Curry for beginners - Step-by-step recipe to cooking a lamb or chicken Jalfrezi
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 needClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
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)
4-5 Cardamom Pods
7-9 Whole Cloves
2-3 Bay Leaves
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
1 Handful of Chopped Fresh Coriander (Cilantro)
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.
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.