There I've done what I never thought I would - cooked Butter Chicken! Butter Chicken is something that I didn't bother eating even in the Eighties when North Indian cuisine (more specifically modified Punjabi or "Mughlai" cuisine as it was called) dominated the restaurant scene.
Remember those days, when eating out was a treat reserved for birthdays and anniversaries? When one dressed up to go to Copper Chimney or Kwality or Great Punjab? (all in Mumbai where I grew up). They all seemed to serve the same Paalak Paneer, Naan/Roti, Yellow Dal combination and if you were a non vegetarian then there was Butter Chicken or Kadai Chicken.
As an alternative there were the dimly lit, red themed, Chinese restaurants which served Sweet Corn Soup, Hakka noodles and Gobi Manchurian - Farmer Bros in Dadar T.T was a family favourite.
Then I moved to Chennai and we scrupulously avoided the "multi cousin" restaurants preferring to try out the new "Continental" ones which were opening - even Mexican and Thai after a while. I preferred cooking North Indian food at home since the rajma and dal makhani tasted so much better when cooked home style with a minimum of spices - even the paalak paneer at home was better than the creamy mush served outside. No wonder then that butter chicken was not even on our horizon. Till we moved to Delhi two years back.
We quite enjoy the food at Moti Mahal - it isn't greasy like we expected it to be but even though they claim to have invented Butter Chicken, we haven't felt like trying, what we imagined would be, a dish cooked in butter, cream and ghee! We stuck to their spicy Chicken Lababdar. The few times that we did taste this dish in other places (think wedding buffet or office lunch) I was aghast to find tomato sauce being used.
Now my friend A upstairs cooks a mean Butter Chicken which her darling son polishes off like a seasoned Punjabi and one Sunday while rooting around the kitchen and trying to figure out what to cook, I actually thought of having a go at making it myself! I adapted a Sanjeev Kapoor recipe (its called Chicken Makhani for those who have his first book) and it turned out to be a very flavourful, light dish - perfect with some hot rotis - preferably the tandoori rotis or even naans. Try it, you won't be disappointed!
Boneless Chicken -500gms (can also use leg and other pieces with bone)
Yoghurt - 1/2 cup, hung for 15 minutes
Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Ginger garlic paste - 1 tsp
Garam masala powder (you can subsititute with curry powder) - 1/2 tsp
salt - 1/2 tsp
Oil - 1 tbsp
Butter / ghee - 1 -2 tbsp to baste
Cinnamon - 1 " stick
Moti elaichi (brown cardamom) - 1
Cloves - 3-4
Peppercorns - 4-5
Butter - 1 tbsp
Green chillies - 2 chopped
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Tomatoes - 4 medium, blanched in boiling water, peeled and pureed (or simply use 200gm tomato puree)
salt to taste
Dry fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi) - roasted for a few seconds on a hot griddle and crushed by hand.
Cream - 1/2 cup
1. Clean and cut the chicken (if using boneless pieces than cut into 2" pieces, make cuts on the surface. Mix the marinade ingredients and soak the chicken pieces in the marinade for atleast 2 hours.
2. Pre heat the oven to 200C and grill the marinated chicken pieces on skewers for 10-15 minutes till cooked and a little brown on top. Brush with butter half way through and if you don't have a rotating option for the skewers, turn the skewers over at this stage.
3. Heat butter for the curry in a heavy bottomed pan and add the whole spices - cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and pepper - in two minutes, add the chopped green chillies and saute 1 more minute
4. Pour in the tomato puree, add red chilli powder and salt and simmer on low for 8-10 minutes till the oil leaves the sides of the pan (bhunao is the term used here!) stirring from time to time making sure it doesn't stick to the bottom.
5. Once it is well roasted and almost like a paste (but not to the point of being burnt), add one and half cups of water and bring to boil. Adjust salt and simmer for 3-4 minutes.
6. Add the chicken pieces and fenugreek powder and simmer for another 5 minutes adding some more water if needed.
7. Add the cream and remove from flame. Serve hot with tandoori rotis or plain rotis.