Butter Chicken

Do you have one recipe that is your fail-safe recipe- the one that you know will work in a pinch when you have guests, or the one that you can make as many variations as you wish and will still please palates? Murg Makhani or Butter Chicken Masala is one of mine.

I know it sounds finicky, but I have this really easy recipe which I've been using for the past 10 years or so and I've never gone wrong with it. I *think* the original recipe is Sanjeev Kapoor's but I've long since lost the slip of paper I copied the recipe out on. The original copy I made was flawed since I distinctly remember no mention of the amount of chicken to be used; as a new cook, at the time it seemed like the end of the world. But whatever I cobbled up was still so tasty that I've reused the recipe time and again.

Couple of reasons why this recipe is such a favorite. It's very quick and easy for starters. Most often the tomato puree I use is from a can (unsweetened, unflavored kind), so the only prep work involves powdering the nuts. Secondly, it uses nuts to thicken the sauce which gives it a wonderfully creamy consistency, so I leave out the cream entirely. Then, I add a small dab of butter and add oil so I get a hint of the flavor of butter. So, basically I feel like this is a healthier version of my favorite dish. And since I've been making it with twists and modifications it never tastes the same twice in a row, but all versions are pretty delicious.

It's also very easy to substitute paneer for a vegetarian Paneer Butter Masala. I just adjust spices accordingly. Since, I dont have the original recipe with me anymore, I will not be including measurements.

From L-R: Mix red chilli powder, salt, black pepper powder, ginger paste, garlic paste, garam masala powder and yogurt together as a marinade for the chicken. I've also added a couple of saffron strands, to give color and richness but I dont think it adds much so you can leave it out. Marinate the chicken (I used 500gms/1lb) with this mix for a couple of hours. (For an equal quantity of paneer, I reduce the marinade by half).


After marinating, bake the chicken in a 350F oven until almost cooked. Then place it under the broiler for a couple of minutes until the marinade is cooked and browned. (I use chicken thighs because other cuts get really dry in the oven, if using chkn breasts you might want to do this on the grill/stovetop). Shred the chicken pieces.
(Paneer should be browned in the broiler/grill.)


In a pan, heat some butter and oil. After the butter melts add powdered almonds and stir until lightly golden. I prefer using powdered cashews because I think the taste is richer, but unfortunately I didnt have any at home ... you can also add roasted and powdered poppy seeds 'khus khus' with cashews to give more depth to the flavor.



Add tomato puree to the roasted almonds above. Also add some tomato ketchup and chilli sauce into the puree. (I know! Trust me, the payoff is great!! This time I used Maggi Masala Chilli Ketchup and Sriracha hot sauce, I generally add any combinations of ketchups and hot sauces I have on hand. The best flavor profile is with plain tomato ketchup and around a 3:1 ratio.) Cook for about 5 minutes.


Stir in the marinated chicken, red chilli powder if required and about a tsp. of kasuri methi (dried fenugreek) leaves (which is the secret to this recipe, don't leave it out). Let simmer for another 5 minutes or till the desired consistency is reached.






Check seasonings- since I didnt add pure ketchup, I added in some sugar along with the salt. Also, you might need to add more of the fenugreek leaves, I've found that if you have a really old batch you will need to add more to really taste the flavor. If you want to make it really decadent, stir in fresh cream at this point. If you add cream, simmer for a few minutes more.





Garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Serve hot with rice/ roti/ naan.

The rice looks different because it is brown basmati, I've come to love the nutty flavor of brown rices and prefer them to the white. Figuring out how to cook it was a pain though and I still haven't got the hang of fluffy, unsticky basmati grains! If you have any tips I'd love to hear them!!



8 comments:

samir said...

OK, fortunately I am just about to go get lunch; so I know what to order.
My fail-safe recipe would be Kheema-Mutter, a trivial & simple one, but it sustained me thru' Grad School. I still make it nowadays; just brown onions with whole peppercorns and whole cloves, and some red chilli powder and whatever else you want to throw in. Add ground turkey/lamb to the onions and brown both. Then add chopped tomatoes & finally green peas. Eat with Pita Bread (or if someone can make rotis)

sraikh said...

It looks really yum. I dont have powdered almonds. I have whole almond, If I blanched them, remove skin and grind them ,it should taste the same right?

I might make this over the weekend. Will let you know.

My failsafe recipe is Paneer jalfrezi and bhaigan bharta..:)

avdi said...

I have never made butter chicken. The closest I have got is to marinate the chicken in dahi with spices, and add to browned onions.

I will remember the tip about fenugreek leaves.

Smita said...

Hmmm may be I will try Panner vaise what if we make baby potatoes the same way?? Lemme try!!!

BTW Have you ever made paratha's of dry fenugreek leaves?

couchpapaya said...

Samir - The Kheema sounds wonderful!! I have a similar recipe, but have never used turkey ... sounds like a great fat-free idea and you know how I love those :) Thanks!!

Sraikh - Thanks! And I think it should taste the same, hope you like it! I find it so difficult to roast baingans for bharta :(

Avdi - The recipe my mom follows is one of those complicated ones where you have to be in the kitchen for half a day so I never tried it until I came across this recipe. And methi leaves are my fav way to add zing to any recipe!!

Smita - Let me know how it comes out if you try the potatoes :) I have no idea how it would come out, I'm not a very inspired cook as I mentioned before, but I can follow recipes heh! And I love methi parathas but never thought of using the dried ones instead! Will try it out, thanks!

avdi said...

I have tried methi paranthas made from kasuri methi. Its yum...

bouncingbubble said...

cp:as for cooking brown rice, I usually use the slow cooking method. rice to water ratio shd be 1:3. and I simmer the cooker i/o letting it whistle and switch off after 15 mins. While pregnant, I was stuck with brown rice for some reason! as for the fail safe recipe, its anything that's got to do with potatoes! mostly podimas!

couchpapaya said...

Bubbles - Thanks, will try it out!!

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