My love for butter chicken started as a child and I inherited it from my grand father. He was fortunate enough to have enjoyed the original Murgh Makhani in Pakistan he moved to Delhi with his family in 1947 after the India/Pakistan partition. He used to frequent the original Moti Mahal restaurant in Peshawar, and he often said that the taste of the curries he had growing up in that part of the world was in a league of their own. He missed his home in Haripur Hazara, Pakistan and whilst Delhi became home for him, he spoke about his love for his hometown frequently. But he was a die-hard foodie at heart!
He was always ready to travel miles to enjoy good quality and amazingly delicious food. He often frequented the famous Moti Mahal restaurant in Delhi for their Murgh Makhani aka Butter Chicken. Dinner parties were regularly hosted by my grand father, and the Murgh Makhani was a permanent feature on the menu, as cooking meat was strictly forbidden in my grandma’s kitchen at the time. Saying that, it was impossible for him to last even a week without Butter Chicken. Did I mention all the delivery drivers knew my grandfather very well?
The front drawing room had a separate door for entering from the front of the house, and that drawing room was my grand dad’s domain. The delivery drivers knew not to knock on the main door, but on the drawing room door for delivering the meat, so it was directly delivered to the room where it was required. Depending on who was joining my grand dad for his dinner, sometimes we were allowed to join him in there and eat with him, but usually a bowl of delightful Butter Chicken was sneaked out for us to the dining table for our dinner. It was the best butter chicken. It was the original Murgh Makhani and I am shocked that it still tastes the same , every time I visit. The flavour and taste has not changed and it is impossible to replicate. There are lots and lots of good Butter Chickens in this world, lots of versions and lots of recipes. They are all good in their own way. For me, the best Murgh Makhani is only from Moti Mahal.
I don’t even try to replicate that flavour, as I would rather go to India and devour the original flavours there. I don’t like the ketchup infused Butter chickens that are available all over North America/Canada and there’s only so much Chicken Tikka Masala I can enjoy in England. There are times, when the woman had to get her pots and pans out and get cooking. This is one of those times. The time when a comforting home cooked rich Murgh Makhani is required.
It takes time, patience and loving care but it’s a meal that guarantees pin-drop silence on the table as everyone enjoys the melt-in-your-mouth chicken, drowned in a creamy tomato curry sauce. A fresh naan or parantha would be amazing with the curry, but it is equally enjoyable with some fresh steamed rice. If you can, try to save some for a Sunday morning breakfast with fresh paranthas, as the flavours only get better the next day.
Thanks to my grandfather, I am spoilt for all the modern quick stir fried curries as I love the rich slow cooked ‘real’ flavours where the spices and the ingredients have been in a long term relationship and it is reflected in their texture, flavour, aroma and taste.
CLAY-POT BUTTER CHICKEN
This is my easy Butter chicken where the slow roasting in the oven creates the magic and as my health doesn’t allow me to stand for too long in the kitchen right now, its whisked up in minutes and cooked to perfection on its own.
1lb Chicken breasts, skinless, boneless
6 chicken thighs, with skin on and bone-in
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp cooking oil (any fragrance free oil)
1 tbsp Garam masala
2 tbsp heavy cream
Salt and black pepper to taste
Combine the ingredients in a small bowl. Divide into two zip loc bags to marinate the chicken.
THE CHICKEN THIGHS
Clean and pat try the chicken thighs. Let them marinate in a zip loc bag with the marinade for an hour or so. Preheat oven to 375F.
Spread them at the bottom of the clay pot and roast them in a preheated oven for 20 mins. Remove the skin off the thighs. Reserve the liquid and let it rest with the thighs.
THE CHICKEN BREAST
Clean and pat dry the chicken breasts. Cut into 1-2 inch cubes, depending on how big you like your chicken pieces and marinate in a zip loc bag with the marinade for at least 2 hours until ready to use.
Add the chicken pieces on top of the chicken thighs in the clay pot.
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups crushed tomatoes (from a can)
3-4 ripe plum tomatoes, pureed
2 tbsp tomato paste or puree
Salt to taste
2-3 fresh Thai chillies, finely chopped (optional, adjust to taste)
4 tbsp fresh coriander/ cilantro
1 tsp jaggery or brown sugar
2 tbsp Tandoori Masala
1 tbsp cumin powder
1 tbsp fresh ginger paste
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
A dollop of butter
Mix all the ingredients in a large mixing jug and pour it on top of the chicken in the clay pot.
Bake in the oven at 350F for 30 minutes and then 300F for another 30 minutes. If it starts to dry up a little, add a little milk and water to get the consistency you would like. It will be fall off the bone tender and juicy.
Greek or Balkan yogurt, whisked smooth
Fresh coriander or cilantro leaves
Garnish and let it sit for a few minutes before serving with steamed rice or naan bread.
You can make a curry as complicated as you want or as simple as you like, its just the patience and love that makes it spectacular – fresh ingredients also help 🙂