Entering Unknown Territory: Butter Chicken

Do you remember my list of Foodie Dares? from (ahem) 2007? I did do a follow-up post on my progress, and the note is also still on the fridge - the actual crossing off items on the list is the hard part.

Allow me to refresh, briefly, that one of the things I wanted to do, was to try making Indian food. Specifically, I wanted to make samosas and Dal Makhani, and on the list I have on my fridge, I also wrote Butter Chicken (also known as murgh mahkani, I later learned. Mahkani means butter. Obviously, I'm all about butter)

I scoured the internet for recipes, bookmarked half a dozen, thumbed through a couple of cookbooks. With the host of Indian food bloggers out there, I suppose it would have been easy as pie to find a recipe there, but for some reason, the one that intrigued me the most was from a Danish chef, a big, red-haired dude that's as Danish as they get, that I found in a Danish cookbook. Don't ask, the point is, you have to start somewhere and I finally got started!

It wasn't hard to make, the one thing that needed a little attention is the fact that you have to start the night before you want to eat it, as the meat has to marinate in a yoghurt-spice marinade for 24 hours, making it lovely and tender. I'm still working on the exact spiceblend I like. I do make both the tandoori and garam masala mixes myself - 'cause I'm a geek and I like it ;) - but they're not exactly as I want them. Maybe I want it a little sweeter. I also added almonds and raisins to the original recipe, as well as a dash of cream, as these weren't in there, but that's how we get it from our local Indian take-out place, and that's the version I'm measuring against. I'm still playing around with it, but it sure is a keeper.

Butter Chicken - adapted from Simremad og ting der tager tid by Claus Christensen etc.

500 g. chicken - I use breast filets
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
500 ml. drained yoghurt
100 g. butter
2 cans of tomatoes
about 2 large tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon garam masala (I use this recipe)
1 tablespoon tandoori masala (from this recipe)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
100 ml. cream
about a cup of raisins
about 2/3 cup chopped almonds

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Mix about 300 ml. of the yoghurt with a teaspoon each of the tandoori masala and garam masala. Add one of the garlic cloves, finely chopped. Add the chicken pieces and leave to marinate in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

Heat the butter in a deep pan. Once it's melted and has gone slightly frothy, add the rest of the spices and let it become fragrant before you add the chopped up onion and the rest of the garlic. Add almonds.

Now, see, this is were I may try something different next time. The original recipe now calls for you to pick the chicken out of the marinate and roast it in the pan with the onion and garlic. But I think I'd rather use my grill pan, making sure I get a little char on that chicken, and finish the sauce by itself, then add the chicken and let it simmer for a little while.

For the sauce, then, you add the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, rest of the yoghurt and the raisins. You may want to adjust the seasoning a little here - I tend to add a tiny teaspoonful of sugar, and maybe more almonds and raisins. Leave to simmer for 30 minutes. Lastly, add chicken (assuming you've grilled it seperately) and leave to simmer for a couple more minutes, finishing of with the cream.

Serve with basmati rice and naan, and maybe some raita.

If you have any suggestions regarding the recipe, and how to tweak or twist it, I'm all ears! Should I be using whole spices? Are the almonds and raisins highly unorthodox? Too much yoghurt? Too little butter? Have you tried Meeta's version? Comments are open!


Anonymous said…
Your blog is super. So are your photographies. They make me hungry. I have spent a nice moment when seeing them. Thanks a lot.
Jeanne said…
I must admit to not having done much Indian cookign myself, outside of a lovely Indian cooking day with a bunch of fellow-bloggers, and these wonderful authentic spice kits from SOuth Africa for specific Capw malay dishes. This looks not-very-daunting, and butter chicken is one of my favourites. Well done you for completing one of your foodie dares!
Pragyan said…
Butter chicken looks delicious..I have never dared myself for it..should try it out some day! Nice blog.
Anonymous said…
Mmmm... butter chicken is what I make most often when I take an occasional foray into Indian food.

I can't give you any advice on the spices, but definitely use a griddle pan to cook the thicken. You won't get the a nicely charred edge to the pieces in the oven. I try the oven every so often and am always disappointed.
Zarah Maria said…
Eleonora - thank you!

Jeanne - thank you. It really wasn't hard - what scares me is just the use of a whole different spice-scenery than I'm used to. There's only one thing to do though: try it! Who knows, I may like it!

Pragyan - you should! And thanks!

Angela - I'll use the griddle pan next! Thanks for the advice!
Anonymous said…
I've never thought of using yogurt to create a marinade! Delicious and exotic combination of ingredients.

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