Cook the Book: Vegetable Jalfrezi

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.

  • Yield:8


  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 fresh red chile
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of fresh root ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • A small bunch of fresh cilantro
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 cauliflower
  • 3 ripe tomatoes
  • One 15-ounce can of garbanzo beans
  • Peanut or vegetable oil
  • A pat of butter
  • Two 14-ounce cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 cup natural yogurt
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of fresh root ginger
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 fresh red chile
  • 1 small bunch of fresh cilantro
  • Spices for toasting:
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds


  1. 1.

    Peel, halve, and roughly chop your onion. Finely slice the chile. Peel and finely slice the ginger and garlic. Pick the cilantro leaves and finely chop the stalks. Halve, seed, and roughly chop the bell peppers. Break the green leaves off the cauliflower and discard. Break the cauliflower into florets and roughly chop the stalk. Quarter the tomatoes. Carefully halve the butternut squash, then scoop out the seeds with a spoon and discard. Slice the squash into inch-size wedges, leaving the peel on but removing any thick skin, then roughly chop into smaller pieces. Drain the garbanzo beans.

  2. 2.

    Put a large casserole-type pan on medium-high heat and add a couple of lugs of oil and the butter. Add the onions, chile, ginger, garlic, and cilantro stalks and cook for 10 minutes, until softened and golden. Add the peppers, butternut squash, drained garbanzo beans, and jalfrezi curry paste. Stir well to coat everything with the paste. Add the cauliflower, the fresh and canned tomatoes, and the vinegar. Fill 1 empty can with water, pour into the pan, and stir again. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 45 minutes with the lid on. Check the curry after 30 minutes and , if it looks too liquid, leave the lid off for the rest of the cooking time. When the veggies are tender, taste and add salt and pepper - please season carefully - and a squeeze of lemon juice.

  3. 3.

    Delicious with pappadams or fluffy rice and with a few spoonfuls of natural yogurt, a sprinkle of cilantro leaves, and a few lemon wedges for squeezing over.

  4. 4.

    Jalfrezi Paste