- The night before make the garam masala. You will need very little garam masala for the butter chicken so freeze the remainder in an airtight plastic container for later use. This way you will have fresh garam masala at hand for a couple of years. You can buy ready to use garam masala in the Indian store but it won’t even come close to the fresh, especially if you are making a mild butter chicken.
- While the spices are roasting, prepare the fresh tomato sauce.
- Remove and discard the tomato skins and chop the tomatoes.
- Place 1/8 cup of butter in a non-stick skillet.
- By adding half a cup of chopped tomatoes at the time, slowly simmer to reduce the 4 cups of tomatoes to 1 cup. Let it cool, wrap and place in the fridge for the next day.
- In the meantime, wash and dry the chicken breasts and cut them into 1-inch cubes.
- Transfer chicken to a medium sized bowl and sprinkle with salt and 1 Tbsp of fresh garam masala.
- Add the lemon juice and the 4 smashed garlic cloves.
- Toss well, to evenly coat the chicken cubes.
- Wrap the bowl and place it in the fridge for the night.
- The following day drain the chicken and discard the juices.
- In a medium sized dutch pot sauté the onions in the ghee or butter until very, very, very soft. Do NOT brown.
- Add the chicken and the freshly grated ginger and ever so slowly cook, turning often, until no pink shows on the meat.
- Add the chilli and the turmeric and give it a stir. You may also give a few sprinkles of cumin and a bit of cayenne pepper, but I omitted these. Instead, I added 2 tsp of Hungarian paprika.
- Give the chicken a good stir with the spices and then add the fresh tomato sauce.
- Bring the mixture to a slow simmer for 10 minutes or until the chicken is tender.
- Add the almond milk and the heavy cream.
- Bring it back to slow simmer and simmer for 5 more minutes. At any time do not let the butter chicken come to a rapid boil.
- Check for salt and adjust if necessary.
- Serve the butter chicken with fresh cilantro leaves, basmati rice and naan bread.
This is not your “authentic” butter chicken. Indian butter chicken as good as it is, needed revision for our family. The so-called mild butter chicken is still too hard for our continental apparatus nearing post middle age. But how to maintain the rich flavours without stomach churning after effects? That was my mission the other day when I took to culinary sacrilege.
Ethnic cuisines require time and fresh ingredients. Ground up spices sold in bottles and tins already lost most of their flavour by the time of purchase. No curry powder or paprika should ever be stored on a shelf. Garam masala looses its potency within a day and is best if freshly roasted or at the very least kept in the freezer in an airtight container. Commercial tomato paste is a harsh ingredient. In contrast, the flavour and the color of freshly reduced tomatoes are beautiful. It really doesn’t take long to reduce a few cups of fresh or frozen tomatoes. The difference however is worth it. Marinating the chicken breast makes it more succulent, flavourful and tender. If you use spices with restraint, you also have to cut the lemon juice in the marinade.
2 boneless chicken breast
1 cup fresh tomato sauce**
1/8 cup ghee or 1/4 cup butter
3 cups diced onions
1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
2 sprinkles of chilli
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
few sprinkles of cumin and cayenne pepper [optional]
2 tsp of Hungarian paprika [optional]
1 cup full fat almond milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp freshly roasted garam masala
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice [up to 2 Tbsp if you heavily spice]
4 smashed garlic cloves
**Fresh Tomato Sauce:
4 cups of chopped fresh or frozen tomatoes
1/8 cup of butter
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