Jalfrezi is a popular dish in Britain – both in Indian restaurants and at home. They are quick stir-fries using precooked meat, often served with crunchy vegetables. But Jalfrezi is not a typical dish from India. So, where did it come from?
For the answer, we need to go back 150 years or so to the time of the British Raj in India. It was deemed a sign of respectability to be thrifty and economical in the kitchen. The British were renowned for their large roast dinners, which usually resulted in lots of leftovers. And the Jalfrezi curry was one way of using up the excess meats from the roast of the day before. It was possibly invented in Kolkata (known as Calcutta at the time), the capital of West Bengal. Indian cooks working for the British used onions and spices to jazz up the cold meats, which they quickly stir fried.
The name Jalfrezi probably comes from the Bengali word for spicy (jal) and frezi may refer to stir-frying. Today, rather than leftovers, precooked marinated meats are often used. Usually in bite-sized pieces added to stir fried onions, green chillies, peppers, tomatoes and spices. Popular meats include chicken and lamb, but paneer (Indian cheese), prawns or vegetable versions are also common.
Jalfrezi curries are quick to prepare and make a great midweek meal or as part of a multi dish banquet when you have more time.