Saturday, July 21, 2012

This one comes easy to me- Butter Chicken!

Butter Chicken is probably one of the most famous dish of India preceeded only by the Tikka. If you are visiting an Indian restaurant for the first time and are new to Indian food, you may order Butter Chicken with a fair amount of confidence and be assured that your introduction to Indian food wont be a disaster. The flavours are easy on the palette, the colour and texture silky, and the meat itself satisfying. Especialy, if eaten with Naan. There are probably many versions out there, but the lead in cooking a mean butter chicken is taken by the Punjabis. No doubt about that! However, whenever I have eaten it outside or even in homes of friends, the flavours are mostly similar. The reason for this being the use of dried Fenugreek leaves- the ingredient one cannot/must not omit. With that in mind, the rest is easy. If I can make it, so can you and easily enough.

Here's how.

How to:

1 kg of Chicken, or 12 largish pieces
2 tbsp of fresh, plain, thick Yoghurt
2 tbsp of fresh Ginger-Garlic paste
2 tbsp of fresh Lime juice
2 tbsp of any store bought brand of 'Tandoori Masala' - must not omit
Salt to taste.

Wash and drain chicken. Then you go ahead and marinate it in the ingredients given above. Leave for at least 4-5 hours or a minimum of 1 hour. If you have time, keep marinated overnight.

Just before you are going to make the sauce/gravy for this- grill the chicken pieces in your oven in a baking tray lined with foil. About eight minutes on each side or untill till juices run clear, the chicken pieces aquire a proper browned, grilled look and is done. If you don't have a grill, fry the marinated chicken pieces in a wide shallow pan in about an inch of any vegetable oil. Untill done. If you have marinated the chicken for long, it will cook very fast, just ensure you dont burn them though! Keep aside covered.

For the Sauce/Gravy:

4 medium to large Onions- thinly sliced or made in to a paste in your blender.
2 packs of thick Tomato Puree or  about 1.5 cups full- I always but this for my butter chicken because of it's tanginess and thickness and colour.
1 tsp black Cumin seeds, Shajeera.
1 tbsp heaped dried, Fenugreek leaves,crushed in your palms.
1' stick of cinammon
5-6 green Cardamoms -coarsely ground
1 tsp heaped Kashmiri Lal mirch - mainly for it's colour red.
1 tsp regular Red Chilli powder. Take more if you like it hot. Say about another teaspoon.
1 tsp of freshly ground Black Pepper (optional, if you would rather avoid the heat)
1 tbsp of Corriander powder
1/2 tsp of Turmeric powder
A pinch of Nutmeg
4-5 blades of Mace.
1 tbsp Sugar (will explain why this will be needed)
Salt to taste- remember you would ahve already used salt in the marinade before too.
50-100 gmas of any salted Butter, regular kinds will do.

2 tbsp of fresh Cream, a handful of fresh Corrainder leaves, a few Green Chillis slit, about a tbsp of fresh Ginger juliienes- all for garnishing.

In a wide bottomed pan heat the butter on a medium flame. When just about getting heated, tip in the dry spices- cumin, cinammon, cardamoms, nutmeg and mace. Do not put the chilli/pepper,corriander or turmeric powders for now. In a few seconds the spices will splutter and turn a fragrant brown. Now add the onion slices/paste. The onions will release a lot of water if using in a paste form. This will also take a longish time to brown. So keep stirring/sauteing on a medium flame. Do this untill all the moisture has evaporated, the paste has become dryish and browned. Like I said, it might take a good 15 minutes to get this done. You can also use sliced onions instead, but in butter chicken, the gravy needs to be smooth,thick- so I recommend using the paste form.

Once the onion paste has been cooked through, oil has surfaced on top, next in goes the tomato puree. A note here- You could use fresh, home made paste too but again- I use the ready made puree for the colour and tanginess.The final curry is not tangy and is infact just slightly on the sweeter side. So do yourself a favour, get those store bought puree packs/cans. Contiune cooking the tomato puree along with the onion mix on medium flame. Cook and stir untill oil floats to the top.

Notice how the gravy starts acquiring a dark, reddish hue.

 While you are cooking this, do a taste test- you will notice that the mixture will taste raw and almost bitter for quite some time. This is because of the puree being used. This is when you first add salt. Taste again. If tangy, put in sugar now. Mix and taste. Use your instinct here. The curry wont be sweet per se but should not taste tangy, raw or well, weird! Also add in the  Corriander powder, turmeric powder, the Kashmiri chilli powder, the regular red chilli powder you are using and the black pepper powder. Mix well. Do a taste test again. If it tastes like the curry has come together well, finally slide in the chicken pieces. Mix. Sprinkle a few corriander leaves, some fresh ginger jullienes, green slit chillis, pour some fresh cream over - cover and cook on low flame for about 15 minutes. This is where we are giving it a simple 'Dum'- for the flavours to combine. Since the chicken was already pre-cooked, we dont have to wait for them to get done. The last 15 minutes are simply to let everything sit together and infuse.

Just before serving, if you want, you can repeat the garnish suggested. Serve warm with Naan bread or a simple pulao.
PS- This one is for you 'Donna'!


  1. From Donna....The best butter chicken I have yet to see. Worth the wait and just cannot wait to try it and feed my BC starved kids. Thank you so much! Hugs

  2. Donna! Hiya there. I hope my recipe doesnt disappoint you or your kids. Thanks for visiting, do come back soon!

  3. This is happening soon in my kitchen!! :D Nandinee

  4. This is happening in my kitchen soon :D Nandinee

  5. This looks really inviting. Perfect Sunday lunch!