Dhallo (Cuttle fish) Black Curry
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Posted by Jude Perera on August 10, 19102 at 23:10:28


Cuttle fish (dhallo) cleaned, washed and cut into 2 inch strips - 1Kg
Curry Powder freshly ground (may be about four or five lumped table spoons)
Cinnamon (about a 1 inch piece)
Cloves (about ten)
Garlic (three or four)
Cardamoms (about ten)
Lemon or lime juice (about four or five table spoons full - to taste)
Lemon grass (a four inch piece)
Coffer lemon rind (grated) - about a table spoon - This is not compulsory but it adds an exquisite taste to the dish
Salt - to taste
Red Chillie powder - to taste
Curry leaves chopped up - a couple of sprigs
A bit of butter (or oil or Ghee) - about three table spoons
One full Bombay or Spring Onion ( Chopped)
Green Chillies (Chopped)
Coconut milk (thick) - One and a half cups

First put the curry powder on to a dry saucepan and roast it on a medium flame until it becomes black (but not burnt). When it is nearly done add the red chillie powder and roast it as well. It is good to have a mask or something on as the fumes of roasting chillie powder can get into your nose and eyes etc. Once this is done leave it aside.

Then take another saucepan, add the butter into it and keep it on a medium to high flame. When the butter is fairly hot add the chopped garlic, curry leaves and the chopped onions. When the garlic and onions are turning light brown in colour add the roasted curry powder and the chillie powder. After a couple of minutes increase the flame to high and add the well drained pieces of cuttle fish into the saucepan and stir it well until all the ingredients spread on all the pieces of cuttle fish. Also make sure that all the pieces of cuttle fish get fried a little bit in the hot butter as well.

Then add the rest of the ingredients (except the lemon juice) with the thick coconut milk and let it cook on a slow fire with the saucepan three quarter covered. Stir it once every three minutes or so. Please note that you don't have to add a lot of liquid as when you cover dhallo and cook it produces a lot of liquid on its own. Once the dhallo is cooked let it simmer with the saucepan lid removed until the gravy thickens. If the gravy is not thick it doesn't taste as nice. When the cuttle fish is cooked and the gravy is thick remove it from the fire and let it cool before adding the lemon juice.

a) Usually I cook Dhallo at least a day before it is used as it tastes better. It does not taste as good if eaten immediately after it is cooked.
b) The variety of cuttle fish available in Australia does not require that much cooking. But I think the variety of Dhallo available in Sri lanka requires longer cooking times. So it is best to experiment first.
c) The same recipe can be used when cooking baby octopus. However I don't like cooking it as cleaning baby octopus is a pain and time consuming.
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