Butter chicken, or murgh makhani, is a north Indian dish with a Persian heritage. Made mild, as this recipe is, it is very, very popular with children. The preparation can be quick, as it is mainly done in food processor, then heated. This dish tastes best straight off the stove.
This is not chicken tikka masala, putatively invented in Glasgow in the 1960s. Nor is it the stewed dish you often see in restaurants.
Put the tanduri chicken on to cook first, then you will have ample time to prepare this sauce whilst the chicken cooks. I find the best technique is to melt the butter first, then cook the tanduri chicken. Once cooked, put the chicken aside, covered, and allow to rest whilst you finish this sauce. Our recipe for tanduri chicken is very easy to prepare,.
Use the top half of a bunch of coriander for the garnish and use the lower half, with stalks and roots to prepare the sauce. The stalks and roots have a more intense flavour. The red food colour is optional, but it does give the dish the appearance that people expect.
Despite the apparent heroic quantities of butter and cream, this is the healthy version. You do not want to know what the original quantities were. Suffice to say, if the hardness of your arteries is not a concern you could double the butter and cream quantities. Over the years I have cooked this I have gradually reduced the butter and cream to the amounts in this recipe. They are at what we think is now the minimum you can use, without losing the essence of this dish.
Make this as the centrepiece of an Indian meal, served with very simple accompaniments, such as plain rice or bread.
If you are entertaining, this dish has a big, big “wow” factor with guests.
- ½ cup coriander leaves
Toast and grind cumin seeds.
Place tomato paste, ginger, garam masala, salt, jaggery, chilli, food colour, coriander, leaves, lemon juice, cumin and half the cream into a food processor, and blend to a smooth paste. You may need to add a little water, but do so sparingly. You need to keep it to the consistency of the cream. Do not overdo this step – you do not want the cream to become too thickened or whipped.
Melt butter gently in a large heavy pan, and then slowly fold cream mixture in. Add remaining cream slowly. Bring to a simmer, stirring continually. Use a gentle heat, and do not let it boil, as you do not want the cream to split.
Cut cooked and warm tanduri chicken into 3cm cubes. Place into serving dish. Cover chicken with butter sauce, and gently toss to coat all the pieces. Pour remaining sauce over top. Sprinkle with coriander leaves and serve.
- This recipe does not include the time to make the tanduri chicken.
- The food colour, which is optional, is only there to give that pillar-box red colour that people associate with this dish. We rarely use it, except if we are entertaining.