Cooking | Butter Chicken & Punjabi Chole … The Chakle India Cookbook {a book review}

“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.”
John Ruskin

Butter Chicken {Pan fried version}It’s a delicious book on Indian cooking. An almost impish face smiles back at you from the cover, the earnest cook, with a twinkle in his eyes. It’s Aditya Bal the Indian model turned chef stirring up some magic. ‘The Chakhle India‘ Cookbook is based on the most popular food show Indian TV. From the book I offer a quintessential Indian curry – Butter Chicken {Pan fried version}, and a chickpea dish – Punjabi Chole.The Chakle India CookbookI looked at the book with initial skepticism as I don’t follow too many TV cookery shows. Took it along when I went to pick up the older teen from detention! {Yes that happens too as she didn’t submit a project in time. She had completed it but forgot to submit it!}! I love the lessons school can teach that we can’t! Butter Chicken {Pan fried version} from The Chakle India CookbookGot there 30 minutes early armed with the book; it was the most fruitful 30 minutes I’ve spent of late. It was an instant connect! He seemed warm, real, ‘talked’ to with you, a peoples person, had a wonderful rapport and was entertaining. Explains why he runs the most popular food show!Butter Chicken {Pan fried version} from The Chakle India CookbookFood is good when it is real, when stories are woven around it, when you know where they are coming from and what influences the style … a face behind the name makes it even better! Not so long ago we met Shamita, Ms India Universe, at the Four Seasons Wine Tasting event and marveled at how grounded she was. More recently we got ‘up close and personal‘ with one of India’s top chefs Saby at the Olive Bar & Kitchenanother fabulous person!Butter Chicken {Pan fried version} from The Chakle India Cookbook Haven’t met Aditya but already feel like I know him a li’l bit. He talks fondly of growing up in Kashmir {I love Kashmir and it is on my list of places to revisit but with the hub}. I have beautiful memories of Srinagar which we visited as kids; Aditya stirred those up beautifully.Butter Chicken {Pan fried version} from The Chakle India CookbookThe author lived an idyllic life in Srinagar, the culinary side reflected by Wazwan, potlucks, Sunday roasts reminiscent of his maternal grandmothers cooking; then had an unfortunate displacement from the state he loved due to civil unrest. He modeled for a few years and eventually found his calling in food. The book is packed with recipes from different corners of India, reflected in the title Chakle India {literally translates into Taste India}…Butter Chicken {Pan fried version} from The Chakle India CookbookI love the simple explanations, the ‘deglazing’ of the pan now and then, asking you to check the balance of flavours, taking in the magic of Indian spices. Other “foodies” like Chantal Royer do a great job at analyzing some of the traditional Indian spices from her travels.  For all you meat lovers there, there is plenty of ‘meaty goodness’ that he tempts you to try. I made butter chicken from his book when I got home.
Butter Chicken {Pan fried version} from The Chakle India CookbookWhy Butter Chicken? Because it is one of India’s most popular dishes, the kids love it, I haven’t made a ‘butter’ laden butter chicken in ages, it was the weekend, there was no electricity and the recipe was a pan fried version, it uses fresh tomatoes which are in abundance … more simply, because I wanted to!Butter Chicken {Pan fried version} from The Chakle India CookbookIt’s a good, homey, comforting recipe … a nice balance of flavours, not like the original butter chicken as that uses oven baked tandoori chicken, but finger licking good nevertheless. The son asked for it 2 days in a row! I make a low fat version often, yet to be blogged, but for now this version is for you!Chola Masala from The Chakle India CookbookThere are plenty of vegetarian recipes too. I reached for the book a second time as I had chickpeas soaking for a salad for the dieting diva. Made the Punjabi Cholas and they were fabulous! Loved the astoefitida {hing} in them, and also loved that it didn’t use commercial chana masala. I served them with boiled rice but they would taste great with flatbread too, or just as a snack.Chola Masala from The Chakle India CookbookNice to see a book with seemingly more emphasis on the meaty dishes, yet one that offers a liberal dose of vegetarian main course and snacks. The dessert section is SWEET! I have my eye on a mango kheer which I find rather intriguing and haven’t heard of before! Chola Masala from The Chakle India CookbookPick up the book and you’ll find it easy to cook from it. The ingredients are simple pantry staples and the methods aren’t cumbersome. Some recipes do appear long with many ingredients and instructions … a little complicated but really aren’t. The only downside, if ever so slightly there is one, is the pictures. I like my food photographs to show the dish from a short distance to get a better idea of the dish. Most frames are shot really close up, though there are plenty of them. Chola Masala from The Chakle India CookbookThe book is a delicious take on homey, comforting and make-able Indian cuisine, food from the heart, flavours that speak for themselves and the energy to make you want to cook! It’s a good addition to my ever growing collection of cookbooks.

Thank you for Anushree for sending me a copy to review. I really enjoyed the book!

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Baking | The original butter chicken … make yours at home

” If there is one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India.”
Romain Rolland
Today is India’s 61st Independence Day… & I decided to post something Indian today. In fact, India’s most popular gastronomic export to the Western world, which is Butter Chicken or Murgh Makhani.
Quoting from a snippet in a tabloid debating butter chicken vs chicken tikka masala…”Many years ago, a man named Robin Cook, not the novelist, but the late Labour Party leader & Britain’s Foreign Secretary, had stirred an international gastronomic debate by calling Chicken Tikka Masala his country’s national dish. People who contested his claim, should have saved their breath, for CTM indeed is a British creation. What they did was dunk chicken tikka that didn’t sell during the day, Campbell’s tomato soup, fresh cream & lots of red chillies into the frying pan, & they called the result CTM. It must have come as a blessing to a generation that must have grown tired of the blazing vindaloo.” But this was far from butter chicken…
This appeared in the newspaper in July 2008, in an article from the man who gave Delhi the most memorable Butter Chicken ever…& has been doing so for years – Monish Gujral of Moti Mahal. The article has interesting trivia about the original murgh makhani, or butter chicken, which originated in a dhaba (roadside eatery) near Peshawar in the 1920’s. Like everything pertaining to Indian cuisine, there are no records to prove any claim – & was imported into post-partition Delhi by a refugee named Kundan Lal Gujral, or so says his grandson, Monish Gujral. He remembers the founder of Moti Mahal telling him that the dish originated to end the problem of excess chicken tikka, which if left overnight, gets hard & fibrous. This kind man shared his best kept secret of one of India’s most famous exports to the Western world in his book, Moti Mahal’s Tandoori Trail….& in a moment of weakness, shared that you need to keep certain points in mind to get best results.
In brief, the chicken should be a broiler, weighing no more than 600-700 gms. This recipe is made ‘best with bones’, & you can’t make butter chicken with anything other than tandoori chicken. Also, the butter chicken tastes best when gravy tomatoes (bright red ones) are used, as compared to ready made tomato puree from the market. To balance the sourness of the tomatoes, use a bit of sugar, & to get the right consistency, add cashew paste. I can say it works, & works brilliantly. I’ve made this thrice (on the bone, boneless breast & boneless drumsticks) & it’s very, very nice indeed. The sauce is brilliantly flavoured & quite mild despite the garam masala, red & green chilies.
I had an old aunt, my mother’s elder sister, visiting on her way out to Canada. Feisty old lady, at 80+ speaks her mind & has brought up 2 sons & a daughter. One son is a Professor of Genetics at Pittsburgh University, & the other is a Geologist in Canada. Sadly, she lost her daughter, quite young, to Multiple Sclerosis last year.

I played host to her while she was transiting to catch her flight last month, as my Mom was out of town. My aunt babysat me often when I was very young, & the few food memories I have of when I was a child, all relate to her…right to the aromas of the dal she fed me, to the crisp onions on top. My mother is horrified that I remember nothing of the good stuff she slaved to make & present on the table….shudder…I just hope that doesn’t happen to me!!

Anyway, I asked my aunt if there was something special she would like to eat, or else I would figure out what would be nice. Pronto came the reply…a request for Butter Chicken! She said she always remembers a very nice butter chicken I made for her almost 5 years ago, & that’s just what she’d love to have. Obviously, our food memories were mutually complimentary…so I set to make this recipe. My recommendation…on the bone is the best!

…like from the horses mouth!
Chicken – 600-700 gms (on the bone)
For the first marinade:
Lime Juice of 1 lime
Red chili powder – 1 tbsp
Salt to taste
For the second marinade:
Yogurt – ½ cup / thick
Garlic paste – 1 tbsp
Ginger – 1 tbsps
Rock salt – 1 tsp
Garam Masala – 1 tsp
Kasoori methi – ½ tsp (these are a variety of dried fenugreek leaves often used in Indian cooking)
Oil – 1 tbsp
  • Make 2 deep incisions each in both breast pieces &s drumsticks. Mix all ingredients on the first marinade & rub well into chicken pieces. Keep aside for an hour.
  • For the second marinade, mix all ingredients well & rub into chicken pieces till they are well coated. Leave in the fridge for at least 3 hours. I usually leave this overnight.
  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
  • Place the chicken on the grill rack, with a tray underneath to collect the drippings. Grill for 8-10 minutes, brush with oil, turn the pieces, & grill for another 4-5 minutes until the chicken is tender. Keep aside.

For the makhani sauce
Ripe, red tomatoes – 800gms / chopped
Oil – 2 tbsp
Onion – 1 / chopped
Red Chili powder – 1 tsp
Garam masala _ 1 tsp
Cumin/Zeera powder – 1tsp
Ginger-garlic paste – 1 tbsp
Cashew paste – 2 tbsp (I ran a handful in my dry grinder in short bursts)
Bay leaf – 1
Green chili – 1-2 / finely chopped
Butter – 50 gms
Single Cream – 50 ml (original has 100 gm double cream)
Kasoori methi – 1 tsp
Green chilies, fresh coriander, cream for garnishing. Method:

  • Heat the oil in a pan, add onion & sauté for a few seconds. Put in chopped tomatoes, bay leaf & salt & simmer, stirring occasionally, until the oil leaves the sides. Cool slightly & strain the sauce. (Do this the previous day to save time).
  • Pour the sauce back into a pan over low heat. Add all the spices, followed by the tandoori chicken. Stir well & simmer for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the butter & stir in till it melts. Finally stir in the cream & take off heat.
  • Garnish with fresh coriander leaves, cream & green chilies, as desired.
  • Serve hot with crisp garlic naan, & a salad of onion rings tossed in lime juice & salt.

Enjoy a finger-licking good chicken gravy…the original butter chicken!