Butter chicken: The original finger-licking good!

Few things can spell Indian food better to the world than “Butter Chicken”. True, that this is a quintessential Punjabi dish today, but its various interpretations have left people all over the world licking their chops first and their fingers later.

Mind you, India has a whole gamut of food, cooking styles, cuisines and culinary identities. So if someone tells you some food item is “authentic Indian”, it is quite likely that he or she is speaking from his knowledge of authenticity. And even likelier that he or she has seen that specific food item may have been made in exactly that particular style all his or her life.

Therefore, calling this butter chicken with parotta:

…the most authentic would be a travesty to butter chicken dishes all over the world! This is just another small culinary journey Pooja and Arkadev – that’s us – took to bring some more spice into life, both literally and figuratively. It was our interpretation of the dish.

So why share it with the world? Tell me honestly, wouldn’t you like something like this to brighten your day or week? Why not make it for your special one? Or if you are single, why not make this when you invite someone over? Not feeling like inviting someone over? Make this nevertheless, and share it with your friends in the virtual world, much like how we are doing!

Pooja had been planning this for the visit of two of our friends, but she decided to make this over the weekend. The marinade masala – whose recipe can be unearthed via a simple Google search – was store-bought and in powder form. So, Pooja started by using half the powder to marinate the chicken for half an hour. A dash of lemon juice and some curd also went into it.

Meanwhile, the other half of the powder was mixed evenly in some warm water, and put aside. This would be used to make the gravy.

After the chicken has marinated well, Pooja begins the actual cooking. The oil begins to boil.

Then in goes the chicken, and some frying ensues. Kindly note that I had already began salivating from this point. The wafting aroma was so delicious, it could have just converted some vegans for life!

Now, before you vegans get your pitchforks out, please take a look at Jain cuisine. That’s Indian too, and really nice!

Meanwhile, with the chicken somewhat fried – basically, not entirely raw – Pooja poured in the masala mix that had been set aside. This would make for some good, spicy gravy.

After the gravy dried a bit, in went some freshly boiled milk. The ideal ingredient here would have been some fresh cream – even the low-fat variety. But we were just too wary of the real heart-stopping ingredient – again, both literally and figuratively – that was to come later.

As the gravy thickened, in went four big dollops of butter. And I will be honest here: It took me so much self-restraint to not just dive in for a taste that had I been an ascetic, that self-restraint would have been a giant leap towards moksha.

After the butter melted and melded in, mixed with the gravy and the chicken, the pan was left covered on low heat to cook.

The final product, after 10-odd minutes, should look something like this.

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Coriander Chicken, with friends at home

Nothing can be experienced to the fullest unless you have friends and loved ones to experience it with. That’s why when our friends Sreya and Sandipan drop in from time to time, often surprising us, the Cheshire-Cat smile makes its appearance on Pooja’s face, and the drinking and eating lasts well into the next day.

And every time this beautiful couple comes a-visiting, they bring with them something or the other that’s uniquely their own, and regale us with it. This Saturday, Sreya brought with her a recipe whose end-product made us nostalgic for quintessential roadside dhabas and their lip-smacking cuisine. And this one, too, has no turmeric, much like the wine chicken Pooja had cooked earlier! Pretty unusual for Indian food, right? Here’s what it ultimately looked like.

As for the the taste, it was a little piece of heaven, with tastes of the earth and the most welcoming hearth combined! The spices were strong, the chicken was succulent, and the evening was coloured savoury by the cooking and the company.

Got your creative culinary juices flowing? Here’s how we did it. First, the ingredients:

  • Chicken: 500 g
  • Onion: Paste of 200 g
  • Tomato: Paste of 100-150 g
  • Green chilli: 3
  • Ginger-garlic paste: 100 g
  • Coriander: 100 g
  • Coriander powder: 15-20 g
  • Bay-leaf: 1
  • Curd: 250-300 ml (can be more)
  • Dried chilli powder (optional): 15-30 g
  • Cashew (optional): 100 g
  • Lemon juice: 15-20 ml (can be more)
  • Cinnamon stick: 1 piece
  • Garlic pods: 4
  • Cooking oil: 50 ml
  • Ghee (clarified butter): 50 ml
  • Sugar: As per taste
  • Salt: As per taste

The recipe:

Pooja starts by cleaning the chicken with hot water, thereby killing off a lot of micro-organisms that would have otherwise made our bodies their home.

Then, in goes the curd, cold and creamy, but not too fatty.

Add to that the lemon juice, coriander powder, chilli powder, ginger-garlic paste and salt.

Mix the entire thing up, and let the chicken soak in the marinade.

Now for another bit to the marinade. Take the fresh coriander leaves and the garlic pods, …

… put them in the mixer, and pour most of the resulting paste into the marinating chicken. Keep a little of the paste aside. You will need it later.

Mix that thing well, and marinate the chicken for at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare to cook. Set your oven to medium heat, put on the pan, heat the oil and the ghee, and put in the bay-leaf and the cinnamon stick, all broken up.

By now, we hope you have made your onion paste…

…and tomato paste.

Now that the oil is starting to release the spices flavour, pour in the onion paste and keep stirring. Don’t let the paste stick to the bottom.

Then, just when the onion starts becoming a beautiful golden-yellow, put in the tomato paste and commence more stirring.

Then, when the entire thing has achieved a homogeneous colour, put in the rest of the coriander paste and stir some more till the mixture achieves a beautiful greenish tinge.

Now, pour in the marinated chicken. Let more stirring commence.

The stirring should be continuous for the chicken to cook well, and the spices to work its magic.

After some time, when the chicken is cooked well — a fact easily verified by testing its softness: just poke it with a knife and you will know — and the gravy is starting to congeal, pour in some water. Let the water mix with the gravy, so you have a good curry with the chicken.

And voila! The coriander chicken is ready. Thank you, Sreya!

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