February 28, 2012

Butter Chicken — Murgh Makhni — India’s signature gift to the world

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The history of Indian cuisine is as enticing as its exotic aromas and flavors.

For instance, look at the origin of the ever popular butter chicken, also know as murgh makhni in Hindi. Its evolution is traced back to Kundan Lal Gujral, the owner of Moti Mahal restaurant at Daryangaj, Delhi (the one that currently functions there is not part of the same business). It is a fascinating tale of political, cultural and culinary happenings staged in the twentieth-century.
Kundan Lal Gujral, a Hindu, originally from the undivided India’s Peshawar in Punjab, fled to India following the partition. He was ingenious enough to overcome the times of political upheaval and open a restaurant in Old Delhi. This restaurant, Moti Mahal in Daryangaj, became internationally acclaimed for its tandoori creations—apparently Kundan’s inventions. Tandoori chicken, butter chicken, and dal makhni were served by elegant Peshawaris dressed in pathani suits to desi and foreign diners who stopped by for its celebrated dishes. The restaurant became a landmark in Delhi, and was sought after by famous visitors including world leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Bhutto, Kennedy, and the like. Thus began the popularity of butter chicken. 

Ever since, this dish has received rave reviews from some of the best food critics around the world. And even today, it is highly in demand at the Indian restaurants around the globe.

If you have tasted this curry, you'll know why it's hugely popular. The creamy, velvety dish is pure indulgence. And what’s not to like about tender pieces of chicken grilled in flavorful spices, and simmered in herbs, tomatoes and cream? One word: mouthwatering!

My boys simply love this. In fact, it’s one of their favorite dish to order whenever we dine at Indian restaurants. As for my younger boy—a picky eater—it is the only dish he wants to indulge in. If it’s not on the menu, well then, tough luck!

I like it too. Actually, a lot. And for the very same reason, I like to stay away from it as much as possible. The trouble is, it's so rich and addictive, and I can’t stop myself from mopping the delicious gravy to the last bit once I get started!
That said, I do make it at home occasionally, to the great pleasure of my kids. I have done recipes from scratch, and shortcut recipes too without compromising on the taste. Like this one from the acclaimed food writer Monica Bhide I’m sharing with you today. I made it last week to hugely enthusiastic reviews from my family. As for me, I liked the easiness of the recipe compared to the other versions I usually do—baked as well as stove top preparations. And since most of us do not have much time to spend in the kitchen, I decided to share this simple recipe that does not sacrifice on the authentic flavors. 

This recipe is really good. The curry looks, smells and tastes as good as the one from any fine Indian restaurant, if not better. The sauce is gloriously creamy, and not runny as some recipes come off. Amazingly, it does not have a long list of exotic spices and there’s very little prep work to do, ha.
So here’s a curry studded with all delicious flavors to the perfect balance—sweet, sour, salty and spicy. Now all you need is some pieces of naan to mop up the flavorful sauce. A must try!

Marinate the chicken overnight if possible. Don’t skip kasoori methi or dried fenugreek leaves—available at Indian/Pakistani grocery stores—which gives a unique flavor and aroma to the dish. Also remember that the curry should not be too tangy—so make sure you don’t add too much lemon juice or tomatoes. If you prefer it really saucy, add a bit more water for more liquid. You can totally skip the cream garnish and the artificial color, if you like. I did the color for the kids, and drizzled the cream on top solely for photographic purposes.

So, what you waiting for? Tie you aprons and get ready to transport yourself to India with this creamy, dreamy delight!

Butter Chicken — Murgh Makhni

(Adapted from here)

Ingredients
Serves 3-4
Prep: 15 min, plus extra time for marinating; cooking: 40 min

For the marinade
450g chicken breast or thigh fillet, cut into bite-sized strips (I used breast fillet)
½ cup whole milk Greek yoghurt (I used Almarai fresh labneh)
1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
1 tablespoon Indian tandoori masala (Shan brand recommended, though I used Eastern)
2 tablespoon canned tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon melted butter, or ghee
salt, to taste

For the sauce
2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
4 small green chilies, finely chopped
10 cashew nuts, blended to a puree with a bit of water
2 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon tomato ketchup (I used Maggi)
2 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves or kasoori methi, crushed in the palm of your hand
1 cup water
100ml single cream (I used Nada)
2-3 drops of color (optional)
salt, to taste
chopped cilantro, to garnish

Directions

Cut the chicken into bite-size strips and wash in cold water. Pat dry with a kitchen cloth.

Put all marinade ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Tip in chicken and use your fingers to coat well in the paste. Then cover and chill for at least an hour, or preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 200oC or 400oF. Place chicken on a foil lined baking tray, in a single layer, and pour over the marinade. Grill for 15 minutes or until lightly charred and cooked—no need to turn. The whole house will smell glorious from the spices wafting from the oven—sure to entice your taste buds.

Transfer chicken to a platter and reserve marinade in a separate bowl.

Meanwhile, start preparations for the sauce. In a large skillet, heat butter over medium-low heat. Add ginger-garlic paste and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and cooks until soft and completely pulpy, stirring occasionally and mashing with the back of the spatula, about 8 minutes. Stir in the reserved marinade, chili pepper, cashew paste, fenugreek leaves, tomato ketchup, sugar, water, color (if using), and salt to taste. Continue stirring about 30 seconds.

Now add the chicken pieces to the pan, cover and leave to simmer in low heat until all flavors are melded, about 8 minutes. Finally, stir in cream and cook for another 2 minutes. Adjust seasoning, if needed. Also, don’t hesitate to add a bit more water if the sauce is too thick.

Garnish with cilantro, and dollop with cream for the big finish, if you like. Serve with hot steamed basmati rice, ghee rice, or Indian breads like paratha, naan, kulcha, etc. This time I served it with Turkish bread, as you can see in the pictures.
Ohh baby, who needs takeouts? Happy cooking!

In other news, I was really happy to see all the positive feedback for nutella mug cake. This inspired me to modify the recipe to come up with a 2-minute gooey peanut butter cake which tasted equally good. The recipe is on my facebook page

64 comments:

  1. Though I can't comment on the chicken, as always the pictures look great..

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  2. Great recipe....stunning shots

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  3. Tempting chicken recipe...pass it pls for dinner...:)

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  4. really u made me hungry now...butter chicken n naan looks so tempting dear!!
    excellent recipe..will try yours soon!!
    Spicy Treats
    OnGoing Event:Show Me Your HITS~Healthy Delights

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  5. This is my fav chicken dish and i absolutely love it! Your version is definitely different from mine and i can't wait to try this next time.

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  6. Chicken looks very yummy...

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  7. That looks absolutely delicious. Perfect colour and consistency. Has been on my to-make list for ages now. Soon! :)

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  8. Delicious and yummy looking butter chicken.

    Deepa
    Hamaree Rasoi

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  9. I have made butter chicken from Bombay Palace cookbook but this recipe looks even better. Going to try it next time I buy chickken

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  10. Very inviting and looks yummy butter chicken !!

    Ongoing Event - CC-Dish For Loved Ones

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  11. OH dear am drooling here. Looks so rich and delicious

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  12. yummy yummy!!!i love butter chicken!!!never tried at home...beautiful pic!!

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  13. My fav curry.........tempting pics too......

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  14. mmmm.... love this butter chicken. Your version looks easy and simple rather than the normal method. Awesome snaps and clicks..:)

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  15. Even before I finished reading this post of yours, I bookmarked this recipe. It really looks creamy and velvetty like you'd find at Moti Mahal. I am confident that your butter chicken can give Moti Mahal a run for their money. Lovely photos.

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  16. wow...yummy chicken n lovely clicks...

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  17. My kids love chicken and I'm sure they'll love this.I've stayed away from rich curries but this tempts me to try.

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  18. I know this post is about the chicken, but couldn't help notice the beautiful breads. Turkish bread did you say? Did you bake that or know how to? The curry looks truly awesome. My husband won't eat it if he can smell the butter or cream, doesn't like dairy.. But when i have kids, i am going to cook this for sure :)

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  19. one of my favs as well, but i rarely make it because for one, like you said, not too forgiving to the errr hips?? and two i find it painstaking, too many procedures and such. I dont like to fry, so i bake the chicken which takes even longer. But at the end its one hell of a tasty dish...

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  20. This looks so creamy and delicious.

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  21. yummmyyyyy..Nashi you are super smart my dear..I really dont know how to appreciate your work(photography plus recipes) well done my dear..keep sharing!

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  22. wow... perfect perfect...... my favourite....

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  23. my fave combo with naan..awesome clicks...u r making me hungry

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    Replies
    1. Yummy recipe..bookmarked

      Aarthi
      http://www.yummytummyaarthi.com/

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  24. Oh yeah! I definitely love the smoky flavour of this curry, looks super delicious with the flat bread on side.

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  25. Hi nashira!

    I dont know anybody who doesnt love butter chicken. I am a huge fan of punjabi food. unfortunately I never learned punjabi cooking except what I had learned from our cook. Makhani Dal is another favourite of mine, I am actualy looking for an interessting recipe for that. thanks for sharing! =)

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  26. wow, awesome pics! i saw a documentary on moti mahal recently & was as surprised as you to know that butter chicken was invented by them, i always thought it was an age old dish daing back to the mughals! love the marinade, im totally stealing the recipe to make paneer tikka :)

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  27. One of my absolute favorite, had been planning to make this for some time and kept postponing..now these clicks are so tempting and irresistible..got to try this soon,love your version.

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  28. I need a plateful right now! Lovely styling as usual and enjoyed reading about the history of it too. Thanks for sharing dear!

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  29. i wish i cud just have it now....a very famous recipe...perfect presentatn

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  30. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology...we have a way to enjoy the passion, cuisine and richness of cultures near and far. This is a great blog, worth reading and the recipe, worth recreating in my kitchen. Bookmarked!

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  31. wow...butter chicken looks so delicious n mouth watering :-)

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  32. Tempting photos and delicious dish! Wish I am your neighbor to enjoy what you've created!

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  33. love your recipes, clicks and presentation....following you

    Binitha

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  34. I dont eat/order butter chicken for the same reason u mentioned- because i love it...paired with garlic naan/roomali roti..and onions pickled in vinegar...it ruins all the exercise i do for a week because i cant stop at one!!!! i wud finish it with warm gulab jamuns... :)

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  35. I am desperate to try this recipe. Your pics look good enough to eat! I've tagged you, please check it out :)

    Tropical Cake Balls; Tagged & Award

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  36. Loved reading your write up on butter chicken and your photos just wow...I discovered Moti Mahal in Godron Ramsay's Great Escape's Indian episode and kick myself for not going there while I used to live in Delhi. Never tried making butter chicken, the recipes I came across were too complicated and too fattening, it is easier to eat this when I am not pouring in the cream myself :-) but this recipe looks doable...bookmarking it for a special occasion :-)

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  37. Very delicious chicken dish. Love it!

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  38. wow!!!..butter chicken loooks so creamy and perfect...yumm!!

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  39. Wow!! Amazing recipe! Love butter chicken and you made it look so simple and irresistable :) Gorgeous clicks!!

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  40. How interesting to learn the history behind such a popular dish!

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  41. Looks perfect, you are so right... who needs take - aways? This beats all.! The best looking better chicken I have ever seen..

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  42. deliciously done..looks wonderful..
    Tasty Appetite

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  43. this looks simple and yumm too.....

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  44. OMG...Butter Chicken is always been my fav! I would surely ask for this whenever visiting a North Indian restaurant here.

    Yours look absolutely tempting...makes me mouthwatery here dear.

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  45. I just learned about Butter Chicken recipe this week or maybe last week. It looks so delicious. It's pitty that I didn't know about this food till recently. Your presentation makes me even more hungry. :-)

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  46. Butter chicken looks creamy and delicious....and beautiful clicks dear...
    im definitely going to try this one..

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  47. nice to read about the history of butter chicken, i have been wanting to to cooking it long, now i should, lovely pictures!

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  48. deliciously butter chicken a favourite

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  49. What a delicious and flavorful looking butter chicken. Your photos are beautiful, as well. Thanks for sharing! I'm glad to have found your blog.

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  50. I am definitely using thie recipe to make butter paneer. Love it.

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  51. Hi Nash, my first attempt at butter chicken was a big hit. Husband and kids were too happy to have this for dinner. They said it tasted just like the restaurant, thank you for sharing!

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    1. Thank you, I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

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  52. I've been looking for a good butter chicken recipe forever!! Thank you so much for sharing.

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  53. Thanks a ton for this recipe. As you've mentioned jus like the restaurant made one, or even better?? well, that sounds like much better!

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  54. UmmSumayyaApril 06, 2012

    Nash, I made this for lunch today and my family loved it. Only comments I had were that the chicken was a little underdone so had to take out the pieces and pressure cook for 3-4 mins. Also you haven mentioned when to add the sugar, I added it along with the salt. Thanks for this great recipe!

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    Replies
    1. Oops I see I forgot the sugar in the recipe -- edited now :) The chicken should actually be cooked before you take it off the grill, sorry you had issues. But hey I'm so happy that you reached out, thanks so much for the lovely feedback!

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  55. It's been so long since I had this,,..:) platter looks yum,..

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  56. This looks wonderful, and your photos are gorgeous. Can't wait to try this!

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  57. I tried the recipe last week and its beautiful!!! My husband love it so much :) thanks for sharig the recipe :)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for trying this recipe, and for the lovely feedback!

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  58. Tried this recipe; it was wonderful, thanks a lot. Yours is a lovely blog with beautiful pics.

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  59. Hi,
    This looks amazing . I am feeling ambitious and panning to make it this weekend . I had 1 question though . When you say 16 shelled almonds , do you mean make a powder from 16 raw almonds? ( like you do with cashewnuts for Butter chicken ?)

    Thanks :)

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A million thank you's for stopping by, taking the time to connect, and coming back to visit again. I genuinely appreciate each of your kind thoughts, lovely words, love and support. Happy, happy to hear from you, and hope to see you again!

♥ Nashi