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Curry for beginners - Step-by-step recipe to cooking a lamb or chicken Jalfrezi

Updated on March 7, 2016

My attempt to teach you the awesomeness that is the 'Jalfrezi'

I am not of Asian descent, let me make that clear. I also don't claim that this is authentic in any way, it is my own interpretation. I am just your average guy, grew up in Namibia and Southern Africa and now living in Texas. I have travelled quite a bit around the world, and also lived in London for 5 years. For those of you who don't know, curry is pretty much the national dish of the United Kingdom.

I am not making any claims to be a curry master, but I have served this at many dinner parties and always receive outstanding reviews.

This is a Jalfrezi recipe which I have adapted over many trials. I am sure you may change it up to suit your tastes. Once you get the basics down you can start experimenting to make your own versions or even try some other recipes.

If you are looking for a book to help you improve your skills I can highly recommend those written by Madhur Jaffrey, check the Amazon links below to find the book.

Before you start cooking

Most people are very nervous when it comes to cooking a curry. I can't say that I have mastered the art, but having cooked this recipe about 20 times I believe that I have come pretty close to perfection. Cooking curries is a pretty easy affair, and I want to show you how.

The most important part of this whole thing is getting your spices. I found a small Indian supermarket near my work that sold almost everything I needed. You could also find some of the stuff at your local grocery store (probably in the international section).

Spices are very cheap, which in itself is strange seeing how there have been wars fought over the stuff. I paid about $30 for a years supply of spices (I still have a whole cupboard full). I bought some jam jars to keep my spices in as they seal really well, keeping spices fresh. Below I have included photos of what the spices look like so you can track them down for yourself.

Also get yourself a good pestle and mortar, you will always need it. In this recipe you have to use it to grind up the Cumin seeds, if you don't have one you can substitute the seeds for Cumin powder.

This recipe will serve about 3-4 petite individuals. If you are serving big guys you may want to double up on the ingredients. Don't worry if you end up with a lot of leftovers, curry keeps exceptionally well. It actually tastes twice as good after standing overnight as the flavors really crave some more time to develop. Treat it like a good red wine and you will be rewarded for your patience (trust me on this one).

Spice Gallery - Photos of all the spices you'll need

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Cardamom PodsRed Chili PowderWhole ClovesGaram MasalaTurmeric PowderGround CorianderFresh Coriander (Cilantro)Cumin SeedsBlack Mustard SeedsBay Leaves
Cardamom Pods
Cardamom Pods
Red Chili Powder
Red Chili Powder
Whole Cloves
Whole Cloves
Garam Masala
Garam Masala
Turmeric Powder
Turmeric Powder
Ground Coriander
Ground Coriander
Fresh Coriander (Cilantro)
Fresh Coriander (Cilantro)
Cumin Seeds
Cumin Seeds
Black Mustard Seeds
Black Mustard Seeds
Bay Leaves
Bay Leaves


Everything you need to cook a Jalfrezi Curry

*Lamb or Chicken??*

1.5 Pounds of Lamb (cubed) OR

1.5 Pounds of Chicken Pieces (preferably on the bone with skin removed)

Tip: When I cook with chicken I normally use thighs and I also use a cleaver to cut them in half.

*Other Ingredients*

2 Tbsp of Cooking Oil (Vegetable or Canola)

5-6 Cloves of Garlic (finely chopped)

2 Tbsp of Ginger (grated)

3 Medium Onions (coarsely chopped)

5-6 Medium Tomatoes (chopped)

3 Green/Bell Peppers (cut into slivers)


Black Pepper

*Whole Spices*

4-5 Cardamom Pods

7-9 Whole Cloves

2-3 Bay Leaves

*Other Spices*

1 Tsp of Mustard Seeds

1 Tsp of Cumin (ground up in pestle and mortar)

1 Tsp of Ground Coriander

1 Tsp of Turmeric

1 Tsp of Chili Powder

2 Tsp of Ground Coriander

1 Tsp of Garam-Masala

*When Serving*

1 Handful of Chopped Fresh Coriander (Cilantro)

*Serve Alongside*

Basmati Rice is particularly good, but any old boil-in-the-bag variety will work. I prefer the white long-grain. Make sure you prepare this in advance.

Naan bread is a great accompaniment as it encourages eating it with your hands - trust me this always makes it taste better!

Mango Chutney can be put on the table as a nice sweet/spicy condiment as well, look in the International aisle at your supermarket for this.

Start Cooking

This is where the fun starts

1. Heat the Oil in a Large Pot or Deep skillet over medium-high heat

2. Be ready to add the chopped onions after the next step!

3. Add the Cardamom Pods, Cloves, Bay Leaves and Mustard Seeds. The mustard seeds will start popping like pop-corn. Only leave for about 5 seconds before adding the onions. Be careful not to burn the whole spice on this step.

TIP: If you want to be extra fancy get yourself a muzlin bag to cook the whole spice in. You can remove it before serving ensuring that your dinner guests don't end up chomping on a whole cardamom pod halfway through dinner

4. Add the chopped Garlic and grab yourself a beer, the stressful part is over.

5. Stir and cook together until the onions are soft.

6. Add the lamb OR chicken pieces and brown with the onions. While browning add the Ginger, Turmeric, Cumin and a pinch of Salt and Pepper (to taste).

7. Browning the meat shouldn't take more than 5 minutes depending on the size of the pot/skillet. Don't worry too much about cooking it through as you will still be simmering it for a very long time, you just want to give the meat a nice color. Once the chicken/lamb is cooked, add the chopped Tomatoes and stir together.

8. Add the Coriander Powder and Chili Powder to the mix

9. Reduce the heat to Low and Simmer with the lid on for about 30 minutes, and add the Bell Peppers

10. Now we play the waiting game!

- If you have good quality lamb it may take about 2 hours to soften.

- If you got the stuff I seem to always get at my local grocer it may take up to 3 hours.

- With Chicken it is always shorter, maybe 1-2 hours.

11. Keep simmering until the Tomato has disintegrated into the curry and the meat has softened.

12. Have a beer, you are doing well!!

13. Once you are totally satisfied with the texture, taste again and make sure you don't need any additional salt and pepper. Even the best curry can be ruined by under-seasoning.

14. Add the Garam Masala and stir into the curry. Simmer for a further 20 minutes.

15. Remove from heat and let stand for a few minutes while you prepare your plates and serve the rice.

16. Serve the curry on rice or with Nan bread. To add a great taste dimension sprinkle the curry with the chopped Fresh Coriander, or serve on the side for people to grab for themselves.

17. Remember to warn your guests not to eat the whole spices, they will leave quite an overpowering taste.

18. Grab another beer, sit down and enjoy your amazing handiwork and bask in the glory of your awesome cooking skills.


Some great Recipe Books from Amazon

Reader Feedback

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    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 

      4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @dirtysaffa: It's in Google, but not easy to find, unfortunately. (I write recipes myself and there's SO MUCH competition from the big recipe sites). But I've posted it to all the social media shown on this page and I'm sure it will help you to get exposure and hopefully boost your lensrank too :)

    • dirtysaffa profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      @BritFlorida: Wow, great news. Thanks for passing along. I couldn't find that anywhere on Google. Do you maybe have a link to that? Would love to check it out

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 

      4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      Hi there - just to let you know that this was chosen as the Spot On UK Curry of the Day and has been promoted on social media. Hope it helps :)

    • dirtysaffa profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @anonymous: Great to see that people are still viewing this 2 years later. Maybe I need to post my latest Chicken and Spinach curry as well. I hope you enjoy the recipe!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for the well presented intro to cooking with a curry. Straight forward and informative. I am an excellent cook who has no experience with Indian food/curries and will use this as an beginning point. Not to appear sexist, as I am not, but the 'man's approach' to a recipe is somewhat different and appreciated.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love learning new techniques for cooking curry -- thanks for sharing your recipe.

    • Robinharmony profile image


      8 years ago

      O my gosh, this lense is making my mouth water. LOVE IT

    • dirtysaffa profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks for commenting Brian. The curry is actually not too spicy at all. If you want you could tone it down by using less of the Chili powder as well.

    • Amelia7410 profile image


      8 years ago

      I really like the Spice Gallery.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for the recipe, I shall give it a go. Looks tasty, but hot I suspect.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I love to cook curry - it's definitely one of my favourites.

    • gan4boi profile image


      8 years ago

      Very nice - not sure if I would use it - I'm not actually a cook anyway.


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