Sunday, June 23, 2013

Butter Chicken aka Murgh Makhani (The best dish ever invented)

It’s almost the end of June and before you’ve even realized half the year has gone by. The reality is, time really flies. In the humdrum of our daily routine we don’t even know how days turn into months and months into years. Now, June means monsoons in my part of the world, which obviously means staying indoors, chit-chatting with family over a hot cup of coffee and Goli Bajje. Staying indoors also gives you a good opportunity to have your meals together, a luxury most of us miss in our busy city life. As a family, we always believe in having our meals together. This is a value my mum instilled in us as kids and it is something that we follow till date. So the other day, when we were planning our meal for the coming Sunday, we decided that it needed a bit of glamour; something that is nice, wholesome, spicy and goes with the flavour of the season.  My sister suggested Hariyali Paneer Tikka or Butter Chicken, while Mum and I were of the opinion, that we should go contemporary with either Thai Pineapple Fried Rice or Smoked Sausages with Cheesy Mushroom Rice. So we decided to make all of these in sequence and I couldn’t decide which goes first on the blog, so I decided to run a poll on my facebook page. The winner not surprisingly was Murgh Makhani or Butter Chicken!  ;)

There is probably no one on this planet who hasn’t yet heard of Butter Chicken. It is the face of Indian cuisine to the world; much like what Sachin Tendulkar is to Indian cricket or what Amitabh Bachchan is to Indian cinema. No one can miss the tender, succulent chicken chunks that are just seasoned in the right proportion, immersed in rich, tangy and creamy tomato gravy. I might probably not be exaggerating when I say, that Butter Chicken is not just another dish, it is a cult in India. A dish that would only get better with age, a timeless classic.

I have made butter chicken many times earlier, each version a bit different from the other, for instance I tried replacing the cream with full fat yogurt, left out the cashew paste, didn't grill the chicken and so on. The result? Nowhere close to the original. That is when I decided I would not compromise on any of the ingredients of ingredients and stick to the original version. This is not a dish that can be made every day, so indulge if you must, but remember to jog an extra round the next day!

Butter Chicken, Jeera Rice and a plain vanilla ice cream completed the menu that Sunday. Coupled with a nice afternoon siesta; I couldn’t ask for more.


For the Chicken Tandoori:

Marinade 1:
  • 600 grams boneless chicken, cut into medium sized cubes (Usually, its made with chicken on the bone; I preferred the boneless variety. Feel free to use whatever suits you)
  • 1 large tablespoon Kashmiri red chill powder
  • 2 large tablespoons lemon juice.
  • Small dash of crushed black pepper

Marinade 2:
  • 1/2 cup thick yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon ginger paste
  • 1 tablespoon garlic paste
  • 1 tablespoon red chilli powder
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
  • 2 tablespoon garam masala powder
  • 30 ml mustard oil
  • Salt to taste

For the Makhani Gravy
  • 8 medium sized tomatoes, pureed (Make sure to choose bright & red tomatoes, else the rich orange colour may be compromised)
  • 5-6 cashews, soaked in lukewarm water
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3-4 green cardamoms
  • 1 gram mace, powdered
  • 1 tablespoon ginger paste
  • 1 tablespoon garlic paste
  • 2 tablespoons red chilli powder
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala powder
  • Water if required
  • 1/2 tablespoon Kasoori Methi (dried fenugreek leaves), powdered
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 tablespoons fresh cream
  • Corriander leaves, finely chopped- for garnishing
  • Salt to taste

To make the Chicken Tandoori:

  • Combine all ingredients mentioned under "Marinade 1" and let the lemon juice and masalas to coat the chicken well. Refrigerate for about an hour. 
  • Whisk all ingredients mentioned under "Marinade 2" except the oil. Add in the chicken pieces that we had marinated earlier and mix well so that chicken pieces are covered well with the marinade. Add the  mustard oil and give it a nice stir. Keep aside for at least one hour.
  • Meanwhile, pre-heat oven for about 10 minutes at 100 C.
  • Once you've marinated the chicken for an hour,  put the chicken on the skewers and grill at 300 C for 3 -4 minutes on each side, basting with butter in between.
  • That's your chicken tandoori. Ready to be served as a snack as well.

For the Makhani Gravy:
  • Chop the tomatoes into quarters and grind to a fine puree along with the cashews and very little water. Keep Aside 
  • Heat the Butter in a pan and add the cardamom and mace and saute on medium heat till the spices are fragrant. 
  • Add the ginger and garlic pastes and stir continuously ensuring that the spices and paste don't burn.
  • Now add the tomato puree, and the red chilli, garam masala and turmeric powders. Mix well. Now cover the vessel and reduce the heat to the low and let it cook for about 7-10 minutes.
  • After about 10 minutes, you will see that the paste is mushy and has an almost dry consistency . Add some water (to suit your preferred gravy consistency) and cook for a 3-4 minutes. Keep in mind that at a later stage, we will be adding fresh cream which will thicken the gravy.
  • Once the gravy is simmering, add the kasoori methi and the honey and mix well. Add the chicken tandoori pieces and mix well so that they are well covered with the gravy.
  • When the gravy begins to simmer, put the heat off for about 5 minutes, add the fresh cream and mix well. This is done to prevent the cream from curdling in the high temperature of the vessel. Cook for another 7-10 mins on a slow flame.
  • Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve hot with naan, roti or jeera rice. 

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