I was recently persuaded to try a vegan alternative to meat, chicken and fish in a curry and the alternative was jackfruit, which I’m told is a good meat substitute.
I did a bit of investigating and learned that ripe jackfruit is stickily sweet and dessert-like; not suitable for savory dishes. However, canned young jackfruit in brine apparently does the trick.
Keen to see it au-naturel, I ventured into an Asian supermarket in Leeds but found myself reeling at the door due to the most horrific smell I’d ever been assaulted by. It was explained that the malodorous whiff came from a nearby display of a rather similar looking ‘fruit’, the durian. How anyone gets past that awful pong to prep it for eating is beyond me and I staggered away with the smell lingering in my nostrils for several minutes.
Somewhat thwarted, I later checked on Amazon and found that they sell canned young jackfruit in brine and it’s totally odor-free. Success!
I can now confirm that jackfruit does indeed have a wonderful meaty texture and takes on the flavors of whatever it’s cooked with, which in this case is a combination of ginger*, garlic, onion, chili, cumin, garam-masala and tomatoes – and meat eaters won’t feel deprived.
This is one of those dishes that you need to hover over and attend to – but it doesn’t take that long to make. Vegans can substitute coconut milk for the cream.
*Keep fresh gingerroot in the freezer – no need to peel it as the peel is edible. Frozen ginger is very easy to grate and there’s little to no waste.
10 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3/4 ounce (20g) of fresh ginger, finely grated*
3 tablespoons of hi-temp vegetable oil
2 red onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of chili powder (adjust to taste)
3 medium sized tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 heaped teaspoons of tomato paste
1 teaspoon of garam masala
1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
10 oz (280g) of young jackfruit, drained weight
2 tablespoons of cream or coconut milk
4 oz (120g) of frozen peas, defrosted
1 teaspoon of runny honey
A handful of fresh cilantro (coriander) leaves, roughly chopped
Heat the oil in a deep sauté pan over a medium heat and cook the onion until its softened and translucent. Add the ginger, garlic and chili and a good pinch of sea salt and cook, stirring for about 5 minutes.
Add the chopped tomatoes, half of the tomato paste and the drained jackfruit; stir and cook for a couple more minutes, then add 6 fl oz (178ml) of water. Bring it to a simmer and cook for a few more minutes.
Add the garam-masala, cumin and the remaining tomato paste, cook for 3 more minutes stirring occasionally, then add half the cream (or coconut milk). You may need to add more water at this point so keep some hot water on the side in case you need it – you don’t want the curry to be too dry.
Continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes, allowing all the flavors to combine. You need the jackfruit to be tender so test it with a knife (Jackfruit also shreds like pork, so shred it a bit with two forks if you prefer that type of end result). If it’s not quite tender, keep it simmering, adding more water as needed.
Finally add the peas. Simmer for another 4 minutes then add the honey and remaining cream or coconut milk. Stir well – simmer for a couple more minutes then scatter with chopped cilantro (coriander) to serve.