I’m not sure this problem ever came up in Sri Lanka, but we eat Western food about half the time, and I like lots of it, really I do, but then sometimes I go to the fridge to eat some leftovers and there is no curry to be found and I am sad. Over the years I’ve learned that it’s actually easy to take a standard plain-cooked meat, chicken, or fish, and turn it into an acceptable curried version. When a girl is desperate for curry, she does what she needs to do — she makes a curry sauce, adds some cut-up leftover cooked meat, simmers it for a little bit, and eats happy.
3 medium yellow onions, chopped
1 T ginger, grated
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 t. mustard seed
1 t. cumin seed
1 dozen curry leaves
3 cardamom pods
1 2-inch piece cinnamon
1-2 T chili powder
1 t. Sri Lankan curry powder
1 t. salt
1/4 c. ketchup
1-2 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 – 1 c. (or more, if you like) coconut milk
2-3 lbs. leftover cooked meat, cubed (may also be left on the bone)
3 russet potatoes, cubed (optional)
1. Sauté onions in oil or ghee on medium-high, stirring as needed, with ginger, garlic, mustard seed, cumin seed, curry leaves, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, until golden-translucent, about ten minutes.
2. Add chili powder, Sri Lankan curry powder, and salt, stirring for a few minutes more.
3. Add ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and coconut milk, stirring each ingredient in. You now have a basic curry sauce, suitable for meat, chicken, or fish. (It also works with seitan or young jackfruit, for vegetarian options.)
4. Add leftover cooked meat, stirring until well combined. Turn down to a simmer, cover, and let cook ten minutes or so; the meat will impart some flavor to the sauce, and vice versa. Add water if necessary to prevent burning.
5. Add potatoes (and probably more water) if using, bring to boiling, then turn back down and simmer until potatoes are cooked through. (You can speed this part up by par-cooking them in water in the microwave earlier, perhaps while your onions are sautéing.) Cook sauce down until it has a thick consistency, like gravy.
Serve hot, with rice or bread.