Our friend Karan used to make the most delicious Butter Chicken. We haven’t eaten it since he moved away, so, missing it, I decided to try my hand at it. I was really happy with how this turned out, especially the flavorful and delicate gravy.
The one thing I would do differently is to try to grind up the cashews a little finer, to a paste. I’ve been planning to get a mortar and pestle and that would probably do the trick. The other thing is, in this and in most of my curries I usually go pretty light on the cayenne and/or chillis so that Zoeya can enjoy it too and I just let Shan spice it up later. If you aren’t cooking for kids (or wimps), you can go a little heavier on the spice.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the crazy ingredient list, most of them are spices.
Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken)
1 lb boneless chicken thighs
juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp cayenne (more to taste)
2 tbsp yogurt
3 black peppercorns
1 inch stick cinnamon
2 green cardamoms, cracked
1 and 1/2 sliced white onions
3-4 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
1 inch ginger, grated or finely chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp tumeric
2-3 cups water
1 lb roma tomatoes diced
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves
small handful cashews
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp cream or half and half
Cilantro to garnish
Cut the chicken thighs into 1 inch chunks, and marinate for about an hour in the lime juice, salt, pepper, cayenne and yogurt.
Heat a little olive oil on high, brown the chicken and remove to a plate. Add a little oil if necessary, scraping up anything left by the chicken, lower heat to medium, and add whole spices (cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon, cardamoms). Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally, before adding your onions. Sprinkle onions with salt and stir occasionally until they are turning golden. Add ginger and garlic and cook for a minute, add powdered spices (coriander, cumin, turmeric) and cook for a minute.
Add water and deglaze, then add tomatoes, bay leaves and fenugreek leaves. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, then uncover and cook to reduce liquid by about a third.
In a food processor or mortar and pestle, grind cashews to a paste. Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaves from the sauce and transfer to food processor (be careful, it’s hot!) Puree and return to pot along with chicken. Stir butter and cream into the sauce. Serve with basmati rice, garnished with cilantro.
Notes where I stray from the authentic: where most Indian food is cooked in vegetable oil I usually prefer light olive oil; it doesn’t alter the flavor and it’s a little healthier. Also, most Indian recipes will have you cook your onions and then your meat, but sometimes I cook the meat first, remove to a plate, then add it back later to finish in the sauce, especially if I’m planning on pureeing the sauce. Also, I salt my onions to sweat them where most Indian recipes do not. Do as you will!