In Old Delhi in the 1950's the legendary Moti Mahal restaurant created the dish that for millions of poeple around the world, especially us British, defines Indian food. "Butter Chicken" as Moti Mahal calls it, is the father and mother of Chicken Tikka Masala.
In the West, this dish is much interpreted, but in fact it has been enjoyed by Punjabis for decades. This is exactly how it is prepared in Old Dehi so of course - we just had to try it.
Ideally the chicken should be cooked in a tandoor on skewers but we used an indoor grill and a barbecue would suitably do the job as would cooking the chicken pieces in an oven. The key is not to overcook the chicken for fear of it drying out and not being the tender meat the we are all familiar with.
Although this recipe is quite time consuming and not for a beginner chef, the taste proves that it is definately well worth the effort.3
Serves: 4 - 6
1 teaspoon crushed ginger
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons chilli powder
juice of 1/2 lemon
800 grams boned chicken thighs, skin and fat removed, cut in half or diced
100 grams plain Greek-style yoghurt
1/4 teaspoon garam marsala
1.25 kilograms tomatoes, cut in half
125 ml water
2.5cm piece fresh root ginger crushed
4 garlic cloves, peeled
4 green cardamom pods
1 cinnamon leaf or bay leaf
1 1/2 tablespoons Kashmiri chilli powder
60 grams butter, cut into small pieces
2.5 cm piece frest root ginger finely chopped
2 green chillies, each slit into 4
75 mls single cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
2 teaspoons sugar
To make the marinade, mix together the crushed ginger, crusher garlic, salt, chilli powder and lemon juice in a large bowl. Add the chicken and using your hands coat the pieces with the mixutre. Set aside for 20 minutes. Mix the yoghurt with the garam masala and apply to the mariated chicekn. Set aside for another 10 minutes.
Thread the chicken on to skewers. Cook over the grill plate, barbecue or in the oven for 15 - 18 minutes, thurning the skeweres to cook evenly on both sides. Don't worry if some parts blacken as this actually adds to the flavour.
While the chicken is cooking make the sauce. Place the tomatoes in a pot with 125 ml water and add the crushed ginger, garlic, cardamom pods, cloves and cinnamon/bay leaf. Cook until the tomatoes are completely broken down and soft. Remove from the heat and either using hand-held blender or a food processor, puree the mixture. Press through a sieve to make a very smooth puree.
Return the puree to the pan and bring to the boil. Stir in the chilli powder. Cook until the puree starts to thicken, then slowly incorporate the butter, little by little, stirring constantly. The sauce will become glossy.
Remove the chicken from the skewers and add to the puree along with any juices. Simmer for 5 - 6 minutes. As the sauce begins to thicken, add the chopped ginger, slit green chillis and cream. Continute simmering until the sauce is thick enough to coat the chicken.
Remove from the heat before the fat separates out and comes to the surface of the dish. If this happens simply stir in 1- 2 tablespoons water and 1 tablespoon more of cream and remove immediately from the heat. Add the salt, ground fenugreek leaves and garam masala and mix well. Check the seasoning and add the sugar if needed. Serve hot.
Note to make this more child friendly or milder I would omit using the green chillies and also add about twice the amount of cream, depending on the mildness you require - you could also reduce the amount of Kashmiri chilli powder that you use.
A tandoor is a clay oven used to back breads and other dishes in North India and Pakistan. The fire is fuel by charcoal and ofent kept lit all day. It is the focal point in many homes and some villages even have a communal tandoor where, believe it or not, gossip is as important as cooking.