Everyone who loves cooking has that one dish that is fail-proof, quick & a life-saver in moments of culinary satisfaction need. Butter Chicken is mine.
Butter Chicken became one of my family and friend’s favorite whilst I was at university about 10 years ago. Bibi’s Kitchen in Cape Town was known to make the best butter chicken & made this dish quite popular in ‘my circle’ in the early 2000’s. I had eaten it at a number of events and restaurants but in my final year at university, after tasting probably the most divine butter chicken a friend’s mum had made, I refined my recipe to the below. Adding cashews & double thick cream for variety from the usual we’d become accustomed to. I’ve tried and tested this recipe on friends, family and colleagues over the last 6 years. I’ve also shared the very same recipe and heard back that it’s resulted precisely as I intended it to.
So unlike traditional indian curries I don’t add spices to the oil & onions to allow the flavors to ‘pop’. Instead, the flavours get infused into the chicken by marinating for a few hours or overnight. In a way this a cheat, quick-and-easy butter chicken recipe that has worked for me.
I also found that you can substitute ingredients for the ‘low fat’ versions if you’re trying to be healthy, but still want the butter chicken taste in your mouth, to a less richer extent of course.
This recipe is based on the use of 3-4 skinless chicken breasts and should ideally serve 4.
If everything is prepped and ready before cooking it should take you 40-45 mins. It’s all about watching it and looking for the right colours and consistency. Where you FEEL you need to add or lessen, feel free. Make it your own. And taste. It’s so important to taste!
1 small (like the cup size you take for lunch) Greek or plain yoghurt for every 3-4 skinless chicken breasts
1-2 teaspoons rough sea salt (this will all depend on your personal salt preference, I tend to moderate and add toward the end)
4 teaspoons Garlic and ginger paste
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chilli
2-3 heap teaspoons red chilli powder (depends on amount of heat you want)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon of my other 4 must-have indian spices:
Saunf (fennel seed) powder, garam masala, jeera (cumin) powder, dhanya (coriander) powder)
Finely chop some fresh dhanya (coriander/cilantro) and mint (it should fit into the fist of your hand)
Mix all ingredients together for yoghurt marinade. Add cubed chicken. Leave overnight or alternatively marinating for at least 3 hours.
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter (unsalted if you’re trying to be healthier)
1/2 a large onion, finely chopped, for every 3-4 skinless chicken breasts
A handful of raw unsalted cashew nuts
1 green chilli
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 jam/Italian tomatoes finely grated – this is optional
1 small fresh cream (250ml) – Woolworths food has a variety from organic, low fat to double thick
Some dhanya for garnishing
Combine butter and olive oil in a medium size pot or a deep large frying pan
Bringing the oil & butter to a temperature where it’s hot but won’t brown or burn onions immediately – be careful not to burn the butter
Fry onions, crushed garlic and a handful of cashew nuts and a green chilli slit in half in the hot pan – the idea is to fry till the onions are caramelized & translucent. Don’t worry about the cashews, it will cook by the time you are done.
Add marinated chicken and some boiled water (just to cover chicken) and let it to cook till it becomes a curry
Once it thickens, add 1 small (those really mini tins – 70g) tin of tomato paste and a spoon of brown sugar.
(Alternative: If you enjoy tomatoes like I do, get hold of 2 medium oval jam tomatoes or Italian – the sweet red tomatoes – finely grate and add this, half the paste and sugar, instead)
Cook till it becomes a thick curry i.e. Not too watery and not too dry. Adjust the temperature of the stove higher if it’s too watery.
(This is a good time to taste for salt. If you have added too much salt finely blend some onion into a paste and add – this is the only salt saver I know)
Once it starts heading toward gravy consistency add 1 small tin of fresh cream. Don’t add all at once – taste to see how rich you would like it. If you can get double thick cream it’s obviously much more tasty. Add enough for it to simmer and show that it’s thickening i.e. Not watery, it’s not a soup;) You are looking for a smooth consistency.
Turn off the stove once it starts becoming thick. Stir occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the pot.
Finish off with more fresh chopped dhanya before serving.
Serve with roti/naan bread or steaming lot of basmati rice. And any veg accompaniments. Raita and sambals are also perfect!
P.S.: Another nice idea is to make mini butter chicken bunny-chow, great for snack type dinner, lunches or parties. See pic above where I hollowed out the inside of seeded buns.
Thats it, you’ve made Butter Chicken!