I adore egg curries; if you’ve never made one and are a touch sceptical, I urge you to give this Sri Lankan version a go. Eggs and spices are simply made for each other, and here you have soft-boiled eggs fried until crisp on the outside, served in a generous puddle of curry sauce – perfect speedy post-pub tucker if you get your sauce ready beforehand. You could also serve this as a full meal with plenty of steamed rice on the side.
Take a large saucepan and set it over a medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the coriander, cumin, mustard, fenugreek, black peppercorns, cinnamon stick and bay leaf and toast for a minute. Scoop out the spices into a spice mill or pestle and mortar and grind to a powder. Set aside.
Add the coconut or vegetable oil to the pan along with the onion and stir fry over a medium heat for 10 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the spice powder, garlic, ginger, green chilli and shrimp paste and stir fry for a further 5 minutes.
Starting from the cut side, grate the tomato halves into the pan until you get down to the skin (discard the skin). Stir well to mix, add 250ml water and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly until thick and concentrated. Season to taste, then add the coconut milk and coconut or palm sugar and simmer steadily for about 5 minutes until it reaches a thick double-cream consistency. At this point you can turn off the heat and leave the sauce until you are ready to eat (once cool, store it in the fridge if you are leaving it for more than 2 hours).
When you are ready to eat, put the eggs in a large pan and cover well with cold water. Set over a medium-high heat and bring to the boil. When they start to boil, turn the heat down a little and simmer steadily for 4 minutes. Drain and run under cold water until cool enough to peel. Sprinkle the turmeric and sea salt over a large plate and roll the peeled eggs around until coated.
Pour 1cm of vegetable oil into a wok or large deep frying pan and set over a medium-high heat. When it’s hot enough (test it by throwing in a cube of bread; it should brown in 30 seconds), carefully add the eggs one at a time using a long-handled spoon. Fry until crisp and golden, about 4 minutes, turning regularly and spooning a little hot oil over the top as they cook, just like regular fried eggs.
Reheat the sauce and divide between bowls. Top each bowl with an egg or two, sprinkle over some coriander and onion slices and tuck in, scooping up the gravy as you eat the eggs with a little naan bread.