Beef Jalfrezi (Chilli Fry)

By Published On: 18 Sep '23Last Updated: 14 Apr '24

Delicious and rustic Beef Jalfrezi is a dry dish full of flavours including garam masala, ginger and garlic. Delightfully finished with scraggly caramelised onions. A must have recipe!

★★★★★

"Lovely flavours in this simple recipe. Topped it off with sautéed capsicums to make it colourful".

"Relished it ????!"


- Astria

Looking for an uncomplicated beef dish that is light on spices but rich in flavour, then you are in the right place. Unlike many Mangalorean curries, this Beef Jalfrezi (chilli fry) is an anglicised version and is easy to make with simple pantry ingredients. It is rustic, it is delicious and it is a recipe to keep! Tested to perfection!

what is jalfrezi?

A Jalfrezi is a stir-fried dish cooked with onions, ginger, garlic and dried red chillies in a thick semi-dry rich pepper sauce.

A quick search on the net, revealed that Jalfrezi has an Anglo-Indian history and originated in Britain. It was invented as a way of using leftover meat by stir-frying it with lots of onions and some dried chillies.

Jalfrezi can be prepared in many ways with different ingredients and choice of protein. In some versions, capsicum, tomatoes and green chillies are also added for colour, flavour and a spicy kick. The more modern recipes also include tomato ketchup, chilli sauce and soy sauce for an Indo-Chinese twist!

This Beef Jalfrezi is a braised version, meaning the beef is simmered in its own fat with a little liquid in a covered dish.

Here, I am slow cooking beef on stove top with ground pepper, garam masala, ginger and garlic in a little liquid until tender. There should be enough liquid for the beef to simmer throughout the simmering process. When the beef is nearly cooked, there should be just enough sauce to smother pieces. We are aiming for a dry dish and no runny curry.

In the last few minutes of cooking, onions are caramelised separately and added to the beef, which lends a great amount of flavour and texture to this dish. Golden brown potatoes bulk up the dish, while a little tang from vinegar and a little sweetness from sugar finishes the dish beautifully.

So, as you can see, this Beef Jalfrezi is an adapted version and is neither stir-fried nor stewed or curried.

The finished Beef Jalfrezi has the looks of a stir-fried dish that is frizzled with long strands of caramelised onions.

It’s not a hugely popular dish and does not appear in many menus here in Australia. As Jalfrezi has an Anglo-Indian history, it is more popular in the UK.

THE jalfrezi STORY

Food is about stories!

Don’t skip this!!

And yes there is a story behind this Beef Jalfrezi recipe too! It emphasises the importance of having an open mind about food and being receptive to new recipes, tastes and experiences.

I love my Mangalorean pantry and most usually cook using some or all of the traditional ingredients of a Mangalorean pantry, but this is the recipe that has inspired my willingness to learn new recipes that are outside my arena and to grow in my culinary journey using the not-so traditional curry ingredients.

This is a fine example of a recipe that has taught me to believe that if I want to learn a new recipe, I must first let go of my pre-conceptions that I cannot cook without my traditional Mangalorean ingredients.

There is also a lesson that comes along with this recipe. The lesson is, I should not place undue limitations on the ingredients used because that limitation can get ingrained in my thinking over time. Through this recipe, I have realised it is time for me to recognize those limitations and to challenge myself to reach my full potential.

I am deeply grateful to the two important people who shared their recipes and who collectively but unknowingly inspired this thinking in me:

Daphne: Daphne learnt to make a version of Lamb Jhalfrezi from Aunty Phyllis, an Anglo-Indian friend in Calcutta, in the mid-1960s. Aunty Phyllis explained to Daphne that the recipe was devised to turn leftover leg of lamb roast into a delicious budget-friendly dish the next day.

Aunty Phyllis demonstrated the dish, using fresh leg of lamb, cut into pieces, cooked in its own juice alone, with a little chopped ginger and salt, over low heat.

Then in a separate pan, she heated some oil, to which she added dried red chillies, broken into pieces. When the chillies released their aroma, she added sliced onions, stirring them till they were a golden brown. Next she added the cooked lamb pieces and juices, stirring until the dish was fairly dry.

Daphne recommends having Jalfrezi with Rice and a simple Dhal. When I recently tasted Daphne’s version, I found it delicious. The lamb was tasty, moist and flavourful.

Dina: Dina learnt a different version of Beef Jalfrezi from her mother-in-law, which is equally delicious.

It goes to say there is more than one way to cook jalfrezi. I surfed the net, and it was a revelation that Jalfrezi is mostly prepared with chicken as the choice of protein.

A foodie like me is always willing to try out new recipes and when I was informed by Daphne that Dina had a handwritten recipe from her mother-in-law, I was filled with delight.

This version of ‘Jalfrezi’ had more ingredients and followed a different cooking technique. In this recipe, beef is first cooked in a little water with spices, ginger and garlic. Golden fried onions are added towards the end of cooking, making this dish flavoursome. Vinegar and sugar add a slight tang and sweetness to the final dish, while the fried potatoes add colour to this dull looking dish!

My trials with lamb and beef yielded different but good results. When I put these two different dishes to the taste test with my tasting committee, I had a tick of approval for the ‘Beef Jalfrezi’, although both meats tasted lovely.

Thank you, Dina for so kindly sharing your family's hand-written Beef Jalfrezi recipe with me.

This post would not have been possible without the support of 3Ds - Daphne, Dina and Dorothy. Thank you!

THE BEEF JALFREZI INGREDIENTS

A Jalfrezi is a stir-fried dish cooked with the simplest of Indian pantry spices, ginger and garlic. Onions are fried separately and added at the end to bring up the deliciousness of the meat. Potatoes give volume and brightness, while the vinegar really heightens the naturally rich flavour of beef.

Allow me to walk you through what you need to make this Beef Jalfrezi:

  • Beef blade steak, chuck steak or gravy beef - Blade steak works well but I have noticed it is hard to find this cut these days in the supermarket shelves. Chuck steak or gravy beef is more easily available. Use a cut that is easily available. Trim and cube the meat. There is no need to marinate the beef as we are cooking on low heat for 45-50 minutes, and the meat tends to soak up the flavours of the spices during the slow cooking. Find at: Most Woolworths or Coles Supermarkets. Some Asian butchers also stock chuck steak or gravy beef but in my opinion the chuck steak or gravy beef sold at the supermarkets is of better quality. Alternate: Goat meat (mutton) or lamb. Freshly bought goat meat usually cooks within the time specified, however, you may have to cook for a further few minutes, if the meat is not tender. You may also have to increase or decrease the amount of water used during cooking. If the meat is drying out, add water in ½ cup increments, until the meat is cooked to your liking. Lamb generally cooks within the time specified and as lamb has a good amount of fat, the water specified in the recipe should be sufficient. The best cut - If I cook with goat meat or lamb, I use the leg of goat cut into chunks with bone or leg of lamb cut into chunks for this recipe.
  • Pepper powder - A vital ingredient for that peppery spiciness. Substitute: same quantity of coarsely milled black pepper or white pepper powder. Coarsely milled pepper gives a little peppery bite and works well if you are fan of that peppery bite. Black pepper powder lends a darker finished dish compared to white pepper powder. There is no need to make a special trip to the grocery store if you have any of these pepper types in your pantry! Use what you have!
  • Garam masala powder - A sweet aromatic South Asian spice blend that is added at the beginning of cooking in this recipe and is one of the important ingredients of a thick saucy base, that brings out a warm exotic flavour to the final dish. Do not skip garam masala powder, as you will end up in a bland final dish without infusing this aromatic spice into the base gravy. The flavour can be strong and best used in moderation or as called for in the recipe. Find at: All large supermarkets such as Woolworths and Coles in their Spice shelf. Also available in your local Indian grocery store.
  • Ginger and garlic - Fresh ginger and garlic play an important role in Beef Jalfrezi, accentuating flavour and neutralising the gamey odours. Peel and slice a knobby root into batons or chop ginger finely (best for maximum flavour extraction). Chop garlic finely as called for in the recipe.
  • Potatoes - Golden fried cubed potatoes bulk up this dish and make the dish aesthetically pleasing. They blend in perfectly with the mild flavours of this Beef Jalfrezi and are quite popular with the kids. Use potatoes that hold shape after frying. Add the potatoes in Step 2 and stir gently to coat with the pan juices, so they can absorb the flavours.
  • Kashmiri chillies - For flavour and colour. Slit each into two pieces and if you are not a fan of the seeds, discard all or some seeds, depending on your spice level. Fry them in hot oil until dark (takes only a few seconds) - they plump up and turn dark and you know it's time to remove them. Do not burn them. If you do, discard them and start all over. Increase or decrease as per taste. Find at: Your local Indian grocery store. Some Asian grocers also stock Kashmiri chillies but your best bet would be any Indian grocery stores.
  • Onions - Golden fried onions are a star ingredient and add sweet savoury flavours to this Jalfrezi. Onions can be diced (quicker) or sliced finely (it's a torture but well worth the effort), both works well. I like mine finely sliced, as biting on the squiggly scraggly bits of caramelised sliced onions that come with every piece of meat, makes every mouthful utterly delicious.
  • Vinegar - For a tad bit of acidity and brings out the flavours of beef in the absence of any traditional spices. White vinegar or white wine vinegar works well.
  • Sugar - Adds a bit more sweetness to the final dish. Omit if you are happy with the sweetness of the onions.

Step-by-step instructions

The full instructions to make this Beef Jalfrezi (Chilli Fry) are in the recipe card below, but here are some helpful tips to go along with the process photos.

Tip: Beef blade steak, chuck steak or gravy beef works well for this Jalfrezi recipe, as the slow cooking on stove top really brings out the naturally rich flavour of the meat. If beef blade steak is not available, you will be able to buy chuck steak or gravy beef at your local Coles or Woolworths supermarkets in refrigerated vacuum-sealed packs.

Here's what we are trying to achieve at each step:

cook beef with spices

1

Place beef in a medium size non-stick saucepan with a lid on medium heat. Add pepper powder, garam masala, ginger, garlic and salt. Stir to combine. Cover lid and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 45-50 minutes, stirring from time to time. After 20 minutes of cooking, add 1 cup of water. Stir, close lid and continue cooking, adding water in ½ cup increments until beef is tender.

pan fry the potatoes

2

In the last 20 minutes of cooking beef, heat oil in a medium to large shallow frying pan on medium heat. Fry potatoes for 6-8 minutes or until golden. Add potatoes to the pan with meat. Stir gently.

fry the kashmiri chillies

3

In the remaining oil, fry the chillies until dark in colour. This takes only a few seconds as the oil is hot. Do not burn chillies. If the chillies are burnt, they impart a bitter flavour to the dish, so discard the burnt chillies and start all over again with the chillies. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the meat directly.

fry the onions

4

In the remaining oil, fry the onions (diced or sliced) for 6-8 minutes or until golden brown. Add the oil and the onions to the meat.

ADD VINEGAR AND SUGAR

5

Add vinegar and sugar. Stir to combine and season, if required. If the beef is off heat, return to medium heat and simmer for 2 minutes for the flavours to absorb. If the beef is starting to dry up, add a splash of water and allow it to meld in with the juices in the pan. Remove from heat.

beef jalfrezi is ready

6

Serve immediately with any Indian wheat breads such as roti, naan or paratha. I would typically serve on a bed of hot steamed Basmati or Jasmine rice along with a Mangalorean style cooked vegetable such as, spinach (shown in the image below right image) and Coconut Dhal.

serving suggestions

  • Serve immediately with any Indian wheat breads such as roti, naan or paratha.
  • Get creative and serve as a side dish in Indian style with Coconut Dhal and hot steamed rice.
  • I like it served over a bed of steamed Basmati or Jasmine rice for a complete and delicious meal, with Mangalorean style spinach thel piyav or Ridge Gourd foogath.
  • It pairs well with vegetable fried rice.

If you have tried this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback. Please be sure to rate the recipe and/or leave a comment below. If you want to see more recipe inspirations, you can follow me on Instagram @lavina_mendonsa.

Beef Jalfrezi (Chilli Fry)

Catherine Lavina Mendonsa
A no blend Anglo-Indian main meal or side dish that is uncomplicated, rustic on the presentation, mildly spicy but utterly delicious.  A favourite introduction recipe for those kids who are shy of hot curries, as this Beef Jalfrezi has the perfect mix of spices for the best possible flavour for a home cooked curry dish. The level of spice can be tweaked depending upon your love of heat!  The beef cubes soak up the spices during slow cooking, while the scraggly bits of caramelised onions add a sweet savoury flavour on the tastebuds. It’s yummy, it’s easy! This is a recipe to keep!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour