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A Continental Cuisine Series

India Journal

Back to Blighty: JALFREZI

We had a very interesting trip to Kolcatta. The place was amazing and we had some fabulous food. Chef Anchuman had not only cooked us a delicious jalfrezi but also gave us a little history about the UK’s no one curry at present. I was very interested to learn that Jalfrezi is broken down into Jal for hot or spicy and frezi meaning, frying or cooking. The story goes way back to the days of the Raj when British families employed mainly Bangladeshi cooks. The Brits loved a roast on Sunday and being very frugal, the cooks would not waste a thing. So any left over meat was quickly stir fried with peppers, onions, spices and a thick tomato sauce and served. In fact when chef cooked for us he used cooked chicken tikka as the main ingredient. It was quite different from any jalfrezi I have tasted in the UK. In fact I would go as far as to say that any of the dishes we have tasted in India have been very different.
So with all this in mind, I set off and research a little more, hoping to get one step ahead of my learned friend. I plan to make a really thick tomato, spicy sauce, and then add red onions and sautéed peppers, all three colours and keep quite dry.

Brick lane home to one of the largest Bangladeshi communities in the UK. We meet up at Café Naz, to meet Mukim Ahmed and Stephen Gomez, resident chef to chat about how jalfrezi has changed over the years. They explain that it has not changed that much, only real thing was that there seems to be a healthier side to the dish. Its still fragrant and well liked in the restaurant selling many portions weekly.
With all this in mind, we go head to head and Reza is using turkey, I’m sticking to the traditional chicken, again from what I had seen in India. I push on and get my spices going. Adding tomatoes and peppers, looking pretty good. Reza is using more spices and fresh tomatoes, they both smell divine. We taste each other’s and declare a draw. He does have the knack of getting such flavour from his ingredients; his turkey is soft and very tasty.

We decamp to Spittlefields Market to set up the taste test with the public. It all starts quite well. But again people are expecting more spice. Reza camps it all up and engages many people, but the it’s all pretty even at the halfway stage. More and more people taste and soon we are out. The final count says that Rezza wins by 4 votes, so very close indeed.

It just goes to show that we Brits like our spices, and it seems to me the hotter the better. Oh well there is always next time.


Serves: 4 persons

Preparation time:- 30 minutes.
Cooking time:- 15 minutes.


4 tbsp. oil
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 6 pieces

1 tbsp. ginger, very finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 – 2 tsp. fresh red chilli, roughly chopped
1 level tsp. ground cumin
1 level tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. ground turmeric

1 small onion, very finely chopped
1 small red pepper, sliced
1 small yellow pepper, sliced
1 small green pepper, sliced

400g can of chopped tomatoes in juice
½ vegetable stock cube
1 tbsp. tomato puree


2 tbsp. fresh coriander chopped


  1. Cook the tomatoes, cube and tomato paste down until you have a thick stew.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan, then add the chicken and cook for 15-20 minutes well browned and cooked through. Remove from the pan and keep warm.
  3. Add a touch more oil, than add the ginger and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.
  4. Next add the chilli, cumin, coriander and turmeric and lightly fry.
  5. Add the onion, and peppers and stir fry ‘til wilted, slightly.
  6. Add the tomato paste and chicken and coat well, you may need to add a touch of water.
  7. Season with a little sugar, salt and pepper and fresh coriander.
  8. The sauce should coat the vegetable and meat well, like a dry stir-fry.
  9. Serve with rice and naan bread


Serves 4


  • 2-3 tbsp. Coriander stalks
  • 1 tbsp. chopped ginger
  • 4 plump cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
  • Salt
  • Juice and zest of one lime
  • 1 tsp. roasted, ground fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp. roasted, ground cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp. roasted, ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. soft, dark brown sugar
  • 450g turkey breasts, cut into strips

For the sauce

  • 4 tbsp. (60ml) vegetable/sunflower/rapeseed oil
  • 5 green cardamom pods
  • 3 cloves
  • 3 x 2” cassia bark sticks
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 3 whole, dried red chilies
  • 2 red onions, thinly sliced
  • 200g fresh tomatoes, finely sliced and lightly salted
  • 1 tbsp. tomato puree
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1.5 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 red, 1/2 yellow 1/2 orange peppers, cut into approximately 1cm strips
  • 1/2 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 tbsp. soft, dark brown sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 tbsp. chopped coriander
  • Salt


  1. Put the coriander stalks, ginger, garlic, salt, turmeric and zest and juice of one lime into a jug blender. Add 2 - 3 tbsp. water. Blend to a smooth paste. Decant into a mixing bowl and add the ground spices and sugar. Combine thoroughly.
  2. Add the turkey strips to the mixture and mix together thoroughly. Cover with cling film and place in the refrigerator for up to an hour.
  3. Remove marinated turkey from the fridge and set aside to bring back to room temperature.
  4. In the meantime, heat the oil in a wide, heavy bottomed pan over a medium to high heat until hot. Add the cardamom, cloves, cassia, star anise, cumin and whole dried chilies and heat until they begin to pop and splutter. Add the onions with a pinch of salt. Cook until the onions soften and just begin to brown at the edges. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree and cook until the mixture has amalgamated to a thick sauce. Add the chili powder, coriander powder and dark brown sugar. Stir-fry for couple of minutes. If the mixture begins to stick, add a dash of water to prevent the spices from burning and sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  5. Add the peppers and allow them to sweat and soften slightly. This will take a few minutes. If the mixture becomes too dry and begins to stick, add 3 tbsp. water to loosen up the mixture.
  6. Now add the marinated turkey and mix together for a couple of minutes. Add up to 100ml water and continue to stir fry for 6-8 mins, until cooked.
  7. Finally, sprinkle the garam masala, soft dark brown sugar and add the lime juice. Adjust seasoning and garnish with chopped coriander.
  8. NB the sauce needs to thick enough to coat the turkey without being runny.

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