Butter Chicken is one of the most famous Indian dishes, it is featured in most cookery books, served in most Indian restaurants and probably everyone knows how it tastes. I have decided however to post this recipe because it was by far the best Butter Chicken I have ever had both at home and in restaurants. I owe this successful result to Julie Sahni and her Classic Indian Cookery. I have recently bought it after a long quest for a good, serious introduction to the Indian cuisine with non-Westernised, basic recipes. This excellent, educative book lives up to all my expectations, the Butter Chicken recipe alone was worth the buy and I am looking forward to learning what seems like the real Indian cuisine.
As you probably know Butter Chicken is not a five-minute dish. I would call it “two in one” because the first step consists in preparing Tandoori Chicken marinade. Even though it takes minimum 5 hours (including the marinating time), the preparation is very easy and requires only planning the meal ahead (personally I prefer to marinate the meat overnight). According to Julie Sahni Butter Chicken can be refrigerated for up to two days and then reheated, so you can have two different meals in a couple of days. As usually, I have slightly modified the recipe and also reduced the ingredients amounts to serve for three to four people. My biggest change was to use bite-sized chicken breast pieces instead of the bigger pieces simply because I had only skinless breasts that night.
TIPS: The recipe calls for natural meat tenderiser. I didn’t have it and substituted it by the leftover pineapple juice I had used in Pork Tocino. This tip, learnt from Ray (Wok with Ray), proved even more impressive with chicken. The meat was incredibly tender. Thank you once more, Ray!
The sugar addition is not necessary, but I have the habit to add a bit of sugar to every dish with tomato sauce to enhance the tomato sweetness.
Preparation: 5 hours – 2 days (overnight or 4 hours marinating + 1 hour the following day)
Ingredients (serves 3 – 4 ):
500 g chicken breasts (skinless, cut into bite-sized pieces) or one small chicken, skinned and and cut into pieces (neck and wings should be discarded and used elsewhere)
1/2 teaspoon natural meat tenderiser or 6-7 tablespoons pineapple juice
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon roasted and ground cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon chili powder (I have used Korean chili)
1 teaspoon paprika or 1/2 teaspoon tandoori colouring (I used another teaspoon of very bright Korean chili)
30 g natural yogurt
350 ml canned tomatoes (I used tomato purée)
2 fresh chili peppers (I have used Thai bird’s-eye)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika (I have used Korean chili)
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon sugar
100 ml liquid cream (I have used 25% fat)
50 g butter
2-3 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves (chopped)
(1 teaspoon ground roasted cumin seeds)
Rub the chicken pieces with lemon juice, salt and pineapple juice.
(If you are using bigger chicken pieces, prick them with a fork and make diagonal cuts with a knife so that the marinade enters the flesh).
Leave them to marinade for 30 minutes.
In the meantime prepare the tandoori marinade putting all the ingredients in a food processor and mixing them thoroughly.
Combine the tandoori marinade with the chicken meat and leave to marinate either for 4 hours at room temperature or in the fridge overnight.
(Julie Sahni says the meat shouldn’t marinate for more than 2 days when using the meat tenderiser. Otherwise it will become too soft. I have no idea how it will react to the pineapple juice after two days, but it’s safer to keep it for 48 hours maximum.)
/If you want to prepare Tandoori Chicken, take it out of the fridge one hour before grilling or roasting in the oven. Baste it with some ghee or oil and roast it or grill it (the time depends on the size of the pieces; it will take maximum 30 minutes in the oven preheated to 260°C and maximum 40 minutes on a grill; if you use small, bite-sized pieces it will take no more than 10-15 minutes)./
If you prepare Butter Chicken, cut up the bigger marinated pieces in half.
Put the tomatoes, the chili and the ginger in a food processor and mix until smooth.
Put a tablespoon butter and two tablespoons oil in a pan and fry the chicken pieces over medium heat until they are browned (you might have to do it in several batches).
Put the fried chicken aside.
Add one more tablespoon butter to the pan and fry cumin and paprika for about 10 seconds, stirring.
Pour the tomato sauce over the spices, add the sugar and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes.
Reduce the heat and add the cream and the chicken pieces.
Cook them for about 10 minutes, stirring and checking if the sauce doesn’t burn.
Add the remaining butter, garam masala and roasted cumin seeds (not obligatory).
Stir well and leave the dish covered for 30 minutes before serving.
Sprinkle generously with coriander.