Legendary Dishes | Jalfrezi Chicken (spicy chicken)


Imagine a kitchen during the time of the Raj in India. Leftover meat is cooked with vegetables and spiced with hot chillies to disquise the taste of the meat.

Imagine a time before the Raj, when leftover meat is spiced with all the flavours of the region – chillies, cloves, coriander, cumin, ginger, peppercorns and turmeric among myriad others.

Imagine now evolving tastes, generations brought up with the scent of fabulous flavours – chillies, garlic, ginger, mango, onions, peppers, tomatoes and the countless spices that are known to all but a few.

Out of this comes a dish that represents cultural change and epitomises the culinary marriage between Asia and Europe – the jalfrezi! This is a spicy hot dish characterised by a visual display of colourful ingredients – green chillies, green and red peppers, red and white onions and tomatoes fried with strips of meat, the breast meat of chicken being the most popular, especially in England, Scotland and Wales.

The popularity of chicken jalfrezi is not a surprise to those who follow the trends of Asian (and African and American) food in Europe. Discerning diners seek out Asian cafes and restaurants hoping to find authentic tastes, no longer content to accept mass-produced insipid dishes that have exotic names but lack depth of flavour.

The origins of jalfrezi are no longer relevant, largely because they are lost in the folklore of the people who originally took leftover meat and adorned it with the hot flavours in the Indian sub-continent and beyond. This is one of the many dishes that now belong to the world.

  • 1.5 kg chicken, legs, thighs and wings separated, breasts cut into strips
  • 350 g red peppers, chopped
  • 250 g shallots / onions, sliced
  • 250 g tomatoes, skinned, chopped / tinned plum tomatoes
  • 75 g ghee / oil
  • 60 ml water
  • 45 g ginger root, chopped
  • 8 green chillies, chopped
  • 15 g chickpea flour
  • 15 g coriander seeds, dry-roasted, ground
  • 15 g cumin seeds, dry-roasted, ground
  • 15 ml tomato paste thinned with 30 ml water
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 5 g black peppercorns
  • 5 g cloves, dry-roasted, ground
  • Turmeric powder, very large pinch
  • Cinnamon powder, large pinch
  • Mango powder, very large pinch
  • Seasonings
  • Oil for oven chicken pieces

Preheat oven to 200°C.

Blend the chillies, garlic and ginger with the tomato liquid to make a paste. Whisk the chickpea flour and water.

Place the legs, thighs and wings in a baking dish, splash with a little oil, season and put in the oven.

Heat oil over a high heat in a large frying pan, add peppecorns, remove pan from heat. Reduce heat and sauté onions in the pan for five minutes. Add the paste, cook for 10 minutes.

Add the chicken breast strips, sauté until they turn white, then add the ground spices. Add the peppers and tomatoes, cook until the peppers wilt.

Whisk the chickpea and water mixture, add to the frying pan, cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Serve all of the chicken and some of the sauce with rice.

Pour remaining sauce on top of the chicken in the oven, reduce heat to 180°C, bake for 45 minutes.

This way you get to eat chicken jalfrezi twice, off and on the bone!

This is adapted from Europe’s Favourite Global Food.