We are if you are unaware in a celebratory culinary alignment of epic proportions it is National Curry Week, Seafood Week, Chocolate Week and National Porridge Day. “Go on”, I hear you cry, “You’ve had all year have you come up with a recipe combining all of these?”
Well no. We had porridge for breakfast, big bowls made with creamy Jersey milk and I can hear all you spurtle welders screaming, yes made with milk.* Chocolate, I have two daughters so I could use Willy Wonka’s chocolate fountain, seafood I will save for the weekend so supper this rather chilly, wet evening was a suitable curry, one of my favourite curries, in fact, Murgh Makhani or Butter Chicken. This week I have soaked lentils, pounded garlic, ginger and cinnamon sticks, roasted coriander, mustard, and fennel seeds and even opened a jar of the now infamous, homemade chilli and lime pickle. I love cooking curries and balancing the complex flavours of the spices.
*The spurtle is used to stir proper porridge made with rolled oats, salt, and water only. I worked for a two times winner of the Golden Spurtle but that as they say is another story.
Murgh Makhani does not have a pedigree stretching into the dawn of history, it is believed to have been created in Peshawar and after the British partition, the chef moved to a New Delhi restaurant. A customer wanted a meal late in the evening and marinated chicken, ready for the Tandoor oven, was tossed with tomatoes, butter and spices and the Murgh Makhani ( butter chicken ) was born. While Murgh Makhani looks similar to a Chicken Tikka Masala, it is more flavoursome with more depth of spicing in the rich tomato-based sauce. The Tikka Masala is Britain’s most popular curry and is believed to have been made originally with Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup and to have originated in the hallowed curry houses of either Birmingham or Glasgow.
The chicken, either on or off the bone, is marinated in yoghurt and spices but the secret of a true Murgh Makhani is Qasuri Methi or dried fenugreek leaves. The chicken is best cooked in an extremely hot oven, a Tandoor ( if you have one ) or over coals or on a char grill to add an authentic smoky flavour before finishing in the sauce and serving. So, you can fire up the BBQ. Garnish with green chillies, sliced hard boiled eggs, coriander leaves, raisins and toasted almonds.
Murgh Makhani ( Spiced – Butter Chicken ) serves 4 – 6
For marinated chicken
1.5 kg of Chicken pieces, skin removed or 1 kg chunky diced Chicken
Juice of 2 Limes
150 gr fresh natural Yoghurt
1 medium-sized Red Chilli, very finely chopped
2 tablespoons Coriander Seeds
2 tablespoons Fennel Seeds
1 tablespoon Cumin Seeds
1 tablespoon Fenugreek Seeds
8 White Peppercorns
¼ Stick of Cinnamon
8 Cardamom Pods, crushed and seeds removed
½ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
For butter sauce
75 gr Butter in small pieces
3 tablespoons Clarified Butter or Ghee
2 medium Onions, peeled and finely chopped
8 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed
3 centimetre piece of Ginger, peeled and crushed to paste
4 tablespoons Tomato Puree
8 fresh Tomatoes, de-seeded and roughly chopped
200 ml Pouring Cream
2 tablespoons Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
¼ teaspoon Turmeric Powder
Juice of 1 fresh Lemon
Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
Fresh Coriander leaves to garnish
Toast the spices, excluding the chilli, cardamom and cayenne pepper by heating them in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed frying pan, stirring occasionally, until they colour slightly. Place in a small food processor or coffee grinder with the cayenne and cardamom seeds and reduce to a powder. Mix half of your spice mix with the chilli, lime juice, and yogurt and in a large glass or ceramic bowl stir in the chicken. Cover, refrigerate and allow to marinate for at least two hours. Larger chicken pieces benefit from marinating an extra couple of hours.
Preheat your oven to 425 F / 220 C / Gas mark 7. Drain off any excess yogurt mix from the chicken and set aside. Place the marinated chicken pieces on an oiled baking tray and cook for fifteen minutes for diced chicken or twenty-five minutes for the large chicken pieces. The chicken can brown well, almost char in the oven as this improves the flavour of the finished dish. At the same time as the chicken is cooking heat the clarified butter and a little more oil in a large casserole, add the onions. Sauté the onions for 15 minutes until golden brown in and then add the ginger, garlic, remaining spice mix and the turmeric. Cook for two more minutes, stirring to prevent sticking and burning.
Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, kasuri methi, cream and any remaining yogurt marinade to the pan and mix together. Place in the chicken and simmer for ten to fifteen more minutes till the chicken is tender and the sauce has reduced and thickened. Do not boil as the sauce will split. Finish the sauce by correcting the seasoning and immediately before serving stir in the lemon juice and butter pieces. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with Naan bread and rice.
What to Drink? While spiced Butter chicken is not chilli hot pairs well with dryish, German-style Riesling wines or slightly sweeter, fruity Sauvignon Blanc. The delicate balance of malt and hops of a classic English ale such as Fullers London Pride will gently cut through flavour of this rich dish.
Allergens in this recipe are;