Over the last few months, my hubby has slowly taken agin the curry pastes that are widely available for home made curries. He's begun to find them very one-dimensional but more importantly to him, they don't taste of curry. Now this curry flavour is a very definite thing that we have yet to quite pin down, but this Jalfrezi got the closest to it in any curry for a long time. We're still not quite there, but as I liked this recipe a lot for its flavour and use of fresh vegetables, I thought I'd pass it on to you all.
This recipe doesn't result in a heavy, thickly sauced curry but one that is a lot lighter in texture and without the pools of oil that characterise so many curries these days. Oh and I'm really not sure how much of a Jalfrezi it really is, but I'm hoping that it is close at least. As it uses curry powder, my first word of warning is to make sure you are using a good curry powder. One which has a number of different flavours to it is by far and away the best. I have yet to find - and yes, I will admit that perhaps there is one somewhere - a supermarket own brand curry powder that would even remotely fit the bill. My favourite curry powders come from our local ethnic shop, where I'm hoping that the curry powders on offer are close to the "real thing", but are certainly a long way from bland.
Secondly, make sure to use tomatoes that have flavour. Vine ripened are the best of the supermarket choices, but it is worthwhile throwing in a few cherry tomatoes just to boost the profile a bit.
Lastly, make sure to leave yourself enough time. Once the tomatoes get cooking, you need time for them to cook down, then time for the juice to reduce and intensify the flavour. If you take the pot off the heat and think it's finished too soon, you'll just have a vaguely spicy tomato stew and not a curry. So, give yourself and your curry time to chuckle, burp and spit tiny blobs of curry into random spots in your kitchen, you'll be glad you did even if the clean up is tricky. (Of course, I could have got out the splatter guard which would have made sure no blobs escaped, but I was comfy and would have had to have moved. What can I tell you? ~shrug~).
From first putting the coconut oil into the wok, to calling everyone to attention in order to get them sat down and ready for the meal, my curry took around 50 minutes (with a good 30 minutes of chopping beforehand). So it's not an earth-shattering amount of time, but if you only have half an hour, you're going to be in tomato stew land. So leave sufficient time.
I really liked this curry. Hubby wasn't so enthused, but I've already told you about the quest for curryness that we're on there. When cooking it, I was concerned that it didn't have enough curry character, but as our son came home from college and immediately knew it was curry for dinner, I'm assuming it was just that my nose had got used to the aromas. It tasted good right from the off and really came together in the last 10 minutes, once the liquid had reduced and the proper curry sauce texture arrived. It was amazing the difference that reduction made to the overall flavour.
So, enough blathering and on with the recipe!
CHICKEN JALFREZI (serves 4)
2 red peppers, one roughly chopped into chunks, the other sliced
1 large onion, half roughly chopped into chunks, the other half sliced
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tbsp coconut oil
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced
a pinch of sea salt
4 heaped teaspoonfuls curry powder
1 heaped teaspoonful garam masala
a quarter of a teaspoonful of ground black pepper
2 very large sweet tomatoes, chopped
6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp chicken stock powder (or 1 stock cube)
150ml hot water
1-2 tsp runny honey (optional)
10g butter (optional)
15g fresh coriander, chopped (reserve a little for garnish)
cooked white rice to serve.
Begin by placing the chunks of red pepper, the chunks of onion and the garlic into a food processor and blitz until a purée is achieved. Set this aside.
Next, heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan or wok until really quite hot and gently add the sliced chicken breasts and sprinkle with the sea salt. Spread the pieces across the pan and leave them to achieve a little colour, then turn and do the same again. The slices do not need to be cooked through at this stage.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken to a bowl and reserve.
Add the sliced red pepper and sliced onion to the wok and cook, covered, for 5-6 minutes stirring half way through, until they have gained a little colour and begun to soften.
Add the puree to the wok, along with the curry powder, garam masala and black pepper. Stir well to combine and fry, stirring occasionally, until the juices are released and the mix has dried out considerably. This should take around 10 minutes if your wok heat is high enough.
Add the chopped tomatoes and stir through, along with the chicken stock and the water. Once combined, add the chicken pieces and stir through. Now this is where the patience is required. You need to have the pan hot enough that the tomatoes will cook and release their juices, then the juices (and the chicken stock) will reduce and the full flavour be created. You will start with a quite considerable quantity in the pan, but once everything has cooked down and reduced, the sauce will thicken and the liquid will evaporate.
Marginally before the sauce reaches its final few minutes, taste for the salt level and add a little more if necessary, but remember that there will be a little salt in the butter that if you're using, should be added now. Taste also for acidity and add the honey to your preference to correct that. If you consider there's no sweetening required, then don't use the honey.
Once everything is combined and happy to be there, the sauce is thick and there are no pools of water on the surface of the curry, then you're ready to serve.
Serve with plain white Basmati rice and sprinkle with the reserved chopped fresh coriander as garnish.