I think I finally succeeded at an Indian dish!
Let me bask in this moment…
I love Indian food but cooking it has always eluded me. I’ve tried three or four different dishes following complete recipes I’ve found through Indian cookbooks and it’s just never worked. And I don’t think it’s from lack of spices since I’m a bit of a spice fanatic and I usually have any spices called for in the recipe on hand (barring asafoetida or something completely random like that).
But I’ve kept trucking and trying and tasting and I think I’ve finally had success.
I knew I wanted to do something with turkey this week and I figured I should gird up and give another Indian meal a shot. I settled on jalfrezi which is a sort of spicy pepper and tomato dish.
Can I vouch for the authenticity of this? No, considering I made it up and I’m not of Indian descent or learned it from someone with Indian food authority but I think I’m pretty close.
Jalfrezi is an Indian or Pakistani dish that literally means stir-fry. A stir-fry you say? Well I’ve got those down. It’s also usually a dry curry, but I prefer wet curries and I’ve adjusted to suit my tastes accordingly. If you wanted to stick with the dry version skip the stock step in the recipe.
Also, a lot of Indian recipes call for red chile powder. I think (from researching) that Indian chile powder is usually just a straight variety of chili pepper, dried then ground. That’s why if you go to an Indian grocery they have levels of heat such as spicy or extra hot. It’s usually just a different pepper variety with a different heat level. Contrast this with American chili powder which is usually a mix of spices (paprika, oregano, cumin, garlic, etc.). The specific mix varies.
For this recipe I used New Mexico Chili Powder which has a scoville unit of 2,000 so it’s pretty mild. I didn’t want to use a spicier kind simply because I was already putting jalapenos in the dish and I didn’t want to make it too hot. Some possible substitutes would be smoked Spanish paprika or just regular paprika (with maybe a bit of cayenne for a kick).
- 1 Tbsp oil
- 1 lb turkey, cut into small to medium chunks
- 1 large onions, halved and finely sliced into half moons
- 1 - 2 jalapenos, diced – deseed or not based on your heat preference
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon red chile powder (see note above the recipe)
- 1 tsp cumin
- ¾ teaspoon coriander powder
- ½ tsp ground mustard
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- Salt, to taste
- 1 lb tomatoes, chopped or a 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes with juice
- ½ cup stock or water
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- ½ tsp sugar
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin slices
- 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
- Note – if you wanted a bit richer of a flavor, you could easily start with whole spices instead of ground (whole cumin, coriander, and brown mustard seed) and toast in a skillet over medium low heat until fragrant and then grind. But if you only have ground then by all means use them rather than buying new. I did end up toasting my cumin and mustard since I had it on hand, but everything else I used was already ground up.
- Combine turkey with chili powder through turmeric. Toss and allow to marinate while you prep everything else
- Toast cumin seeds and mustard seeds in skillet over low heat 1 minute or until fragrant. Remove from pan and grind.
- Heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and jalapenos and fry until soft (about 10 minutes). Add more oil if necessary.
- Add ginger and garlic paste and fry for a few seconds until well blended.
- Increase heat to medium high. Add in turkey and cook until lightly browned – stirring frequently. Make sure not to cook it all the way through, you don’t want it to dry out, you’re just trying to develop some nice browning on the outside.
- Add tomatoes with any juice, stock/water, tomato paste and sugar, cover and cook over medium heat about 20 minutes, stirring halfway and making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan.
- Add the sliced pepper (at this point if you want more of a ‘gravy’ then feel free to add a bit more stock or water). Simmer uncovered for ten minutes or until sauce has thickened.
- Check the seasoning (salt, etc.) and adjust as necessary. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve.
And there you go! I loved the heat level of the dish with not deseeding either of the two jalapenos I used. I think I may have burned my poor husband out though – he definitely had to add a good bit of sour cream to his (you could also add yogurt or raita to cool it down).
For people who aren’t as big of a heat fanatic, I’d definitely recommend deseeding the peppers, using only one jalapeno, or if you’re seriously wimpy, skipping the jalapenos altogether and only using the bell pepper.
Serve over basmati rice (if you have some peas to throw in with your rice even better) and if you really want to indulge some naan or roti to round the meal out.