I can’t remember the first time I’ve ever had Butter Chicken nor the person who introduced me to this dish, but I can tell you it was love at first sight. The name Butter Chicken doesn’t sound like much, but the tender pieces of chicken doused in tangy and creamy tomato gravy, it’s just heavenly with rice! Fortunately for Melbournians, there isn’t a shortage of good Indian restaurants/take outs so we used to give in to our cravings every so often.
Butter chicken (or Murgh Makhani) is part of Indian cuisine and its origins can be traced back to New Delhi. I remember watching one of Gordon Ramsay’s great escapes and he was served this dish at the original restaurant: Moti Mahal. Apparently this dish was put together by a chef for a VIP who wanted to eat a chicken dish after dinner time. There was only some Tandoori Chicken left, so the chef threw together some butter, tomato, spices to improvise. Sounds like my hero!
I have tried to replicate this dish using good old Patak’s ready made paste, but it’s not the same as the restaurants. The recipe from scratch sounds pretty complicated with long list of ingredients, so I have never tried it until now. Thanks to Asian Food Fest’s Indian Subcontinent month, I finally gathered enough motivation to do it at home. The only problem though, is that I couldn’t find a key ingredient: dried fenugreek leaves which gives the dish a characteristic aroma and flavour. Though my version was pretty tasty in its own right and I wouldn’t mind making it again next time I have a craving.
Recipe adapted from SecretIndianRecipes.com
500g Boneless Chicken pieces (thigh or breast meat, according to your preference)
1/2 Cup Yogurt
2 teaspoons Chili Powder
1 teaspoon Turmeric
1 teaspoon Ground coriander
1 teaspoon Ground cumin
1 tablespoon Salt
2 tablespoons Finely chopped Garlic
2 tablespoon Finely Chopped Ginger
1 teaspoon Garam Masala Powder
4 Medium sized tomatoes roughly chopped (I used Canned tomatoes)
2 Medium sized onions finely chopped
6 Cashew nuts soaked in water
1 tablespoon Butter
3 Tbsp Kasturi Methi (Dried Fenugreek leaves) (had to omit because I couldn’t find any)
1/4 cup heavy cream
Freshly Chopped coriander for garnishing
Marinate Chicken with yoghurt, half the garlic and ginger, chili powder, turmeri, ground cumin, ground coriander and salt. Set aside in the fridge to marinate for few hours, best if overnight.
Preheat the oven at a high temperature (about 200 degrees), spread out the marinated chicken in a tray and place it in the oven for about 20 minutes.
While the chicken is cooking, start preparing the sauce/ gravy. In a deep cooking pot, heat butter along with some coconut oil (to prevent the butter from burning). When its smoking hot, add chopped Garlic, ginger, Onions and about a tsp of Salt. Cover and cook till the Onions soften. Once the onions are softened, add to a blender, along with tomatoes and cashew nuts and blend until smooth. Pour back into the pan and cook for 15-20 minutes.
By the time, chicken should be cooked well. Remove from oven and add to the sauce, along the cooking juices, and garam masala. Season to taste. Once everything is combined and sauce is at desired consistency, turn off the heat and stir in the cream. Garnish with chopped coriander and serve warm.
This Butter Chicken is sufficiently rich without being cloying, and it has a lovely balance of tang from the tomatoes, sweetness from the onion and lovely depth of flavours from the spices. This recipe is definitely a keeper. I couldn’t resist serving it with some white rice, but cauliflower rice also goes fabulously with this!