Sunday, April 01, 2007

J is for Jalfrezi Vegetables

The myriad cuisines of India all love their vegetables! Veggies are diced and sliced, grated and mashed, stir-fried and curried into hundreds of vegetable dishes. In this series, the A to Z of Indian Vegetables, we take an alphabetical journey through the various avatars of vegetables relished in Indian cuisine. For each letter, we will make a tasty vegetable dish that illustrates one manner in which vegetables are savored in India.

The "J" of Indian Vegetables

I have been feeling utterly miserable all week! A respiratory double-whammy of a cold plus seasonal allergies has left me a sniveling, slobbering mess, rubbing my poor itchy eyes until I am exhausted. Needless to say, blogging took a back seat all week, but here I am with the Sunday round-up.

Before we get started, two things I wanted to share:
1. The thieves are at it again! A picture from my blog has been stolen by Foodmall and placed on this post. I don't even like that particular picture; but it is mine, and I fume when I see it stolen. Stop the plagiarism, Esther Bardhan in particular and Foodmall in general! A *huge* thank-you to Manisha for bringing it to my attention and writing a comment on the post.

2. On a *much* happier note, I got an e-mail from Swapna S. of Swad, saying that she has designed a button for the A to Z of Indian Vegetables! YAY! You can see it at the top of the post. Please feel free to use the button for entries for this event, if you like! Thanks, Swapna, that was a very sweet thing to do and you brightened my day during a stressful week :)

The letter J inspired thirteen delicious Indian flavors!

Let's start with something hot and spicy: the Jalapeno Pepper, of course! A popular Mexican pepper in the US, it reminds Indians of the mirchis from home. Happily, jalapeno peppers are often mild enough to be used as a vegetable, and we have three spicy recipes using them.

First up, Sreelu of Sreelu's Tasty Travels makes the "perfect fusion food" by dipping canned jalapenos into a spicy batter and frying up some absolutely appetizing Jalapeno Bajjis.

Next, Asha of Aroma/Foodie's Hope gets inspired by her grandmother's green chilli chutney and blends jalapenos, garlic and tamarind into a thick and delicious Jalapeno Chutney.

The third jalapeno recipe is a saucy one! Suma of Veggie Platter makes her very own version of the classic Hyderabadi mirchi ka salan by cooking jalapeno peppers in a rich sauce of peanuts, sesame seeds and coconuts, resulting in a delicious Jalapeno Peppers Curry.

We now come to two more tasty vegetables:

This vegetable is a dark purple beauty: the Japanese Eggplant. Strips of baked eggplant are wrapped around a spicy herb-potato filling and topped with tangy goat cheese, resulting in these awesome Japanese Eggplant Rolls by Sushma of Sunkiran's Recipe Source. What a unique flavor profile!

The next vegetable is a tropical fruit with a distinct and quite indescribable flavor: the Jackfruit. As with many other fruits and vegetables, every part of the jackfruit is enjoyed, even the jackfruit seeds. These large seeds are cooked into a delicious Jackfruit Seeds Dal by Mahek of Love For Cooking.

The next J food is not a vegetable, but a cereal: Jowar, known in English as sorghum. The pearly white grains of sorghum grow well even in regions that are quite dry, and this tasty grain is especially popular in rural India. We have two delicious pancakes made with the jowar flour.

Mahek of Love For Cooking makes a batter with jowar flour, spices and spinach and uses it to make quick pancakes or Jowariche Thalipeth that look golden and oh-so-inviting.

Prajakta of Swaypakghar introduces the traditional jowar bread- jowar bhakri in Marathi- and then makes her own easier version of this bread. She kneads jowar flour, spices and veggies into a smooth dough and rolls it out into some utterly delicious Jwariche Dhapate.

The next J word is another one that works magic for the busy cook: jhatpat, the lovely Hindi word that means quick or in a jiffy! Mandira of Ahaar combines tofu and vegetables in a Jhatpat Sabzi that is also swadisht (delicious) and paushtik (nutritious).

Coming to two regional recipes, using two of my favorite ingredients...

Javvarisi is the Tamil word for my beloved sabudana or sago, pearls of tapioca. In this entry, sago teams with a vegetable medley and is cooked into an unusual and delicious Javvarisi Upma by Sheela of Delectable Victuals.

Jahni is the Oriya (language of Orissa, an Eastern state of India) word for one of my favorite vegetables, the ridge groud. Ridge gourd and potato are cooked with a garlicky poppy seed paste into a flavorful Jahni Alu Posta by Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi.

J also stands for Jalfrezi, a method for stir-frying! This turned out to the most popular entry, and we have four variations of vegetable curries cooked in this style (including my own)...

First up, Swapna of Swad makes a classic version of Jalfrezi Paneer by combining cubes of paneer and vegetables in a festive curry.

Next, Richa of As Dear As Salt makes her own version of Jalfrezie using a colorful medley of vegetables, garnished with some paneer.

Then, Manasi of A Cook At Heart shares a version called Jalfry that she learnt in a Punjabi cooking class, no less!

Finally, better late than never, Linda of Out Of The Garden uses that special gift called *sheer creativity* yet again and makes an amazing Jackfruit Sambar using crispy store-bought Jackfruit chips!!

J is for Jalfrezi Vegetables: Restaurant Style

Read the menu from any Indian restaurant, from Delhi to Durban to Detroit, and chances are good that you will wonder if they are franchises of a chain. They will likely feature the same vegetable curries and the same rice preparations. Indian restaurant food tends to be a little one-dimensional, featuring so-called Punjabi cuisine (inspired by Punjabi dishes, but having lost all resemblance to Punjabi home cooking), but with a over-generous use of fats and spices, so that everything on your plate tends to look like an oil slick. The truth is, Indian cuisine *is* coming into its own on the global arena, and in many cities around the world, you will see South Indian restaurants, and some Gujarati thali places, and so on.

Having said that, I ate quite a bit of typical Indian restaurant food growing up, and from time to time, I utterly crave it! Those curries are featured on thousands of restaurant menus for a reason- they are tasty, and crowd-pleasing! These are the foods that people remember and long for, and if you manage to make a dish taste as good as a restaurant can, you will be a hero!

I have been trying to incorporate all my favorite restaurant-style dishes into my cooking repertoire gradually. I love it when I manage to "nail" the taste of a restaurant dish, and I know that I use much less oil and much more vegetables than the "real thing". One of those dishes that I have never seen as part of any home cuisine, but is sure to be featured in restaurant menus, is Vegetable Jalfrezi. The origins of this dish are murky, but it seems that jalfrezi is a method of cooking rather than the name of a particular dish. It translates as hot stir-fry and is probably derived from the Mughal style of cooking.

I like vegetable jalfrezi because unlike most other restaurant-style curries, it is rather dry, with the vegetables crunchy and tender rather than over-cooked and drowning in a sauce. I adapted my version from the very same recipe that Swapna has posted. I had no paneer on hand, so I used more vegetables instead. To my mind, restaurant-style jalfrezi always has vegetables that are prepped into long cuts, like matchsticks and juliennes. I also remember jalfrezi as being sweet and sour and spicy, and added some pineapple cubes for the extra sweetness. The addition of pineapple cubes to different curries is another Indian-restaurant trick! As a child, I adored the pineapple and would root around to find all the cubes in the serving dish. On to the recipe...

Jalfrezi Vegetables

(serves about 4, adapted from a Sanjeev Kapoor recipe)
1. Cut the vegetables: 2 cups cauliflower florets, 1 green pepper (capsicum) into long fat slices, 1 medium onion, halved then cut into long fat slices, handful of green beans, cut into thirds, 1 carrot, cut into thin sticks. Cut ginger into julienne, about 1 tbsp.
2. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a skillet. Saute 1 tsp cumin seeds and ginger until fragrant.
3. Add onions and saute until lightly browned around the edges. Add 1 tsp turmeric powder, 1 tsp red chili powder and stir for a few seconds.
4. Add the vegetables, and 1/4 cup pineapple cubes (frozen or canned, optional).
5. Add 2 tbsp white vinegar, salt to taste, 1/4 cup tomato puree and 1 tsp garam masala. Stir-fry on medium-high heat until the vegetables are tender. Garnish with some cilantro and ginger strips and serve hot!

Variations on a theme
Add some crispy fried cubes of tofu or paneer for a more festive and protein-rich version.

How do you serve this dish?
This dish can be served as part of a North Indian buffet or a home-made restaurant style meal with other North-Indian dishes. Serve with with steamed Basmati rice, or with flat-breads like naan or paratha.

Fellow bloggers have come up with many delicious home-cooked versions of vegetable dishes that are restaurant favorites. Here are some of my favorite finds:
Mattar Paneer from My Dhaba,
Mushroom Masala from Recipe Junction,
Bhindi Masala from Saffron Trail,
Methi Matar Malai from Keep Trying,
Palak Paneer from My Treasure...My Pleasure,
Aloo Chole from Mahanandi.

Previously on the A to Z of Indian Vegetables...
A is for Aloo Gobi: North-Indian Stir-Fry
B is for Bharli Mirchi: Stuffed Vegetables
C is for Carrot-Cashew Payasam: Desserts
D is for Dum ki Arbi: Dum Style of Cooking
E is for Egg-Fried Rice: Rice and Vegetables
F is for Foogath: South-Indian Stir-Fry
G is for Gobi Paratha: Vegetables in Breads
H is for Hariyali Tikki: Vegetables in Appetizers
I is for Idli with Vegetables: Vegetables for Breakfast

We have family visiting us next week, so I don't think I will be able to post much during that time. I shall see you next Sunday for the K of Indian Vegetables. Looking forward to all sorts of delicious K entries (finally, a pretty easy letter!) and please feel free to use the lovely button that Swapna designed!


  1. Lovely photo of the vegetable dish. I'm sorry to hear that your photos are being plagarized. There's a thread right now on Food Blog S'cool about Nika who had an entire post copied, with step-by-step photos and all the writing.

  2. I learn something new every time I visit your blog. It's been a great help to me to be able to distinguish North and South Indian dishes, and I love seeing all of the variations from many bloggers as you work your way through the alphabet. Looking forward to K!

  3. Goodness - Your Jalfrezi looks *amazing*!! i must try it!
    Feel Better!!

  4. I thought of making "Jain Pav Bhaji" at the last minute, but something came up & just didnt find the time .
    Yummy line up of J dishes.

  5. Hi.... how r u feeling now? Do take care of urself!
    Gr8 roundup... even when u r not well, u did it!!
    ~hugs~ get well soon!

  6. Hey Nupur, sorry to hear that you are not well, hope you are feeling better now...Take care!
    Lovely round up, and love your Jalfrezi picture...

  7. Kalyn, the same website that copied Nika's work has copied my picture! They are ridiculous! Thanks for stopping by :)

    Lydia, and I learn something new every time I visit yours :)! K will be lots of fun, there are so many ingredients to play with.

    LO, thanks, girl :) I miss you!

    Ranjani, Jain pav bhaji is a great idea! I also wanted to make "jeera aloo" but just never got around to it. Time just flies, right? Would love to see your recipe for Jain pav bhaji some time in the future!

    Manasi, thanks for asking! I'm feeling better...colds take 8 days or so to go away, so I'm biding my time :)

    Sig, glad you like the photo! Thanks for stopping by...

  8. Hi Nupur,sorry couldn't visit earlier.Allergy attack!!:D

    Sorry about the stolen recipe.Some ppl don't have any morals!

    Love the Botton! and so many recipes.They all look great!Thanks Nupur:))

  9. Nupur, hope you're feeling better. Another great round up. Love the jalfrezi pic too. :)

  10. Hi Nuper , another wonderful installment on Letter 'J' - the jalfreizi vegetable looks absolutely stunning ! i add a paste of cashewnuts and whipped cream to the sauce to give it a good texture . Yes! 'J' is for the spice' jeera' WHICH IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF ALL iNDIAN COOKING - it aids in digestion ! thus we have jeera rice , jeera rasam ( with pepper - this is a good antidote for colds)... and what about 'jams' my mom used to make very good tomato jams , as a spread on sandwichwes !

    nuper , your dedication is amazing - hope you feel better - love and hugs

    can you ple tell us how to operate the button ? i habve a wonderful 'k' receipe ...

  11. Hi Nupur,
    Jalfrezi looks great.Thank you for a great round up. Take Care.

  12. Hi Nupur,

    Great blog and I'm really hungry after reading this post. Sorry to hear your stuff's being plagiarised :-(

    Hope all else goes well.

    Much love,

  13. Nupur,
    I am glad you liked the button.Thanks for all ur kind words:)
    People are so creative..We have so many diff dishes for a single letter:)..My better half was telling me to make "Jeera Aloo" too..But, I thot Jalfrezi is a better idea..Hey, I love jeera aloo that we make for fasts:)
    I am going to skip paneer and make veg jalfrezi next time..Hey, using pineapple was a cool idea!
    You get well soon!

  14. Hi Nupur,

    Inre: your photo -- if only everyone would exercise a little common courtesy -- a dream, I know!

    Your jalfrezi veggies look stunning, and the roundup of Js will keep me busy all week. Hope you enjoy your busy week with family :)

  15. Nupur,
    Hope you are feeling better by now.
    J for Jalfrezi. Wow! Looks fabulous.
    As soon as I saw your post, I was like 'How could I forget that?'
    As you said, I eat that at restaurants and not home. So, did not figure out on my list of 'J' things. :-(

  16. hope you are feeling better now, Nupur... great round up; i have to try jalfrezi veggies soon; thanks for hosting this event week after week, it take a lot of work and you are doing an amazing job!

  17. No probs, Nupur! I remembered the picture because your sheera and solkadi post really struck a chord with me. :-) Besides, I think we have to look out for one another.

    I loved your response to Esther's understanding of 'public'. So many of these incidents are because of lack of awareness or understanding. However, a little less attitude from her would have gone a long way! I have commented with some more info on where to look for copyright info on Flickr.

    Your veg jalfrezi is very similar to my paneer jalfrezi, also based on Sanjeev Kapoor's recipe. I really like the flavor that vinegar adds to the jalfrezis.

    These round-ups are a huge treat! Thank you!

  18. hi...u have a wonderful blog....this is visit and leave ur comments...
    have a nice day...bubyee...sabita

  19. Thanks for adding my *very* late entry Nupur! Hope you're enjoying your visit :)

  20. Hey Nupur,
    Linda's link for Jackfruit Sambhar takes me to Manasi's A Cook at heart page...just letting you know...


  21. Hi
    A pointer... Jalfrezi cannot be called Mughal...its more a derivative of the British not sure calling it Indian is politically correct. A radical thought perhaps.:)

  22. Asha, allergy attack? Join the club :) Hope you are better now!

    Mandira, thanks!

    Anon, thanks for sharing.

    Durga, thanks for stopping by!

    Khal, so good to hear from you! Mail me sometime :)

    Swapna, thanks :) I'm a lot better now.

    Linda, common courtesy may be the scarcest resource on this planet :) :) but I'm glad the picture got taken removed.

    Suma, I know...we sometimes save some dishes exclusively for restaurant outings!

    Sheela, thanks so much. It is so much fun to host this event, I am awe-struck at the creative entries week after week!

    Manisha, I don't know how to thank you for backing me up! Really appreciate it! I saw your paneer jalfrezi after I posted this :) mmmm...

    Sabita, just wanted to gently mention that it is not considered good form to leave comments simply to ask people to visit your blog.

    Linda, sorry I messed up the link! :( did not mean to do that!

    Trupti, thanks so much for pointing that out! It was a stupid mistake on my part...have corrected it.

    Pradeep, call it what you will! It is a tasty dish, rich in veggies, and that is pretty much all that matters to me.

  23. I have been a fan of your blog for a while now.

    I am just amazed as to how you manage churning out fabulous recipes.


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