Recipe: Nafa’s Sri Lankan Aubergine Curry

By Felicity Carter

1 year ago

A hearty veggie curry to try at home

Looking for an authentic vegetarian curry recipe? Here chef Nafa combines layers of flavour and spice, and hearty bulk thanks to the aubergine, for a traditional taste of Sri Lanka. 

A refugee and torture survivor, Nafa fled torture and persecution from her home-country of Sri Lanka ten years ago, and while undergoing Freedom from Torture’s therapeutic baking group in the UK, discovered her love for food. After completing her counselling, she trained as a chef, has worked in leading five-star hotels across London, and cooked alongside Michelin-starred chef Paul Merrett, who invited her to be a part of the charity’s annual celebration of global cultures and cuisines, The Great Street Feast.

‘When I cook, all my fears and worries melt away. I feel like there is nothing I cannot do. I hope that we can give people a taste of proper Sri Lankan cooking at The Great Street Feast, while inspiring other survivors like me, to face their fears, take on new challenges, and find a way to heal,’ says Nafa.


Nafa’s Sri Lankan Aubergine Curry with Turmeric Coconut Rice  



  • 400g aubergine (approx. 2 aubergines) (Please note: You will need to prepare the aubergine 1 hour before cooking the curry. Cut into 2cm batons and add 1⁄2 tsp salt and 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice and mix. Set aside.)
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice 
  • 1⁄2 an onion (red or white) 
  • 3 – 4 green chillies (to taste) 
  • 1 cup coconut milk 
  • 1⁄2 tsp turmeric 
  • 1⁄2 tsp fenugreek seeds or powder 
  • 1 whole bulb fresh garlic 
  • 6 curry leaves (or 2 bay leaves) 
  • 1 cup of vegetable oil for frying 
  • Salt, to taste 
  • 2 – 3 tbsp curry powder 


  • 1 cup rice (white basmati) 
  • 1⁄2 cup coconut milk 
  • 1⁄4 tsp fresh ginger 
  • 1⁄4 tsp fresh garlic 
  • 4 curry leaves (or 1 bay leaf) 
  • 1⁄4 tsp turmeric 
  • Salt 
  • 1 cup boiling water 
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (or vegan butter / vegetable oil) 
  • (Optional) 3 pods of cardamom and 3 cloves 


  • Medium size pot/saucepan for rice
  • Medium size frying pan and a medium pot/saucepan


Start with the rice

  1. Thinly slice 1⁄4 tsp of ginger and 1⁄4 tsp of garlic and set aside.
  2. Wash the rice with cold water until water runs clear.
  3. Heat an empty pot on a high heat. When the pot is very hot remove from heat. 
  4. Add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil to the pot (still off the heat).
  5. Optional – add 3 pods of cardamom and 3 cloves. 
  6. Add the sliced ginger, garlic and 4 curry leaves (or 1 bay leaf), stirring quickly so it doesn’t burn.
  7. Return pot to the heat.
  8. Add the 1⁄4 tsp of turmeric and 1⁄2 cup of coconut milk and let it reduce. 
  9. Boil kettle and add the washed rice and 1 cup of boiling water. 
  10. Increase the heat to medium, give it a gentle stir and add a lid. 
  11. Once the water level is equal with rice, reduce the heat to very low (the lowest).
  12. When water has disappeared, take off heat and leave the lid on to steam. 
  13. Set rice aside and leave to steam in the pot. Don’t take off the lid! 

Fry the aubergine 

  1. Take the marinated aubergine and squeeze out the water with your hands and set aside. 
  2. Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan on a medium/high heat. You want the oil to be very hot. 
  3. Fry the aubergine until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Remove aubergine from pan and put on a plate lined with kitchen roll. 

Start the curry 

  1. Thinly slice the 1/2 onion, roughly chop the 3 – 4 green chillies and thinly slice the bulb of garlic. 
  2. In a medium pot, add 1 tbsp of coconut oil (or butter / vegetable oil).
  3. Add the chopped onion and fry on a medium heat until a golden colour.
  4. Add chopped green chilli, sliced garlic, 6 curry leaves (or 2 bay leaves) into the pot and fry on a medium heat for a few more minutes. 
  5. Add 2 – 3 tbsp curry powder to the pot and stir for 1 minute. 
  6. Add 1⁄2 tsp of fenugreek, 1 cup of coconut milk and 1⁄2 tsp of turmeric. Keep stirring and slowly bring to boil. 
  7. Add the fried aubergine to the pot. Mix well and cook for 4 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. (add a splash of water if you feel it needs loosening). 
  8. Season with salt to taste.
  9. Your curry is ready! Serve with the steamed rice.