Sri Lankan Beef Roast

A chuck roast is a beautiful thing. We cooked a twist on a traditional pot roast and followed this traditional Sri Lankan recipe. The only real difficult thing about it is having the whole spices on hand. We buy ours in the bulk section at the local food coop. We enjoyed ours with a fresh carrot and apple salad and some rice.


  • One beef chuck roast (about 3 lbs) (or arm, or rump roasts, or 2-3 lbs stew meat)
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole fenugreek seeds
  • 4 tablespoons lard (or other frying oil)
  • One 2-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • One 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups beef or chicken stock
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup coconut milk from a well shaken can


Make sure meat is dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Set a small cast-iron or other heavy frying pan over medium heat. When very hot, sprinkle in the coriander, cumin, fennel, and fenugreek seeds. Stir for 30 seconds or so until the spices just start to emit a roasted aroma. Empty onto a piece of paper towel, and, when cooled off a bit, grind the spices in a clean coffee grinder or crush in a mortar.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Heat an oven-proof heavy pan (we like enameled cast iron) over medium high heat and add lard or other oil. When hot, put in the meat and brown on all sides. Remove to a plate. Add the cinnamon, onions, ginger, and garlic. Stir and cook 4 to 5 minutes. Add ground spices and cook 30 seconds or so. Add the vinegar, stock, cayenne, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and the beef as well as its accumulated juices. Bring to a boil, stirring the sauce. Cover and place in oven. Cook, basting and turning every 20 minutes or so, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until meat is tender. Remove pan from oven. Add the coconut milk, stir, and bring to a simmer before serving.


*Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Beef Smore