If you love the flavours of a jalfrezi but want to avoid the high amounts of oil often found in curry house dishes, then this is the recipe for you. And whilst you may think grabbing a take away is the quickest option, this yummy curry is ready in just 30 minutes – about the same time as ordering and collecting your take away. Of course, you have to be in the kitchen cooking it rather than relaxing on the sofa, but it’s worth the effort, I promise 😉
In the UK, jalfrezi was voted the nations favourite curry (just in case you wondered) swooping ahead of previous contenders like korma and tikka masala. Some consider jalfrezi to be an indicator of spiciness, but in reality it can be as mild or spicy as you like. As with many dishes found in UK curry houses, jalfrezi has roots in the British Raj and was created from leftovers to avoid food waste.
‘Jal’ means pungently spicy and ‘frezi’ stir fry. Thought to originate in the Kalcutta/Bengal region, left over meats and vegetables from the grand roasts served in British Raj homes were stir fried in spices in huge pans to make them more palatable for Indian tastebuds.
Many dishes were dry, but us Brits love a bit of gravy so a thick sauce was created as part of the recipe. In fact, the term ‘gravy’ is still used today – whilst living in Bangalore, it took me a while to realise gravy was what we’d call curry sauce. I was certainly confused for a while 😉
Jalfrezi is a rich, pungent sauce with a tasty selection of spices. Garum masala is one of the key ingredients along with cardamon. I’m a big fan of this flavour; it’s quite expensive but a little goes a long way.
A fair amount of ghee or oil is used in original recipes which creates the richness. But this also whacks up the fat content; not good if you follow a low fat or anti-inflammatory diet for health reasons. All my recipes involve ‘frying’ in water. This means the dish will not be as rich and deeply flavoured, but it still tastes delicious and I think the spices are experienced in a more subtle way. A a drizzle of cold pressed flaxseed oil on serving will provide a bit of richness. Preparing the dish the day before will help the spice flavour to develop as well.
Traditionally, jalfrezi includes onion and green peppers – I’ve used red as I prefer them, but feel free to swap and use whatever veg you like, or have at the bottom of your fridge. A good rainbow selection will give you a range of healthful phytonutrients. Add these to the plant protein and fibre found in the chickpeas, it’s one your tastebuds, body and gut bacteria will all love!
You can serve this yummy curry with steamed rice (to keep it gluten free) or flatbread like chapati along with a dollop or two of my dairy-free raita. I love a good scattering of fresh coriander on top, but for those of you for whom coriander tastes like soap (around 12% of the population!), then it will taste wonderful without.
I hope you enjoy making this super healthy and tasty version of jalfrezi. Do let me know how you get on.
Chickpea vegetable jalfrezi
For the sauce
- 1 medium onion - red or white peeled and cut into eighths
- 2 cloves of garlic peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 cm chunk of fresh ginger peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 large fresh tomato chopped into eighths
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 200 ml water
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp chilli powder mild or hot - it's up to you
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamon or 6 cardamon pods crushed and seeds ground
- 1 tsp ground coriander
For the veggies
- 1 medium red onion sliced
- 1 medium red or green pepper cut into chunks
- 1 medium bunch swiss chard leaves and stems separated and chopped
- 2 400g tinned chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 150 grams peas frozen are fine
- 150 ml water if needed
- 1 tsp garum masala
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp fresh coriander chopped
- soya yoghurt or raita - see link to recipe below
- Pop the roughly chopped onion, garlic, ginger and tomato into a small blender pot. Blitz to a fairly fine paste.
- Tip the mustard seeds into the smallish pan. Toast for a minute or so over a medium heat - they will start to jump. Take off the heat and carefully pour in the tomato mix. Beware - there may be some spitting as the pan will be hot from toasting so mind your hands!
- Let the sauce simmer for 5 minutes over a medium heat to allow the onion to cook. Add the tomato puree and water stir well then add the spices. Leave to simmer on a low heat, stirring from time to time. The spice aromas will change as they cook, becoming mellower.
- Place 2 tablespoons of water in the base of a good non-stick stir fry pan over a medium heat. Once the water starts to bubble, add the onion slices, red pepper and chard stems. Stir fry for 5 minutes, keeping the veg moving so they don't stick to the pan - add more water if needed but not too much.
- Pop the chickpeas and peas into the pan and cook for another 2 minutes, longer if the peas are still frozen.
- Lower the heat and carefully pour in the sauce. If it's rather thick, add more water so the sauce covers the veg. Add the garam masala and chopped chard leaves to the pan now. Simmer for a couple of minutes and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve garnished with fresh coriander and a drizzle of soya yoghurt with steamed rice or chapati and raita on the side if desired.