This is the perfect season for homemade butter chicken! It calls for a LOT of fresh, ripe, red tomatoes and many gardens are still bursting with lovely red gems.
Our family loves butter chicken. If there was a stronger word for ‘love’ that could refer to our feelings about butter chicken I’d use it. But I don’t know of one, so I’ll just say… we love it!
Particularly my youngest son. For weeks he’d been asking if I could teach him how to make butter chicken. Since I usually just open a jar of sauce (I like the PC Indian Butter Chicken Sauce) and follow the instructions on the label I stalled to fulfill his request. He wanted to know how to make it ‘for real’.
His birthday was coming up and so I decided that I’d go to the effort of learning how, and teaching him, to make butter chicken from scratch. I looked all over for a recipe that looked authentic. How does a Canadian woman like me who grew up with Mennonite cooking distinguish between a ‘good’ butter chicken recipe and an ‘authentic’ one? Not very well.
Finally I came across a YouTube video that had a delightful Indian man (who has a thing for red tomatoes) giving a beautiful step-by-step tutorial on cooking authentic Butter Chicken. So on September 18th, my son’s 13th birthday, I set all the ingredients out and we followed along with the YouTube tutorial and produced a most excellent, mouth-watering, creamy textured, richly colored butter chicken. We were thrilled.
I think you’ll like this one too! If you can’t find the kind of chiles he uses, go ahead and use jalapeno peppers. I used one and it was quite spicy. If you like a milder sauce I’d suggest ½ the chile, and ½ the chili powder.
If you don’t have mace, don’t worry. Feel free to substitute it with some nutmeg. I used ground nutmeg, about ¼- ½ tsp.
For ‘fresh’ cream I used whipping cream and it was beautiful!
Instead of using pre-cooked tandoori chicken, you can make it using fresh boneless, skinless chicken breast or leg. I used boneless, skinless chicken breast and it was extremely flavourful and tender. My instructions for this below are slightly different than in the video.
I’m listing the recipe here, but you really might enjoy following the YouTube tutorial instead. Nothing like having an Indian man giving you tips on how to keep those tomatoes red while you cook!!
1 kg ripe, red tomatoes, cubed (or 8 cups)
1 tbsp oil
2 tbsp butter
7-8 green cardamom
A few blades of mace (or ½ tsp ground nutmeg)
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1 tbsp ginger
3-4 green chiles (or 1-2 jalapenos – add according to desired spiciness)
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp kashmiri red chili powder (Indian chilli powder, not Mexican chili powder)
Salt to taste – about 1-2 tsp
1 kg skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into small cubes
1 cup fresh cream (I like using whipping cream)
A pinch green cardamom powder (I used about ¼ tsp)
1 tbsp honey
½ tsp kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves).
Heat pan over medium high heat. Add oil and butter. When mostly melted add the green cardamom and mace. When you begin to smell the spices add the garlic and stir it around until it begins to release its smell and turn a little brown.
Add the tomatoes to the spices in the pan. Cook them and stir frequently until the tomatoes are pulpy (soft and mushy). Once cooked, allow to cool for a few minutes.
While the tomatoes are cooking, cut the ginger into julienne slices. (hint: measure the tablespoon of ginger before cutting into julienne slices, or optionally use 1 tbsp ginger paste)
De-seed the chiles and cut into julienne slices.
Puree tomatoes and spices in a blender until it is a smooth paste.
Add 3 tbsp butter to the pan again. Add ginger and chile julienne to the pan to sauté. Sauté until the ginger and chiles are soft, but be careful not to let the butter get brown.
Strain the tomato puree into the pan using a fine sieve. Discard what is collected in the sieve.
Add the chili powder, salt and chicken cubes. Cook for 20 minutes stirring frequently.
Once the chicken is thoroughly cooked, add the cream, ground cardamom powder, honey and kasoori methi. Stir well. Allow to simmer another 5 minutes.
(This recipe taken from Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi below.)