Wednesday 20 January 2021

This is the only butter chicken recipe you'll need. Yes, I know that it is a strong claim to make, but seriously, I have been working on perfecting this recipe for over five years now, and I finally think I have nailed it. I used many references when working on this recipe. I started working with the Moti Mahal's tandoori chicken recipe as my base recipe to start with (from Monish Gujral's - the grandson of the founder of Moti Mahal, Kundan Lal Gujral - book 'On the Kebab Trail'). I played around with this recipe for a long time, perfecting a tandoori chicken spice mix that is now very close to my butter chicken spice mix.

The Moti Mahal is where butter chicken originated. Cooks tossed leftover tandoori chicken marinade with butter and tomato to make a thick creamy sauce, which envelopes tender pieces of chicken that literally melt in your mouth. I visited the Moti Mahal as much as I could (I was a poor student, remember, and eating out all the time, or for that matter even visiting Daryaganj, was not always in my budget). The other place I went to a lot was a little dhaba-style cafe in my university called KC (Kamal Complex). Quraishi, the owner, made the best Mughlai food. JNU students will remember KC fondly, though, they will argue over which dhaba made the best butter chicken and naan. For me, it was Quraishi's KC's butter chicken, and I naturally turned to that taste for inspiration when I was developing this recipe. 
Eagle eyes will have already noticed a butter chicken recipe on this website, and you're right, and that one is also a winner. But this one has a few elements different to it. One, I make a butter chicken spice mix, which once made, makes your life so much easier, and makes for the best butter chicken. Second, this recipe is actually a lot easier, as it utilises a few little shortcuts like using passata and cashew butter to add the authentic flavour without all the work. And finally, the older recipe was written while live blogging, so it can be a little confusing at times, but this one should be a lot more straightforward and easier to follow.

Essentially this recipe is two recipes in one. First you'll be making a tandoori chicken, with the marinated chicken. Then you mix the grilled chicken with the butter sauce, and voila! Butter chicken. The key is getting the spicing of the butter sauce just right. It has to be deeply savoury, but with a hint of sweetness, fragrant with fresh spices, just a titch tangy, rich, with a full flavour from the cream and butter.
Here's the thing, this recipe might look long and complicated to make, but in all honesty, once you make the spice mix, it literally takes less than 15 minutes to prep, and less than 45 minutes to make. It really is that simple. The best part is that it tastes even better the next day, gently warmed up with splashes of cream to loosen the thick sauce, so you can well make it in advance.
PS - Here's a little cheat tip which will make your life and this recipe even easier. If you don't feel like making the butter chicken spice mix from scratch, then use shop bought tandoori masala. Just keep an eye on the salt levels, as shop bought masalas tend to be already salted. I recommend Everest Tandoori Masala, if you can find it. Just remember, it won't taste the same as this one (okay, promise, I'll stop guilting you).

Butter Chicken Spice Mix 
8 mild long red Kashmiri chillies
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoon whole cumin seed
1 teaspoon whole black pepper
1 teaspoon whole cloves
½ tablespoon whole cardamom pods (use half pod of black cardamom instead, if you wish for a smokier flavour)
1 teaspoon whole fenugreek seeds
3, 2 inch sticks of cinnamon or cassia bark
1 teaspoon dried ground ginger
1 teaspoon dried ground garlic
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
3 - 4 tablespoons plain paprika (for colour)

Toss together the first eight ingredients, one by one, in a hot, heavy pan, for between 30 seconds - 1 minute, until each of the spices smell fragrant. Remove to a bowl and let cool completely.

Transfer to a powerful blender or a spice grinder, and add the remaining ground spices.

Blend to a smooth powder. Transfer to an airtight spice jar, and store in a cool dark place.


Butter Chicken 


Chicken and Marinade:

12 skinless, boneless, chicken thighs, cut into 2/3 pieces (about 1.5 kgs)
3 tablespoons butter chicken spice mix
1 teaspoon, or to taste, salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons canola oil

(Mix the spice mix, salt, lemon juice and oil, and marinate the chicken pieces in this for at least half hour, or overnight)

2 tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 small onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
¼  teaspoon ground cloves
¼  teaspoon ground cardamom
¼  teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons of butter chicken spice mix
1½ cups of tomato passata (or crushed tomatoes, that have been blended to a paste)
½ cup chicken stock
½ cup hot water, as requuired
2 tablespoons cashew butter
½ cup whole milk
¾ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi)
¼ cup coffee cream (18% cream) or whipping/ heavy cream
Salt to taste
Small handful fresh cilantro, chopped, to garnish

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking tray or cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray with oil. Place the chicken pieces in one layer on the sheet and bake for 20 minutes, turning once. You can also grill the chicken on a barbecue for extra depth of flavour, if you wish. Grill for 15 - 20 minutes, turning once. 

To make the sauce, heat the oil and butter in a pot, and add the onion. Fry for 7 minutes on a medium high heat, then add the garlic and ginger paste. Fry for 1 minute, then add the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and spice mix.

Fry for 30 seconds, then add the tomato sauce. Season with a little salt, stir and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring, until the mixture is thick. Add the chicken stock, stir well, and turn the heat down to a low simmer. You might need to add the hot water as well, to loosen the sauce a bit.

Whisk the cashew butter with the milk - you might have to heat it up in the microwave a little to loosen the paste. Add to the sauce and stir.

Stir in the sugar. Taste and season with more salt and add the dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi).

Add the grilled chicken pieces to the sauce, scraping any charred bits or juices into the sauce too. Stir, and season to taste again, if required.

Simmer on a low heat, stirring every so often for about 10 minutes, until the chicken is fully cooked and tender, and the sauce is thick and creamy.

Add the cream and cilantro, stir and serve. 

1 comment :

  1. Hi Michelle,
    Made this butter chicken at the weekend.....
    A high number of spices, but OMG was it worth it!
    We had it 2 days running and it was fabulous both days.... if anything it was better the next day as the flavours matured.

    Keep up the good work, cannot wait for the next recipe!
    best wishes


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