{Baking} BUTTER CHICKEN … add zest to life with curry!

“I’ve been fascinated by Indian cookery since my mum took me for a curry when I was a child. It wasn’t me running away. It was doing something that excited me.”
Gordon Ramsay
There’s some thing homey and comforting in butter chicken, the curry that put India on the global culinary map. A quick Google for Butter Chicken throws up 7,220,000 results in 0.20 seconds! Phew, such is the popularity for this sumptuous curry from India that has won hearts over across the globe. Suman Bolar has delved deep into the origins of the dish … As a post-partition dish, butter chicken is a relative newcomer to the Indian culinary repertoire, and owes its existence to a man named Kundan Lal Gujral. In his book, The Moti Mahal Cookbook: On The Butter Chicken Trail, Monish Gujral, Kundan Lal’s grandson, shares the original butter chicken recipe. You can find the recipe here on Bolar’s blog. I’ve tried it and I have to say it is excellent, but the one I’ve posted today is very good too, and simpler {IMHO}. 
Butter chicken (or murgh makhani) is an Indian dish from Punjab, popular in countries all over the world. The origins of butter chicken can be traced back to Delhi, during the period of Mughal Empire. Butter chicken is usually served with naan, roti, parathas or steamed rice. It is often confused with Chicken tikka masala.
Butter chicken is our most famous dish, and embodies everything Indian. It is vibrant, colourful, robust, rich, comforting … in one word finger-licking good! In a sense, it’s got a bit of something to offer everyone. It’s adaptable as well. The richness can be stretched as you like it, or curtailed to a large extent, as I’ve done in the recipe posted below; it still delivers the punch! Immensely popular in Britain, where in the 1980’s, one would see it offered as the recommended dish on all menus at Asian foodie joints. At that time, one found it often lacked the punch and flavour, and was often just grilled chicken floating in a tomato cream sauce; very bland. That of course has changed now …
This celebrated dish find mention in British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s book Great Escape, a book about his escape to India which he thanks for bringing back his zest for life. His visit here wasn’t free from controversy though, with Christopher Hart’s article in the Daily MailWhat HAS India done to deserve Gordon Ramsay” making for an interesting read. Butter Chicken or Murgh Makhani also finds mention in the book 1,001 Foods to Die For authored by Andrews McMeel; another good indicator of the international appeal the curry holds. The cuisine of India has been largely influenced by the rulers of her past – the Moghuls, the Arabs, the Rajputs and the Afghans, all significantly contributing to India’s rich culinary traditions.

Here’s a recipe I was introduced to by Monica Bhide, the author of Modern Spice. The recipe is adapted from the way her Dad cooked it, posted here. As she mentions there, and I agree, fresh ingredients hold the key to this recipe. With summer here, and a bounty of vine ripened red tomatoes painting the food markets red, this couldn’t be a better time to try it. As Mr PAB commented on eating this dish , “What shall I say? This is the best one ever!“… and this after I trimmed the fatquite a bit!!

Butter Chicken
Adapted from The Everything Indian Cookbook by Monica Bhide
Serves 4–5
For the chicken {Marinade}:
1 cup low fat hung curd / yogurt
1 tablespoon peeled, grated ginger
1 tablespoon peeled, minced garlic
2 tablespoons Indian tandoori masala {I used Shaan brand}
¼ cup tomato puree
Juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons ghee, {or melted butter}
750 gms boneless thigh pieces, cut up into 2″ bits
Salt to taste
For the gravy / sauce:
2 tbsp clarified butter/ghee {or unsalted butter}
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic {I use my microplaner for both ginger and garlic}
5 medium tomatoes {about 250gms}, peeled and finely chopped
1-2 green chilies, slit {deseed to decrease heat}
1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves
1/4 cup low fat cream
Salt to taste
Method for chicken:
In a large bowl, mix together the yogurt, ginger, garlic, Indian tandoori masala, tomato puree, salt, lemon juice, and clarified butter. Add the chicken and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. {I marinated it overnight}.
Preheat the oven to 400Cº. Place the chicken in a single layer in a roasting pan. Pour all remaining marinade over the chicken. Roast 15 minutes, then turn the pieces over and roast for another 15 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the oven, pick out the pieces  and place in a bowl. Reserve the cooked marinade separately.
In a large skillet, heat the clarified butter for the gravy/sauce over medium heat. Add the ginger and the garlic. Sauté for about 30 seconds.
Add the tomatoes and green chilies and cook, stirring constantly. Use the back of your spatula to mash the tomatoes as you go. Continue until the tomatoes are completely mashed and soft. {I simmered this covered for about 20 minutes}
Add the reserved marinade, salt, pepper, fenugreek leaves, and chicken, and mix well. Simmer covered for about 10 minutes. Add the cream and simmer for another minute.
Serve hot with naan, tandoori parathas, lachcha pudina parathas or basmati rice.
Note:
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Eggless Caramel Cream Refrigerator Cakes with Roasted Strawberries … tiny delights!

“So many ideas, so much I want to do, so little time…
But I love the feeling of being inspired…”
Canelle Vanille on Twitter

I love the lines above. Saw them on twitter a few days ago, and they stayed in my mind. I went back to look for them today as a quote that is truly reflective of my feelings too!! Aran expressed it beautifully!
It’s now the end of the strawberry season here and I giggled with glee looking at my stash of strawberries I had lugged from my recent vacation. Sadly now with the mercury rising, they threaten to spoil very soon. If earlier I could safely keep them fresh in the fridge for 4-5 days, now even 2-3 days is cutting it fine. I had to look for ways to use them, preserve them!
I recalled having read about roasted strawberries somewhere, maybe at Canelle et Vanille, but could find only roasted rhubarb. It was back to old friend Mr Google, and I was happy to find a couple of link. Headed straight for Zoes beautiful blog Zoe Bakes (also the celebrated co-author of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a day), a place I knew I’d find something special!
I wasn’t disappointed! I found the most delectable recipe for roasted strawberries in balsamic vinegar, a promise to preserve this passionate berry for treats when the sun beats down madly. In her post (in the comments), Zoe suggests that these can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days, else frozen for longer, and they still retain their shape and taste. Couldn’t get better than this …
By the time I entered the kitchen I had forgotten the measures of ingredients but had the basic idea in mind. Instead of using a lined cookie sheet, I roasted in an oven proof CorningWare dish, which ensured that all the precious juices were saved. The sugar had to be the ever charming vanilla sugar, and the aged balsamic from a precious jar that Asha from Fork Spoon Knife parcelled to me as part of a gift from NYC! (In there also was some delicious coffee which I used in Espresso Double Chocolate Biscotti)  I loved it, the bottle, the packaging, the very idea! I’ve saved it long for something special, and this was IT! Thank you Asha…
To celebrate the gorgeous flavours that literally sang out of the bowl of the roasted strawberries, I just had to make some dessert petit fours! Made these little no bake cheesecakes as an experiment while the strawberries were chilling. They’re a sort of panna cotta but the cream is not cooked. I whipped up the cream with caramel syrup, and then added gelatin to stabilise it and help it set. Worked out fine as the dessert held it’s ground, and was very simple to demold too. Normally, my panna cotta is hardly ever as obliging to leave a mold cleanly, so I was delighted! The caramel added a special deep sweetness. NICE!!

Eggless Caramel Cream Refrigerator Cakes (No Bake)
Serves 4
70gms Homemade Graham Crackers or Digestive Biscuits, crushed
30gms melted unsalted butter
200ml low fat cream, chilled
2tbsps caramel syrup
1/2 tsp gelatin
1/2 quantity Roasted Balsamic Strawberries (recipe follows)
Method:
Mix the crushed biscuit crumbs with melted butter, divide equally between 4 X 3″ dessert rings. Press down firmly to make a base. Chill in freezer for 10 minutes.
Soften gelatin over 1 tbsp of cold water in a small bowl, and place this bowl in a bigger bowl of luke warm water till the gelatin is clear. (If the weather is very warm, you might need to increase the gelatin by a 1/8 tsp)
Beat the cream and caramel to soft-medium peaks. Taste and increase the caramel if you like. I like to keep it mildly sweet.
Next pour in the clear gelatin beating constantly.
Divide the whipped cream mix between the 4 dessert rings, level with an offset spatula, or tap gently to level, and place in freezer, covered, to set for 30-45 minutes.
Now you can bring it back into the fridge and chill until ready to serve.
Demold gently, garnish with some grated chocolate. Top with 2 tbsps of chilled roasted balsamic strawberries, and some strawberry-balsamic reduction. ENJOY!!


Roasted Strawberries in Balsamic Vinegar
Adapted from Zoe Bakes
450-500gms strawberries, quartered
1/2 cup vanilla sugar
1/8 cup aged balsamic vinegar
Method:
Preheat oven to 180C.
Place the strawberries in a glass baking dish.
Sprinkle over the vanilla sugar, followed by the aged balsamic vinegar. Mix gently.
Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes. Allow to cool.
Drain strawberries.Put the liquid into a sauce pan, and reduce to a thick concentrate. It will thicken a bit as it cools. Chill before use.
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GINGER LEMON-GRASS CREME BRULEE …TASTE OF YELLOW

“For me it was always a simple passion”
Lance Armstrong

This is a sunshine post for Barbara of Winos & Foodies. She’s back with her ‘ Taste of Yellow‘ event, and my yolks were screaming yellow at me. In Barbara’s words, “LiveSTRONG With A Taste Of Yellow is my way of supporting the Lance Armstrong Foundation by raising awareness of cancer issues world wide. It is a way for all food and wine bloggers to share their stories. The happy and the sad, the struggles and the triumphs. If you are lucky and have not be touched by cancer you are still welcome to participate.” The Yellow Wristband Project
For champion cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong, yellow is more than just the color of the Tour de France’s leader jersey. It’s a symbol for hope, courage, and perseverance. Today, more than 47.5 million LIVESTRONG wristbands have been sold since they were first made available in May of 2004 to raise funds for the programs of the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF).
I’ve been meaning to make creme brulee or at least creme custard for ages, but my dislike for eggy smells has kept me at bay. No longer though. Now that I finally had this lovely big bag of vanilla beans that Ria managed to source for me from South India, I had to make the custard right away.

The elegant dessert creme brulee has a thick pudding base of cream and eggs topped by a delicate layer of caramelized sugar. In French, “creme brulee” means “burnt cream,” which refers to the process by which sprinkled sugar gets heated to a temperature that caramelizes it to a delicious brown. The traditional method of cooking this type of custard has evolved many flavored variations.

My custard is a fusion of flavours, Thai I think. I had ginger in the fridge, and lots of lemon grass growing in my little patch outside, so I googled for ideas. There I was – A Ginger Lemon-Grass Creme Brulee I found here. None of the flavours in the custard were overpowering or overwhelming. Just simple subtle flavours, combining elegantly to flavour the custard. Simple enough to be enjoyed by the kids too. I did have trouble with the brulee though since I don’t have a blow torch. It took forever for the sugar to caramelise under the hot grill & I was a bit wary of my custard melting. 4 ramekins later, I cheated a little and took a shortcut for the remaining few. I caramelised some sugar to very brown in a pan & quickly poured it on top of the chilled custard. Tilted the ramekins immediately to spread it, kept it thin… Unauthentic, but it got me to some sort of brulee stage alright! Later even tried to spin some sugar with not very good results!
Ginger Lemon-Grass Creme Brulee
Adapted from recipe by Eric Lanlard from Glamour Puds
Ingredients:
400ml single cream
125ml whole milk
6 large eggs
100g of caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
2 stem of lemongrass, chopped
1 stem of fresh ginger
Demerara sugar for sprinkling

Method:

Preheat the oven to 140C.
Put the ginger and lemon grass in a pestle and mortar and bruise well to release flavours.
In a saucepan add the cream, milk, split vanilla pod and the lemongrass and ginger paste then heat slowly until hot but not boiling. Leave to infuse for an hour. (or overnight which is what I did). Reheat to almost boiling just before use.
In a mixing bowl whisk the eggs with the sugar until white and fluffy. Slowly pour the hot cream over the egg mixture mixing continuously.
Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve.
Pour the cream into lightly greased ramekins bake it for approximately 30 minutes until the mixture is wobbly.

Leave to cool down. Cover the ramekins with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours, or even overnight.
Sprinkle about 2 tsps demerara sugar on the top of each and caramelize with a blow torch for 1-2 minutes before serving. Or set the ramekins on a baking sheet and slide it under the broiler. Broil, watching constantly and rotating the pan for even caramelization, until the toppings are bubbling and a rich brown, about 2 or 3 minutes, depending on the intensity of the heat.

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