1 eggplant, cut into rounds
1 small red onion
zest and juice of 1 lime
vegetable or coconut oil, for frying
600g tomatoes, cut into wedges or slices
1 green chilli, sliced
1 tablespoon bonito flakes (alternatively use 2 teaspoons fish sauce)
a good sprig or two curry leaves
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
a good pinch chilli flakes
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1½ teaspoons cumin seeds
1½ teaspoons fennel seeds
1½ teaspoons black peppercorns
½ teaspoon chilli flakes
¼ teaspoon turmeric
8 lamb chops

I’m still thinking about a meal I had at Sri Lankan restaurant Rambutan in London last year. Fond memories of the heady aromas of spices and charcoal-grilled foods, a richly flavoured ray curry and especially some fiery lamb ribs. It sent me on a deep dive into the cuisine and one where I thank myself for having the foresight to buy and plant the tiny seedling curry leaf tree that I picked up from my local Indian spice shop. It’s thriving despite my constant picking of its sprigs.

This fresh, hot, sour and spicy salad is a great foil for heavily spiked lamb chops. Maldives fish flakes – dried flakes of tuna – feature often in Sri Lankan cuisine. They are not readily available here, so I used bonito flakes instead, but you could use some fish sauce or leave it out if you prefer.

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1.Sprinkle the eggplant slices with some salt and set aside for 30 minutes. Pat dry.
2.Slice the red onion thinly and put into a bowl with ¼ teaspoon salt and the lime zest and juice. Set aside for at least 10 minutes.
3.Heat the oil in a pan and fry the eggplant slices until golden and cooked through (alternatively you could grill these on a barbecue).
4.Put into the bowl with the onion. Add the tomatoes and the green chilli and stir to combine.
5.If using the bonito flakes or fish sauce, stir through now.
6.Arrange the sambol ingredients in a serving dish or platter.
7.Fry the curry leaves and cumin seeds in 2 tablespoons of oil until fragrant and the curry leaves are crisp.
8.Remove from the heat and add the chilli flakes. Pour over the salad and serve with the spiced lamb chops.
10.Toast the coriander, cumin, fennel and black peppercorns in a dry pan.
11.Cool slightly and then grind in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.
12.Stir through the chilli flakes and turmeric.
13.Rub the spices onto the meat and ideally leave to marinate for a few hours (or overnight).
14.Grill or pan fry the lamb chops until cooked to your liking.

Recipes & food styling Ginny Grant / Photography Aaron McLean / Styling Jess Hemmings