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Jalfrezi is an Indian dish that also can be considered a style of cooking. It involves mixing a fairly standard list of spices and vegetables along with a main ingredient such as meat, paneer cheese or even just more vegetables. The spices include many classic Indian staples such as turmeric, coriander, cloves and cumin. Some of the spices are fried in oil before being added the vegetables, while others are added after all the other ingredients. The vegetables that make up the base of the dish include bell peppers, onions and tomatoes, although others — such as carrots or eggplant — also can be added.
The type of meat in the dish can vary greatly. In the United Kingdom, where the dish is very popular, chicken is very often the key ingredient. A Pakistani version uses mutton. Inside India, variations include using paneer or even tofu. Spices in the authentic dish are intentionally heavy because, originally, jalfrezi was a recipe used with leftover meats and vegetables, and the spices would mask any off tastes.
Making jalfrezi begins with heating oil or ghee in a pan and using it to saute the onions, bell peppers and any hot chili peppers that are being included. After they have been cooked, the turmeric, cumin and coriander are added to the pan and roasted until they have released their oils and become aromatic. Ensuring that the spices have time to roast in the oil is an important aspect that can affect the flavor of the final dish.
Next, the main ingredient in jalfrezi is added. Although chicken or other meats can stand up well to the entire cooking process, items such as paneer or tofu should only be browned and then removed from the pan to prevent them from breaking apart. The meat should be browned on all sides to provide some texture and flavor, although it is not necessary to cook it all the way through at this point.
The tomatoes, which are a key ingredient in jalfrezi, are added to the pan along with any remaining spices, such as ginger or garlic. Fresh or canned tomatoes can be used, but they should be diced and some of the liquid preserved and added to the pan, as well. The entire mixture then simmers until the chicken has finished cooking and the liquid in the pan, which helps to combine the flavors of the spices, has reduced some.
The heat of the dish can be adjusted by adding more or less chili peppers, which also can be omitted altogether. The completed jalfrezi can be served over rice or in a bowl with Indian bread. Depending on the recipe, yogurt can be added to help reduce the spiciness.
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