Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Recipe: Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken)

Not until we see the richness of the Hindu mind and its essential spirituality can we understand India. – Lyn Yutang

Butter chicken was not a traditional homemade meal, but the invention of a restauranteur.
It’s odd that a recipe called “butter” chicken doesn't necessarily have butter in it, don’t you think? I can only assume that the “butter” comes from the velvety smoothness and richness of the sauce.

Moti Mahal is now a chain of restaurants. This is one.
Photo: toyohara, Flickr ccl
Butter chicken, or Murgh Makhani, is an Indian dish that is popular all over the world. The dish, created in the late first half of the 1900s, can be traced back to a restaurant in the Indian capital of Delhi. 

As stated in a documentary on the Discovery Channel, butter chicken originated in a famous restaurant named Moti Mahal Delux in central Delhi, India. The restaurant is now a chain.

The owner, Kundan Lal Gujral, is famous for inventing tandoori chicken as well as other Indian dishes, including butter chicken and dal makhani. "Makhani" is a Hindustani word meaning "with butter."

Apparently, the restaurant recycled the leftover juices from their Tandoori chicken as a base for a marinade and added butter and tomato to the mix. (There's the butter!)

Butter chicken uses either cubed or bone-in chicken and can have varying spices which often include cumin, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, pepper and fenugreek. It nearly always has yoghurt, cream and tomato paste. 

There are as many versions of butter chicken as there are cooks. I hope you like mine. It is quite tasty and as far as making Indian food "from scratch" was a breeze!

Murgh Makhani
Prep: 10 min  |  Cook: 40 min  |  Serves 4
This is the sauce just after all is combined in the pot.
8 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in
1 medium onion
1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp cayenne
2 tsp cumin seed
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/2 cup coffee cream
1 cup whole fat plain yoghurt
1/2 cup tomato purée (1 small can)
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper

1 cup basmati rice
2 cups water

Place the chicken thighs in a large low saucepan. Season with salt and pepper and fry both sides until golden but not completely cooked, about 10-15. This will depend on the size of your chicken thighs.

Simmer the chicken while you make the rice. The colour changes
as the dish simmers. Compare this with the top photo.
Remove the thighs to a plate and drain off all but 1 tbsp of the collected chicken fat.

Peel and halve the onions. Then take each half and cut from top to bottom to make long slices. Add the onions and chopped ginger to the pan and cook until just beginning to soften.

Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes. Then add the cayenne, cumin, bay leaf, cinnamon and cardamon and cook for 1 more minute.

Stir in the coffee cream and then the yogurt. Mix well. Then add in the tomato purée and lemon juice. Mix well and bring to a simmer. Nestle the chicken pieces into the sauce, cover and let cook while you make the basmati rice. The rice will take about 25 minutes.

Bring the salt and water to a boil. Add the basmati, stir and cover. Reduce heat to simmer and let cook for 15 minutes (17 minutes for brown basmati). After the water has been absorbed, remove from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes.

Serve the chicken and sauce beside the rice.


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