A British Raj Jalfrezi

Jalfrezi Curries Only Take Minutes To Cook!

The Curry Guy is a guest of the Urban Rajah

Almost anyone who frequents Indian restaurants these days will surely be familiar with jalfrezi curries. Chicken jalfrezi is actually one of the most asked for curries at curry houses throughout the UK. But do you know the history behind this popular dish?

Most of the curries we see in Indian restaurants originated - in name at least - in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh. The latter two countries were part of a much larger India until 1947.

Jalfrezi curries are no different.

Like other well known curries, the curry house jalfrezi is quite a lot different than what it was when it was first cooked back in the days of the British Raj. You see, the British that lived and worked in India at the time were homesick for good old British style cooking. They loved their roast dinners and boiled vegetables. The well to do amongst them were also known to have thrown huge parties where they ate and drank loads and almost always had a lot of food left over. Wasting this food was not an option.


You may be interested to know that 'Jal' means pungently spicy and 'frezi' means ‘stir fry’

The British may have liked large roasts but they refused to throw away good food and asked their servants to cook and serve the left-overs during the week. This was especially so in Calcutta where it is believed the first jalfrezi curries were made. Servants to the British elite were made up primarily of a Buddhist tribe from what is now Bangladesh called the Mogs.

The Mogs were made to cook these festive roasts such as giant turkeys, beef roasts and venison over large fires in terribly hot and uncomfortable conditions. On left-over days they were able to put a little bit of themselves into the dishes. They added lots of spice and stir fried the cold cuts of left-over meat in curry pans over much smaller fires and very quickly.

What resulted were recipes like this spicy - stir fried turkey jalfrezi which just so happens to be a great way to use up whatever is left from your Christmas turkey. Enjoy.

Serves 6

700g cooked turkey cut into bite sized pieces (Feel free to use other types of meat or pre-cooked potato)
5 Tablespoons ghee
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 Tablespoons garlic and ginger paste
1 Tablespoon ground cumin - preferably home roasted and ground
1 Tablespoon coriander powder - preferably home roasted and ground
1 Tablespoon red chilli powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 onion thinly sliced
1/2 green bell pepper roughly chopped
1/2 red bell pepper roughly chopped
2 fresh green chillies slit lengthwise
5 tomatoes roughly chopped

Melt the ghee in a hot wok or large frying pan. Add the turmeric and allow to sizzle for about 30 seconds. The ghee will begin to darken a little. Now add the ginger and garlic paste, cumin powder, coriander powder, chilli powder and cinnamon powder. Stir the spices around in the ghee to combine. Add the onion slices, bell pepper, green chillies and tomato and fry for about a minute before adding the meat. 

Heat the meat through and serve with rice.

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Rajah every day you add to my scant knowledge.

By Victor Peters on February 14, 2012

Spice time!

By Jan Ekman on February 16, 2013

Awesome, very much enjoyed. Thank you for posting the recipe.

By Paul W on March 16, 2013

Should this be 2 Tablespoons of ginger past and 2 Tablespoons of garlic paste or 2 Tablespoons combined with ginger and garlic? 
Looking forward to making this recipe, thanks for sharing!

By Jare on March 18, 2013

UR icon

Hi Jare, thanks for dropping by - this should be a mix of ingredients i.e. 2 tbs of mixed garlic and ginger paste. If in doubt drop in 1 tbs of ginger paste and 1 tbs garlic paste et voila! Let me know how you get on.

By Urban Rajah on March 18, 2013

Thanks, very helpful, and this recipe was very delicious! smile

By Jared on March 22, 2013

I found your site looking for a Jalfrezi recipe. Love the site and love the Jalfrezi.

By Shirls on June 09, 2013

Tried this out last week and it was delicious. I did not have any leftover turkey (as I am not Bridget Jones’s mother) so used firm tofu instead. Worked well.

By Sarah on September 27, 2014

Urban Chef - loved your book. And continue to love the mix of recipes and the ‘insight’.  You need to be on TV!  Keep it all up. All the best for 2015.

By Sean on January 05, 2015

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