Do you always order butter chicken or chicken makhni when you're out at an Indian restaurant and wondered how they get it to taste so divine? Well.....you're just like me!
This post is dedicated to my dear friend K.He loves this dish so much that he brought some in for the whole team from Aman's - an Indian restaurant in the suburbs of Malvern. We were supposed to have a "Make your version of chicken makhni and bring it in to work contest", but we never got around to actually doing it.So I'm hoping that blogging this recipe would make up for it.
Chicken makhni is a *.* dish that's always on the menu at most Indian restaurants. Needless to say I've had my share of really gloopy,weird and outrageously red versions of this dish.
What makes this dish so red? Well sorry to bring your visions of plump and juicy vine ripened red tomatoes crashing down. Most restaurants achieve that unnatural red color by dumping in red color 88 or some such artificial food coloring.And I'm sure it's on the list of "Permitted food colors ,additives,flavours, enhancers , fillers......blah blah".The truth is if you want to make your food taste good and ensure that it's wholesome and nutritious for you - stick to natural ingredients. If you just can't live without the red in your makhni then a tiny piece of beetroot ground into the makhni sauce works like a charm.
This butter chicken recipe is an amalgamation of countless recipes that I've tried to make the ultimate butter chicken.And gasp! I think this one is "The One".
The family loved this one.My toddler couldn't get enough of it. And Amma went ahead and said "It tastes just like hotel food!". That can be good or bad depending on how your hotel makes it. But trust me after you've made this at home no more greasy Indian takeout.It's all pure butter with juicy,moist tandoori chicken in an ever so slightly sweetish silky sauce. It really hits the spot.
If you're vegetarian you can substitute fresh paneer for the chicken to make paneer makhni.
For the tandoori chicken -
1 kilo or 2lbs of chicken with the skin removed and cut up into medium sized pieces
1/2 cup thick yogurt
2 tsps of ginger garlic paste
2 tsps of tandoori chicken masala
2 tsps of red chilli powder
1 tsp of garam masala
1/2 tsp of cumin powder
1/2 tsp of coriander powder
a pinch of turmeric powder
1 lemon juiced
1 tsp of neutral oil (like canola or vegetable oil, peanut oil would work just fine)
salt to taste
For the makhni sauce -
4 medium sized ripe red tomatoes sliced
2 medium sized onions sliced
8 cloves of peeled garlic
1/2 inch piece of ginger
50 gms butter
2 tsps of garam masala powder
1/4 tsp of curry powder(optional)
2 tsps of red chilli powder
1 tsp of coriander powder
4 tsps of kasturi methi crushed
2 green cardamoms
1 bay leaf
1 tsp of tomato ketchup
10-12 cashew nuts soaked in warm water for half an hour.
A pinch of black salt
To make the tandoori chicken -
1)Wash the chicken and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Make incisions in the chicken pieces. Keeping the surface of the chicken dry and the incisions helps the chicken absorb the marinade better.
2)Make the marinade - simply mix together the yogurt,ginger and garlic pastes,salt,tandoori chicken masala, red chilli, garam masala, cumin, coriander and turmeric powders. Add the lemon juice and taste the marinade. Adjust the seasoning if required. Rub the marinade on the chicken pieces. Whatever you do, please don't taste the marinade after you add the raw chicken to it.
3)Refrigerate the marinated chicken for at least 2 hours or overnight which is the best.
4)When you're ready to put together the chicken makhni there are two major steps - First,you grill the chicken halfway through.Second,make the makhni sauce.Finally to bring it all together, simmer the grilled chicken in the makhni sauce till it's fully done and cooked through.
Grilling/Roasting in an oven - You can roast or grill the chicken in 425 F oven until it's slightly browned on the outside but don't overcook it as the chicken will dry out. All you want to do is sear the chicken on the outside and keep the juices intact.
Note: If you don't have an oven simply pan fry the chicken in 2 tsps of oil. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and keep aside till the sauce is ready. Don't throw away the pan drippings and the remaining marinade, you can add it into the curry sauce for extra flavour.
To make the makhni sauce -
1)The trick to bringing out the robust flavours of the makhni sauce is to use a low/medium flame when roasting the spices. Never use a high flame or you'll end up burning the spices which gives a burnt bitter taste.
2)In a thick pan heat the butter till it is hot without burning it. Add the garam masala, curry powder,red chilli powder and the coriander powder and roast on a gentle flame till the spices give out an aroma.
3)Add the onions,garlic and ginger and come salt and cook till soft. Add the tomatoes at this point cook for another 2-3 mins.
4)Let the roasted veggies cool down. Then just whizz them in the blender to get a smooth and silky sauce.
5)Now all you have to do is to put together the chicken and the sauce. Heat some butter in a thick pan. Add the bay leaf and the cardamoms into the hot oil and saute till they give off an aroma. Add the chicken. Add the sauce and half a cup of water.Bring to a gentle boil. Do not worry if the sauce looks a little thin at this point as the cashew paste added at the end of the cooking process thickens the sauce considerably.
Lower the flame,cover and cook for 5-6 mins.
6)At this point you add a vital ingredient - the dried kasturi methi leaves which impart a fragrant and heavenly aroma to the curry sauce. It wakes up the dish and this is what takes it from being a plain old tomato sauce to an aromatic and hearty makhni sauce.
7)You're makhni sauce should be slightly tangy and sweet and a tsp of tomato ketchup added in at this point does the trick. Add in the black salt - this adds another level of flavor to the dish.
8)Grind the cashew nuts to a thick paste with some water and add it into the curry and simmer for another 2 mins before taking away from the fire.
9)Garnish with fresh cream if desired.
Serve with rotis or Basmati rice with a salad on the side for a perfect Sunday meal.