I know we’re past Easter but did this on Easter Monday holiday.
Disclaimer: this is not an authentic Indian recipe. It’s ‘Anglo-Indian’ cooking that my parents’ generation tried and slowly perfected after emigrating to an England devoid of Asian spices and foods back then. Anglo-Indian (mixed European-Indian) immigrants to the UK not only had to learn to cook dishes like this for the first time in some cases but also how to cook at all. In India many had Indian servants who cooked, cleaned, washed and ironed for them as did my parents. I even had an ‘Aya’ or child nurse who looked after me while mum and dad were working when I was a baby. Enough with the history. To the food.
Lamb Jalfrezi became an occasional Easter Monday tradition in our home to use up the left overs from the Easter Sunday leg of Lamb roast without putting it into sandwiches. If you Google ‘jalfrezi’ it will describe a dish remotely related to this one but with the integrity and principles of Indian cooking intact.
So to the dish.
It’s made of 3 parts: a rice bed, a Dhal or curried lentil side and fried dry lamb meat with crispy bits on top.
Getting the rice on
For special meals, we still cook rice the traditional Indian way. Takes longer but is heaps more satisfying. We always use Basmati, the prince of all rices. Fill an average tea mug almost to the brim with rice grains and that should provide enough for 4 people. If you like very generous portions, add a quarter mug more but make sure you eat it within two days as it goes off real quick.
Pour the rice into a DEEP cooking pot – seriously it must be deep. You need to wash the rice. Fill the container half way with cold water and with your hands swirl the grains around. The water will start to cloud as you lift off the starch. Drain and repeat two or three times until the water is clear when you swirl the rice. Drain one last time and then fill the container so it’s two thirds water to rice. Bring to the boil and simmer. Watch over it! If you leave rice unattended during this process it may quickly turn to stodge. Test the rice by lifting a few grains out every so often. They need to be al dente: not hard in any way but almost chewy. If soft and squidgy…you’ve ruined it. Turn the heat off immediately and drain the boiling water. Rinse the boiled rice ever so quickly by pouring in cold water to stop further cooking and then drain. Find a wide shallow dish and spread the rice out in it. Leave it open and uncovered at room temperature to dry offby natural evaporation. Don’t be tempted to cover it. You should then have beautiful white, fluffy rice ready for re-heating when the meal is done.
Like the rice, the red lentils that will become Dahl need a good wash first. Again a mug and a half of lentils in a container, swirl and rinse 2 – 3 times in cold water and leave soaking in clean luke warm water until needed. Pour about 2-3 table spoons of vegetable oil into a cooking pot and heat. Add half a sliced onion and cook until transluscent but don’t let it brown. Add 1 large crushed garlic clove, a quartered medium size tomato and a quarter teaspoon of Haldi (Turmeric). Don’t put too much Haldi in or it will overpower all else. Watch over this as if you burn the Haldi it will turn bitter and you will have to start again. The key is to SMELL the dish. When the Haldi first goes in it has a raw pungent smell. As it cooks the smell mellows as the onions start to brown. At this point add the lentils and water to two thirds full plus some ginger. Just take a root, slice it thickly, put 2-3 slices in, skin on and just pull them out later. Add 2 beef OXO cubes (vegetable will do but as this is acompanying lamb…). Bring to the boil and then lower to just below stirring occasionally. Froth will appear on the surface which you can skim if it bugs you but you have already washed the lentils so there is no need. The red lentils will turn yellowy greeny when cooked and will start to absorb the water. It should then take on a loose porridge consistency and be quite rough and rugged. Now the dahl is done – in 10-15 minutes. Take it off the heat and leave it be.
If any of your roast potatoes made it through to left overs (never a possibilty in our house as dad made THE most awesome roasties I’ve ever tasted) they would play an awesome part at this point. If you have any then cut them into bite sized cubes. Even if you only have 1 or 2 left over do it any way. Find another 2 med-large sized raw potatoes and cut them into bite sized cubes. Fry them. However you want to do it – deep or shallow -but get them golden brown. Don’t add the left over roasties with them. Once the raw ones are done, lift them out of the oil and dry on kitchen paper then fry the roasties. You will taste the difference between the raw and the roasted and I know for sure which people will go for the most.
The crispy bits are falvoursome garnish and you need to cook them before you tackle the lamb. They will add flavour to the finished meal but will also flavour the fried lamb that will be cooked last. Take a wok and cover the base with oil. You need to be generous because this same oil will also fry the lamb. Heat the oil and when sizzling add some thinly sliced strips of ginger and two chopped garlic cloves. Fry until golden brown then lift out and rest on kitchen paper. Leave the oil on the heat. Once the garlic and ginger are done, slice half an onion and fry in the same oil until darkly golden brown. Lift out and dry on kitchen paper. Leave uncovered to cool and harden but leave the oil in the wok and still on the heat.
So to the lamb. Cut the left over slices of lamb into cubes or bit sized pieces. Turn into the sizzling ginger, garlic and onion infused oil. At this stage those who like their food spicy hot can add sliced green chillies. I don’t as I can’t do hot spicy food – ironic seeing I was born in India. Jalfrezi is traditionally a green chilli dish. Add what you want at this stage but on your head be it. The rule in our family in judging chilli heat from the outside was that the smaller and more compact the chilli is the sharper its bite. A good rule in life for all people who dare to mess with smaller (shorter in mys case) spicy things. Thinly slice the chillies and add, seeds and all.
This is a fairly quick fry but not a flash fry. Let the meat absorb the flavours in the oil and keep watch over it. Lift out pieces that look like they might burn and drain on kitchen paper. Drain all the meat on kitchen paper.
Jalfrezi is essentially a dry dish that some will add stuff to to make a sauce. There’s no real need for that as the Dahl is there to provide the liquidity. Anglo-Indian friends of ours who shared this meal would also add Tamarind Water (go Google) to add to this meal. It’s a spicy hot-sweet-sour liquid served at the table in a pouring cup that diners add sporadically to the dish. I don’t do the Tamarind Water but my recommendation as an accompaniment is a teaspoon of Lime Pickle on the side of your plate – my favourite pickle with most Indian meals.