Serious Eats: Recipes

Cook the Book: Vegetable Jalfrezi

Since we are focusing on healthy and economical cooking this month it shouldn't have come as a surprise when my groceries for the week rang in around $75 less than usual. This might have something to do with my inability to watch my spending when it comes to food. I try to keep my grocery bill down, but I am a shameless impulse buyer, and for all of the rolls of sale toilet paper I buy there is an expensive bottle of olive oil, fancy cheese, or jar of intriguing spices to counter any money I might have saved.

While planning a week's worth of dinners from Jamie's Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver, my list didn't look that different from the usual week's haul—plenty of vegetables, a few different cuts of meat, one or two herbs and spices that I didn't have in my pantry, and a few sundry items that I needed for the house. I shopped and made my way to the checkout line, finding that I actually spent an amount that didn't cause a brief moment of panic as I handed over my credit card. Maybe Jamie's Food Revolution really is revolutionary.

I headed home, groceries in hand, to make a meal that included two of Oliver's curries, Vegetable Jalfrezi and Chicken Tikka Masala. The Indian curry recipes can be made either with a homemade curry paste or a store-bought version. I decided to make one of each, to see how jarred curry paste stood up to the real deal.

Oliver's curry pastes are very simple to put together, and in hindsight I probably should have just made them both since the flavor of the jarred version was pretty pathetic compared to the one that I buzzed up in the food processor.

In place of the usual mushy peas and potatoes, this version includes butternut squash, bell peppers, and cauliflower, and since it isn't cooked to death, the vegetables retain their individual flavors and textures. I suspect that the richness of flavor also had to do with the not exactly traditional but very nice addition of balsamic vinegar. In all, this vegetable curry could have been a very satisfying meal on its own.

I'm not going to say that the chicken tikka masala was bad, just that it paled in comparison to the vegetable jalfrezi, and the part the pained me most was that I could have knocked another $10 off my grocery bill for the chicken and curry paste had I known in advance. I suppose the moral of the story is that it's always better to make it from scratch, especially if it doesn't take too long and it saves a couple of bucks.

Win Jamie's Food Revolution

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Jamie's Food Revolution to give away this week.

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