresh chopped coriander. Again, feel free to add more and earlier, depending on how strong you would like that flavour to be.

Almost done…add the cod and prawns to the sauce, they should be nicely marinated by now and ready to join the sauce! Cook through until the cod is opaque and the prawns are pink – the curry is ready to eat.

Serve with some fluffy basmati rice, naan breads on the side and maybe a sprinkle of crunchy fried onions if you have any in your cupboards.

Sadly I don’t know the Sinhalese for bon appetit, but I hope you enjoy making and eating this meal as much as I always do.

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