A sweet twist on butter chicken



    Sep 05, 2016

    A sweet twist on butter chicken

    IT IS debatable who created butter chicken but there is no dispute the dish originated from Punjab.

    Author John Ayto writes in The Diner's Dictionary: Word Origins Of Food And Drink that butter chicken is a dish of tandoori chicken served in a sauce made with spices, tomato puree and butter.

    But Monish Gujral, who wrote The Moti Mahal Cookbook, claims that his grandfather Kundan Lal Gujral invented the dish at his famous Moti Mahal restaurant in Delhi in 1947.

    Going by Mr Gujral's account, butter chicken was invented as a means to repurpose tandoori chicken that has dried out from being hung by the sides of the tandoor, an oven fashioned out of a hole in the ground with its insides covered with clay.

    The version I am sharing is adapted from two recipes - from Mr Gujral and from chef Sanjeev Kapoor, who published his take in How To Cook Indian: More Than 500 Classic Recipes For The Modern Kitchen.

    I use lime juice instead of lemon as I like its stronger citrus scent.

    Mr Gujral's recipe calls for the tomato-based gravy to be strained while Mr Kapoor strains the tomato mixture before and after using a food processor.

    I skipped all of that. Instead, I used a handheld food processor to blend the tomato mixture into a smooth gravy.

    Mr Kapoor uses honey in his recipe and purists may flip but I find the sweetness balances out the sourness of the lime and tomatoes.




    600g boneless chicken quarters with skin removed

    30g butter

    6 ripe tomatoes sliced

    into chunks

    1 tsp kasoori methi

    (dried fenugreek leaves)

    3 cardamom pods

    3 cloves

    1 cinnamon stick

    1 tsp chilli powder

    1 tsp garam masala

    1 chopped onion

    4 garlic cloves

    pounded into a paste

    15g ginger pounded

    into a paste

    100ml thickened cream

    1½ tsp salt

    1 tbsp honey


    1½ tbsp freshly squeezed

    lime juice

    ¾ tsp salt

    1½ tsp chilli powder


    1 flat tsp garam masala

    ½ tsp ground turmeric

    1 tsp ground chilli powder

    4 garlic cloves

    pounded into a paste

    15g ginger pounded

    into a paste

    200g Greek yogurt


    Place the chicken and pre-marinade of lime juice, salt and chilli powder in a deep dish. Mix thoroughly and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

    Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl and

    add them to the chicken.

    Mix well to ensure the

    meat is fully coated. Allow

    to marinate for 3-4 hours.

    Preheat oven to 180 deg C.

    Place the chicken on wire rack and grill for 10 minutes.

    Turn over and grill for another five minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

    In a clean pan, dry-fry

    the kasoori methi until fragrant, then set aside.

    Heat the butter in a deep-frying pan.

    Add the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and cloves.

    Add the onion, garlic paste and ginger paste.

    Fry until the onion is softened. Stir in the chilli powder and garam masala.

    Add the tomatoes and kasoori methi.

    Once the tomatoes are cooked until pulpy, use a

    food processor to blend

    into a smooth gravy.

    Add in the thickened cream and season with salt.

    Stir in the honey.