butter chicken

“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!

[print_this]Recipe: Butter Chicken {pan fried version} your picture

Summary: A flavoursome home style butter chicken bursting with the goodness of fresh tomatoes. A recipe in which the marinated chicken pan fried as against traditionally grilled. Recipe from The Chakle India Cookbook by Aditya Bal


  • 500gm boneless chicken {cut into tikka sized pieces}
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Few drops refined oil
  • 50g butter
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • The Marinade
  • 3 tsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 1/2 onion, pureed
  • 4tbsp whisked curd
  • 1tsp coriander powder
  • 1tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1tsp hot red chili powder
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Rich Tomato Gravy
  • 7-8 ripe tomatoes, blanched, peeled, puréed
  • Few drops of refined oil
  • 50g butter
  • 1/2″ piece ginger chopped fine
  • 2 green chilies, chopped fine
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1tsp hot red chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1sp coriander powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes
  • 4-5 tsp full cream {I used low fat 2 tsp}
  • Garnish
  • 2-3tsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
  • Knob of butter


  1. The Marinade
  2. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Put the chicken into a large glass or plastic bowl. Add the marinade and mix it well into the chicken with your hands. Cover and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for a couple of hours
  3. While the chicken is marinating, prepare the rich tomato gravy.
  4. Rich Tomato Gravy
  5. Heat a medium size sauté pan and add the oil and butter. Keep the pan on medium heat till the butter is foaming. The oil prevents the butter from burning as it as a much higher smoking point.
  6. Once the foam subsides somewhat, add the chopped ginger and green chilies and sauté for a couple of minutes on medium heat.
  7. Add the spice powders and sauté, till they are aromatic and richly coloured.
  8. Now add the fresh tomato purée and stir to mix with the spices.
  9. Simmer on low heat, till the tomato gravy is thick and has a rich and deep red colour and the oil rises to the top.
  10. Season well with salt and add the sugar. Stir through and simmer for a few minutes longer. Turn of the heat and set the gravy aside to mature.
  11. To cook the chicken
  12. Remove the marinated chicken from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature. season with salt and mix well.
  13. Heat a heavy non stick frying pan and add a few drops of refined oil and the butter
  14. Once the butter is hot, add a few chicken pieces at a time and sear them on high heat, till the develop a rich caramelized crust and are slightly charred around the edges. remove to a plate and repeat with the remaining pieces.
  15. Now, return all the seared pieces to pan and fry them all together. ass the sugar, lime juice and any remaining marinate. continue to fry the chicken, till it is almost fully cooked and turns a lovely, charred, golden brown.
  16. Add the thick spicy tomato gravy to the chicken and de-glaze the pan to lift up those intense pan deposits.
  17. Cook on medium heat, stirring well to make sure the chicken is fully submerged and coated in the delicious gravy
  18. Simmer uncovered to reduce the gravy
  19. Turn the heat down to a simmer and add the thick cream. stir through to combine and cook for about five minutes to blend well
  20. Check for a balance of flavours: the gravy should be rich and buttery, bursting with the spices and concentrated tomatoes; the chicken, perfectly tender and packed with the rich flavours of the creamy tomato gravy.
  21.  Add a knob of butter and enjoy this home-style butter chicken with naan or tandoori roti.

Recipe: Chola Masala {Spicy Chickpeas}
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Summary: A real Punjabi classic which is eaten all over North India and is cooked with endless variation. This is a snack which can double up as a meal too. {I used just chickpeas but the recipe has gram too} Recipe from The Chakle India Cookbook by Aditya Bal


  • 1 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight
  • 1 cup whole Bengal gram or kala chana, soaked overnight {I didn’t use these so I increased the chickpeas}
  • Curry Base
  • 2 tsp refined oil {I used Leonardo olive oil from here}
  • 1″ cassia stick
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • 4-5 cloves
  • 1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 4 green cardamoms
  • 2 brown cardamoms
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 onions chopped fine
  • 1/2″ ginger, chopped fine
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 1tsp coriander powder
  • A pinch of asafoetida powder / hing {I used a big pinch}
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped fine
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp butter {I used olive oil again}
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2-4 tsp chopped fresh coriander leaves


  1. Drain the soaked chickpeas and gram for any toxins, wash well and parboil in a pressure cooker with 3 cups water for 25-30 minutes {I use a pinch of baking soda too}. The chickpeas should hold shape but be soft enough to be mashed with a fork or between fingers.
  2. Transfer them to a bowl and mash them lightly with a fork, keeping half of them whole. {I tend to do this when I add the chickpeas to the curry. I also reserve any remaining liquid and use it to this the curry later}
  3. The Curry
  4. Heat the oil in a wok/kadhai and add the whole spices and bay leaf. Saute on medium heat till they crackle and release their aroma.
  5. When the whole spices are nutty and richly coloured, add the onions and  sauté for a few minutes, till they turn light golden brown.
  6. Stir in the ginger and garlic and  sauté till they are softened and lightly coloured.
  7. Sprinkle in the spice powders, salt and  sauté for a couple of minutes till they are aromatic and toasted. Add a few drops of water to deglaze the pan and lift up the spices stuck to the pan. Bhuno {roast} the masala 3-4 times with water, till the base is homogeneous and oil rises to the surface.
  8. Mix in the cooked chickpeas {and gram if using} and fry them in the masala base till they are well coated.
  9. Add the tomatoes and continue to fry on high heat till they begin to disintegrate. Sprinkle in the sugar and mix well to combine.
  10. Pour in enough water {I used the reserved liquid here} to come 1″ above the contents of the pan. Stir to combine, bring to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer gently for about an hour or more. {I have to confess I just popped everything back into the cooker and gave it a whistle within!}
  11. Cook until the starch glutenizes with the liquid, so they are soft and creamy in texture and the gravy thickens. Taste and adjust salt if required.
  12. Now add the butter and lime juice to lift the flavours, then sprinkle the coriander leaves and stir well.
  13. Check for balance of flavours: The cholas should be extremely soft and creamy but with a little bite to them ad should have the robust taste of whole spices. The dish should be thick and concentrated in flavour.
  14. Serve with hot roi, puri or bhatura and a salad.


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” 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!

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