a bowl of colourful sweet potato curry with coriander garnish

This sweet potato and cashew nut curry started out as a demonstration of food-and-wine matching and how aromatic white wines can pair with spicy food. I served it with a Pinot Gris from Alsace

It’s vegan but you could easily add chicken. It’s a great way to get vegetables into teenagers, too – everyone loves the mellow flavours.

The recipe is based on the food of Kerala in southwest India, and one of  Das Sreedharan’s spice pastes from his book Fresh Flavours of India.

I vary the basic recipe depending on what I want to achieve (level of heat, colour, what spices I want to use up etc).  Sometimes I add turmeric or crushed cardamom, too.


Feeds 4

1 large white onion, roughly chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled

2 red chillies (or to taste), topped and seeds removed if preferred

7cm knob of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

6 black peppercorns

2tsp ground cinnamon

1tbsp ground coriander

1tsp ground cumin

1 big bunch fresh coriander (half in the paste, half chopped for garnish)

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tins coconut milk

1kg sweet potato, peeled and cubed

Salt and pepper

200g cashew nuts


Make a spice paste by putting the onion, garlic, chillies, ginger, half the coriander, peppercorns, cumin and cinnamon in a blender with half the oil and whiz to a fine mush. In a large saucepan, heat the rest of the oil and fry the spice paste for three minutes, stirring, until it starts to sizzle.

Add the sweet potato and coconut milk and simmer with the lid off for 30-45 minutes, until tender. Stir frequently to prevent scorching on the bottom, but don’t break up the sweet potato chunks too much.

Heat the oven to 160C (300F), put the cashew nuts on a baking tray and roast for 10-12 minutes. Leave to cool and chop (I put them in a freezer bag and bash with a rolling pin).

Taste the curry to check and adjust seasoning.

Just before serving, chop the rest of the fresh coriander and add, with the nuts, to the curry and stir through. Serve with basmati rice, couscous or flat breads for dipping.

If you’re adding chicken (breast or boneless thighs are equally good), use less sweet potato, add it with the sweet potato and make sure the chicken is cooked through.

If you like spicy food, my harissa recipe makes adding warmth and heat to dishes really easy.

© Linda Galloway 2020