Butter Chicken

DSC_2406Sometimes it’s easy to compare ourselves to those around us who may have more than us, and to feel like something’s missing as a result. In my experience, this generally leads to feelings of inadequacy, sometimes envy and other less desirable emotions. I’m trying not to do that so much anymore. Yes, perhaps I don’t have some things that other people my age do, but I still have a lot. When I see people who have things that I don’t, I’m trying not to let that get to me, and instead just focus on the things that I have going for me. One way to achieve that perspective I’ve found, is to compare myself to the billions of people who have so much less than me, instead of the few that have more.

Maybe I don’t have a car, but I do have excellent health. Maybe I don’t own my home, but it’s still a wonderful, warm and safe place for me to live. Maybe I don’t earn triple figures, but I earn enough to live well, save a bit and travel a little. Maybe I don’t have the latest and greatest in fashion, but I’m in a position where I can study next year and navigate my career in my chosen direction. Maybe I don’t have the size ten figure I’d like to have, but I never have to go hungry. All in all, things are looking pretty good from where I’m sitting.

I’m a documentary addict and would easily watch several a week. One that we’ve begun watching online is a three part series by the BBC titled ‘Welcome to India’. Whoa. I had an idea that life was difficult in India but I really didn’t know the lengths that people went to just to make an income. To say it has been eye opening would be a gross understatement. What I find truly fascinating though, is not just seeing people do crazy things to support themselves (such as trawl through mud in sewers looking for flecks of gold to melt down, or render 100 kilo bags of rotting beef fat), but the smiles they have while they do it, and the pride they hold in themselves and in having a job. It sure made me think about my job differently. I’d highly recommend watching it if you’re interested in getting some insight to life in Calcutta, and the culture of the people there.DSC_2424

Anyways, enough of the deep and meaningful stuff. Let’s get to the food. Butter chicken = Mmmmmmmm. It would have to be one of my favourite Indian dishes. I love the world of curries but to be honest, I don’t make too many Indian curries. Not because I don’t love them, Indian would be up there as one of my favourite foods. More because I find it hard to replicate the flavours the way that you get in authentic dishes at a restaurant. I also find that Indian curry pastes don’t quite hit the mark for me. As a consequence, I tend to mainly stick to Thai curries as they’re so simple. I’ve since found some good Indian food blogs though so I think I’ll try to make more of it. One exception in my limited repertoire has been this recipe. I discovered it online last year and after giving it a go was pleased with the results. I’ve since tweaked it further and believe it tastes pretty bang on what you’d get at your local Indian restaurant.

I’ve made this for a couple of dinner parties I’ve had over the last month and it was a hit on both occasions. Chucking it all in the slow cooker means minimal effort with fabulous results as always, the chicken will fall apart in the rust coloured sauce. I’ve altered the original recipe for a larger quantity, and also added a healthy dose of spinach because I like to sneak greens in wherever I can. The recipe also has the handy tip of sewing the cardamom pods together to make it easy to pluck them out before serving. This avoids the unpleasant surprise on chomping down on one of the bitter shells. It takes one minute and is worth the effort.

The biggest difference and what I think really makes the dish, is the addition of cream. A generous pour added just before serving is what hits home the butter chicken flavour for me. Smokey yet creamy, with the nudge of cardamom penetrating the layers of gentle spice. A benevolent scattering of almond flakes completes the dish, lending a pleasing crunch to each bite. Try it for yourself and see what you think.

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Butter Chicken adapted from this recipe

Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 kg chicken thighs, cut in halves

1 large onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1.5 tablespoons curry powder

1.5 tablespoons tandoori paste

1 tablespoon garam masala

150 gms tomato paste

18 green cardamom pods (sew together by piercing the tops of the pods with a needle and thread, tie ends together and create a small loop of the pods)

500 mls coconut milk

Pinch salt

150 grams baby spinach leaves

1/2 cup cream

1/3 cup flaked almonds

Heat the butter and vegetable oil in a large frypan over medium heat. Add the chicken, garlic and onion and cook for about ten minutes until the onion is translucent.

Add the curry powder, tandoori paste, garam masala and tomato paste. Stir for a few minutes until no lumps of tomato paste remain.

Transport the chicken mixture to a slow cooker and add the coconut milk and cardamom pods.

Cook on low for about 4-5 hours until the chicken is tender.

Add the baby spinach and stir through until wilted.

Add the cream and stir through. Remove from the heat.

Stir through the flaked almonds before serving. Serve with rice.

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7 Responses to Butter Chicken

  1. Kel says:

    Butter chicken is my favorite Indian dish, it is absolutely brilliant! I’ve cooked it at home a few times, but yes, it is a lot of work to get it just right. I’ve found that the secret is in getting the fresh spices, lightly toasting them, then running them through a spice grinder. This made a huge difference in the flavor of the final product. I am lucky enough to have some spice shops in my area so it isn’t too difficult to find the ingredients I need.

  2. Sonia says:

    Hi there I don’t know why but you are encouraging me to try recipes I have never eaten (yes i have never even had butter chicken at a restaurant as I can never get past a lamb curry) or made before. I think it is the way you describe them. You have such a lovely way with your wording. Butter chicken is now on the weekend menu and I have a nice tandoori paste recipe to make from scratch. Thanks to you. X happy cooking and eating

    • It’s great to try new things (although I can’t believe you’ve never tried butter chicken!) I hope you love it as much as I do. Tandoori paste from scratch, that sounds impressive – you might have to share that one with me… Thanks for your kind words as always, please let me know if your butter chicken is a success! x

  3. Franko says:

    Kel, I’ve had the same success that you speak of with toasting fresh spices and grinding them. It has made my attempts at Indian cooking much more enjoyable! The food tastes so much better this way!

  4. Sonia says:

    Yummy. I made this with my own home made curry powder, garam Marsala and tandoori paste. It was delicimo x I don’t have much success with my slow cooker as beef is always overlooked but 4 hours with chicken was absolutely perfect thanks to you. Recipes for spice mixtures on their way x

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