Butter Chicken is probably non vegetarian India’s favourite dish… so yummy is its tomato creamy, not so spicy gravy, that you can even forget the chicken and happily just eat naan and the sauce. I remember so looking forward to eating this dish as a kid who lived in New Delhi, it was my favourite…. still the thing I love most when I haven’t had Indian food in a while. I can literally remember images of it from dhabas and restaurants of my childhood and still smell it! Happy memories!
Normally making this dish is a long process, first you marinade the chicken with a tandoori chicken marinade, then you grill it and then make the sauce separately and add your grilled chicken to the sauce to finish. My version skips a lot of steps but will give you the real flavor without all the work. I basically marinade the chicken and then use a heavy cast iron dish to soften some onions and then add my marinaded chicken. Get the chicken going and cook for around 10 minutes and then add a tin of chopped or pureed tomatoes. Cook for another 7 minutes and then place this in your preheated oven to cook for an hour. Pretty simples… now just taste, and adjust the seasonings and flavors a little, and you are good to go! You can put it under the grill for the last few minutes to get a few charred marks on the chicken, reminiscent of the real tandoori grilled chicken.
Seriously if you cook this for anyone, I guarantee you they will be seriously impressed. Just marinade the chicken well in advance, I even leave in the fridge for two days to marinade and the flavors really get in there beautifully. You can even do the cooking part the day before you serve it and the butter chicken will only get tastier sitting in its sauce for a day! This type of Indian food infect tastes better the next day… so very good thing to do for a dinner when don’t want to do much cooking on the day.
1 kg boneless skinless chicken thigh fillets cut into largish pieces
1 Black cardamom (cracked and seeds separated)
5 cm piece of ginger, roughly chopped
5 garlic cloves
1/2 cup almond powder
2/3 cup thick plain yoghurt
Juice of a lemon
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
2.5 Tbsp paprika powder (this if for color not heat)
1-3 green chillies (depending on how hot you like it)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon garam masala
6 green cardamon pods ( smashed so seeds are free)
salt and pepper to taste
5 Tbsp ghee or clarified butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced or chopped
400 grams tin of chopped/pureed tomatoes
4 Tablespoons thick double/heavy cream
Tablespoon of honey
1/4 to1/2 tsp cardamom powder (optional)
1.5 tsp dried fenugreek (optional)
Blend the ginger, garlic, green chillies, lemon juice in a small food processor and add to the yoghurt and almond powder in a big non metallic bowl. Add the chicken and let marinade overnight or even 24 hours.
Preheat oven to 180 C or 350 F. Heat your heavy bottomed oven proof pan (I like using a Le Cruset wide shallow pot), add the ghee. Now add the onions and cook thill they are soft and start barely to go brown on the edges. Add the chicken mixture and fry for 5 minutes. Now add the tin of tomatoes. and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the cream and honey and mix. Place dish in the oven and bake for an hour. If the top is browning too quickly during cooking, cover with some foil.
When the hour is up, carefully take out the hot dish, mix and taste the sauce. Add more honey/salt/pepper/garam masala or a little cardamom powder and fenugreek if using (still tastes great if you don’t have dried fenugreek), taste and when it is perfect you can stick it under the hot grill for about 2 minutes if you wish to brown the top. Before serving tip the dish to the side and spoon off any extra oil. Serve with Zeera/Cumin Rice or Naans.