Previous TaleTown Story: Mamaji's Curry Chicken
"Ma", Hosh asked Isha, "When will I have learnt enough to cook Butter Chicken?"
"My friends have been asking me to bring a plate when I've cooked it, and I've been postponing it too long."
"Butter Chicken," Isha laughed, "is among the best known Indian foods all over the world."
"Its gravy can be made as hot or mild as you like," she said, "so it suits most palates."
"Let's prepare it today so you can give your friends a treat tomorrow. Text them, while I write up an Ingredients List for you."
Hosh duly texted his friends, while she prepared her list:
- 700 gm skinless, boneless Chicken
- 125g can Tomato paste
- 50 grams of Butter or Ghee
- 1 can Coconut cream
- 1/2 cup unsweetened Yoghurt
- 1/2 cup of fresh Cream
- 1/2 teaspoon Chili powder
- 1 teaspoon Salt (or to taste)
- 2 teaspoon ground Garam Masala
- 2 teaspoon ground Coriander powder
- 2 teaspoon red Chili paste
- 3 teaspoon Paprika
- 1 tablespoon Lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon fresh Coriander leaves
- 1 large Onion - finely chopped
- 1 Cinnamon stick
- 4 green Cardamom pods
Isha cut the chicken into medium size portions, and told him, "Butter Chicken or Murgh Makhani is a classic North Indian Punjabi recipe. Many versions of the recipe exist. Traditionally, it is dressed chicken, which can be served on or off the bone, but I tend to marinate it overnight in a yogurt and spice mixture."
"The chicken can be cooked in a tandoor, grilled, roasted or pan fried. This dish tastes great even if you haven't the time to marinate the Chicken overnight. But marinate at least for an hour, if possible."
She then combined ground Coriander, Yoghurt, Garam masala, red Chili paste, Chili powder and Paprika in a large non-metallic bowl and marinated chicken pieces in this mixture. Once done, they covered and refrigerated it overnight.
"The sauce or gravy", she continued, "can also be made in many ways. One way is to heat fresh tomato, garlic and cardamom into a bright red pulp which is then pureed after cooling. Then add butter, cream and spices. Many North Indians often include asafoetida, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, pepper, and fenugreek leaves and seeds (Urdu/Hindi: Qasuri Methi)."
"The gravy needs to be cooked until there is no raw tomato flavor. Once this sauce is prepared, the marinated chicken should be cooked until the gravy and chicken have blended. The gravy can also be sweetened with honey to balance the flavors of fat from cream and butter with the acidity from the tomato."
"Garnishing can then be done with butter, cream, sliced green chilies, cilantro, fenugreek or coriander leaves", she concluded, "Now go and watch any YouTube video on it, while I cook tonight's dinner. Tomorrow, I'll teach you my way of cooking it."
The next day, Isha and Hosh heated Butter in a flat pan on medium heat, added Cinnamon stick and Cardamom pods and fried for a minute. They then added onion and fried until the Onion had browned lightly. Chicken mixture was now added to this and cooked for five minutes.
"How do I know when the chicken is cooked Ma?" Hosh asked.
"Chicken will turn opaque and the flesh will go from pink to whitish in color", she responded, "For a more stronger Tomato flavor, you can add 1/4 cup of Tomato puree. Tomato paste is thicker and more concentrated. It gives a different flavor as opposed to that from Tomato puree."
Then Tomato paste, Coconut cream and Salt to taste were added and simmered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until Chicken was tender. Finally, they added fresh Cream, Lemon juice and fresh Coriander, simmered for a further two minutes and served it deliciously hot with Naan and green salads.
"Can you make a smoked Butter chicken too Ma?" Hosh asked at the table, while eating.
"Is that what you saw on YouTube yesterday?" she asked. He denied it.
"I haven't tried it myself", she answered,"but I read once that for an authentic and traditional cooked-over-the-coals flavor: When the Butter Chicken is cooked, you can make a small bowl shape with aluminum foil and place it on top of the curry ('floating' on it)."
"Then heat a briquette of charcoal on an open flame till red hot and gently put the charcoal in to the aluminum foil bowl. Cover the dish immediately. Remove the cover just before serving. Discard the foil bowl and charcoal, and serve. The curry should be infused with a smoky flavor!"
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