Jal Frezi – an Indian Stir Fry

Veggie Jal Frezi

During the Raj, the British did many things to India, some good, some not so good. On the food front though, they definitely popularized the Indian cuisine throughout the rest of the world. What they did with the recipes though is an entirely different matter. While, us purists still cringe every time we hear “curry”, the fact is, thanks to the Brits, just about everybody has a fairly good idea of what North Indian food is about and, I read this recently, Chicken Tikka Masala has become the most popular dish in Britain. That is pretty amazing if you think about it.

So, during the 200 or so years of colonizing India, the colonizers developed a taste for the local cuisine and came up with inventions such as “Mulligatawny Soup” (Mulliga – meaning Pepper, Tanni – meaning water, in Tamil. Literally, Pepper Water.), probably derived from the South Indian Rasam. The famous Worcestershire Sauce, which is believed to have come from a jaggery/tamarind chutney and Jal Frezi.

Lord Marcus Sandys, who was posted in Bengal is often credited with inventing the Worcestershire Sauce and Jal Frezi. The latter was invented as a way to reheat and consume leftovers. It is likely that the name comes from “Jhal”, Bengali for spicy hot and “Parhezi”, Urdu for being careful about what you eat. Anyway, the best description I have found for this dish is that it is “Kind of like a Chinese Stir Fry with Indian spices”. That just about sums it up nicely.

Anyway, having dinner guests recently, we decided to cook this dish for them. I had a vague notion of what it is about but then Internet came to the rescue and I looked at Jamie Oliver’s version (click here) and Vah-re-vah version (click here) for inspiration. In the end, I came up with my own take on it which was probably more closely aligned with Vah-re-vah.

What we had for dinner recently

NOTE: As I had mentioned in the previous post, I am trying to source and use local, seasonal ingredients. It has been really difficult to find them though. A visit to the Dallas Farmer’s Market was disappointing. I could only find produce from California, Florida, Chile and Mexico, severely marked up. A visit to Sprouts and Whole Foods did not help either. The produce again, was sourced from all over. So for this recipe I ended up with produce from Sprouts (better prices) but my quest continues and hopefully sooner or later I will find my local suppliers.

INGREDIENTS (for 8 adults)

1 whole cauliflower – florets cut into bite sized pieces

A couple of fists of green beans – ends chopped off and cut into 3/4 inch pieces

1 carrot – peeled and diced into bite sized pieces

1 Tbsp cooking oil

1/2 large onion – chopped

1 inch piece of ginger – peeled and chopped

1-2 green chilies NOTE: Depending on your tolerance for heat, adjust the amount chilies you put in.

2  medium tomatoes – chopped into small pieces

8 oz of Paneer cut into 1/2 inch cubes NOTE: I used home-made cumin-flavored Paneer. Recipe here.

1 green bell pepper – deseeded and cut into bite-sized pieces

1 red pepper – deseeded and cut into bite-sized pieces

1/2 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp red chili powder

Salt to taste

1 tsp lemon juice

STEPS

1.Steam the caulifower, green beans and carrots for 7-8 minutes. Dunk them in ice water to stop them from cooking.

2. Make a paste of ginger and green chilies.

3. Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan and fry the onion till they are starting to brown. Then add the ginger/chili paste.

4. Now add tomatoes and cook till they are pulpy.

5. Add the steamed veggies and cook them till they are heated through.

6. Add the paneer and bell peppers.

7. Add the spices and lemon juice.

8. Cook on high heat for 2-3 minutes.

9. Serve hot with a bread of your choice.

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