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Chicken Jalfrezi

Chicken Jalfrezi
Chicken Jalfrezi

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Chicken Jalfrezi is now a popular restaurant dish but the origins of jalfrezi are a little obscure. There is a legend that it was invented during the British Raj by one Lord Marcus Sandys (which, in a lovely bit of British Upper Class twitism, is pronounced Sands) whilst he was Governor of the state of Bengal. The same guy is also credited with inventing Worcestershire Sauce. Some minor difficulties with this story are that there was never any Governor of Bengal called Sandys and that the gentleman in question never, as far as can be ascertained, went to India - though he did exist.

Whatever the circumstances, Jalfrezi seems to have been first created to use up leftover meat. This is most likely to have been a Muslim creation - such a thing would be frowned upon by Hindus.

The style is like a stir fry and you can use either fresh meat or the remains of a roast. You can also use a variety of vegetables with it.

This example is a chicken jalfrezi but you could easily substitute lamb, beef, duck, or even pork.

Basic Ingredients

½lb (225g) cooked chicken
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic
1 inch(2.4cm) ginger
1 Bell Pepper
1 courgette(zucchini)
2 plum tomatoes or 200g tinned tomatoes
Handful of coriander leaves
Oil for frying

3 teaspoons coriander seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
teaspoon turmeric
6 black peppercorns
inch (1cm) stick of cinnamon

Notes on Ingredients

Chicken. Meat from any part of a roast chicken will do.

Chillis. To taste - chicken jalfrezi really should be quite hot 3-4 finger chillis, but suit yourself

Spices. You can vary the spices a little to alter the flavours but the dish should not be overpowered with spices. Maybe replace the cinnamon with amchoor or poppy seed.

Bell peppers. Mix and match green, red, yellow whatever - about 1 large pepper in total

Vegetables. Instead of courgettes you can use carrots, cauliflower, green beans or broccoli but these need to be blanched beforehand.

Oil. Butter and Ghee are not so good for this, it needs a lighter oil. Mustard oil or peanut oil are good and plain vegetable oil is ok

Basic Method

Roast the coriander and cumin seeds, the peppercorns and the cinnamon then grind to a powder
Cut the chicken into strips.
Peel and coarsely chop the onion
Peel the garlic and ginger and mash or blend into a paste
Finely chop the chillis
Cut the courgette into sticks about 1 inch(3.5cm) long and about inch square
Peel the tomatoes (if using fresh ones) and chop up
Chop peppers into strips

Heat the oil in a wok (or kahari)
Fry the onions and garlic/ginger paste
Stir in the ground spices and then the turmeric.
Put in the courgettes and peppers and cook for about 3-4 minutes stirring all the time.
Add the chicken and then the tomatoes and cook for a further 5 minutes
Serve into a bowl and garnish with coriander leaves

Notes on Method

The onions should not be over fried - this is a quick stir-fry dish that should retain a good bit of crunchiness. Some people like to add the tomatoes early and then add the onions and other vegetables to that they are barely fried at all and stay very crunchy

Here I use tomato to add some 'body' to the dish; an alternative is to make a thickening agent from 1 tablespoon of besan (gram flour) and about ¼ cup of water. This is added instead of the tomatoes. This is called besan aalan and acts just like cornflour to thicken the dish.

Chicken jalfrezi is quite a dry dish that you can eat with either bread (parathas are good) or rice. Chutneys and pickles go very well with this. The quantities above should serve 3-4 adults

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