The aroma of spices in oil, the tang of chili powder and the smiling face of my friend, Uma; that is what Butter Chicken reminds me of. Ever since I came to Dubai, I have fallen in love with Indian food, all thanks to my friend and neighbour, Uma. I cannot have enough of tandoori chicken, kulchas and kheer. But in my mind, the king of Indian cuisine is Butter Chicken.
The butter chicken owes its origins to a restaurateur named Kundan Lal Gujral who ran the Moti Mahal restaurant in New Delhi in the 1950’s. From Delhi, this delicious dish, spread its delicious buttery fingers all across the globe, becoming the most well known Indian dish.
My recipe for butter chicken comes from my friend, Uma, who got it from her mother back in Mumbai. Be warned, there are quite a few ingredients and steps to this recipe; it is not one you can whip up in half an hour. Most of the ingredients are available at any grocery store or supermarket in Dubai. Once you have made your very own Butter chicken, you will never be able to settle for anything less perfect.
So here goes
Step 1- Grilling the Chicken
1 kg chicken boneless, cut into small squares
1tsp red chilli powder If you want the colour, but not the heat, use Kashmiri chilli powder
I tbsp lemon/lime juice
½ cup Greek yoghurt (or ¾ cup plain yoghurt hung till all water drains)
1½ tsp dried fenugreek seeds (kasuri methi)
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
1½ tsp oil
2 tbsp ginger garlic paste
Combine all the ingredients from the marinade and apply to the chicken. Refrigerate the chicken for a few hours or even overnight.
Thread the chicken on skewers and cook in a grill of oven at 200o C. You can also cook it on a stove using a grill pan or skillet. Cook for 10-15 minutes, basting with butter or the remaining marinade in between. Do not overcook, since it will get dry and fibrous.
Step 2- Making the Sauce
4 tbsp butter/ghee/oil
4-5 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick (2 inch)
½ tsp fenugreek (methi) seeds
2 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp garam masala
3 green chillies split and deseeded
3 cups tomato puree
1 tbsp red chilli powder
10 almonds/cashew nuts made into paste
½ tbsp sugar
1 tbsp dried fenugreek seeds (kasuri methi) crushed
½ cup heavy cream
1 bunch cilantro for garnish
Heat butter or ghee in a large, thick-bottomed pan. Add the whole spices (cardamom, cloves, cinnamon). Once they start to sizzle, add the fenugreek seeds and heat till they sputter. Add the ginger & garlic paste and split green chillies and sauté well. When the ginger garlic paste has reduced and browned slightly, add the tomato puree, red chilli powder and salt. Sauté on low heat till the oil separates. It will take 20-30 minutes.
Once the tomatoes are reduced, add about 2-2 ½ cups of water to make it into a sauce, add the almond/cashew nut paste. Simmer for about 15 minutes, and then add the sugar and fenugreek seeds. Next, add the grilled chicken pieces, mix well, and simmer again for 10 minutes. Add the cream, stir well, let it simmer for a minute and take it off the fire.
Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and serve with hot nan, or roti.