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Clare’s butter chicken

October 24, 2008

I’ll leave it up to Clare’s words:

So you wana make a curry huh? Well I’m no real expert but I’ve made the odd butter chicken in my time so…

This is meant to be a sweet tomato curry with a wee bit of heat and a lot of flavour to it. It’s been a long term favourite of mine and my flatmates always love it when I cook it; the way it smells is divine and it’s such a gorgeous colour.

Butter Chicken

Basic formula:

-yoghurt/coconut cream

-tomato paste (no other flavours in it)

-sweet chilli sauce (personal preference)



-spices! (see recipe)

-chicken breast

I tend to build my curries from a thick natural yoghurt (such as greek) up, but building from coconut cream (not milk) could also work (if you have tried this please tell me how it went!) Avoid using a sweetened yoghurt however, as it would detract from the natural sweetness we are going to add. For two people I use 150ml of yoghurt then add about half that much of tomato puree/paste. Don’t use the ones with Italian spices in! If you have a can of tomatoes available lob a few of them in too, the more tomatoey goodness the better. I also have a tendency to add a (healthy) squirt of sweet chilli sauce, but that really is my own personal preference as I put sweet chilli sauce on everything. Finely dice a whole onion and throw half of it into the yoghurt base and put the other half into a food processor (if available otherwise don’t stress too much about this step and just hold it in reserve) and blend till smooth, a splash of water may help this step. Finely dice 2 cloves of garlic and add to the yoghurt base. Now comes the fun of playing with the spices! I use; garam masala (a precombined ground spice mixture, our version consists of; pepper, caraway, fennel, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves), ground coriander seed, star anise, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika, and cumin. I also shake in some almond power if I have it available just for the heck of it. Now i know that’s a pretty hefty seeming list but honestly, these spices are totally worth the investment, turmeric can be used to add colour to anything, garam masala potatoes went down a treat, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom are all used in baking gingerbread, etc. I start with probably 4tsp coriander seed and garam masala, 2 of turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg 1 of paprika and cumin and give it a sniff, if you can still smell yoghurt under it add more tomtato paste and a shake more of coriander and garam masala. Throw a skinless chicken breast chopped into bitesize pieces in and stir it like a crazy person. (i am well aware of exactly how unappetising it looks right now, but gimme a chance here :P)

Now to cook your creation! Start with a sizeable knob of butter (we’re talking 15-20gms here) and melt it in a pan till bubbling, then add the onion puree, three shakes of garam masala and a pinch of tumeric. “stir fry” till you can really smell the onion and spices and then tip your yoghurt-tomatoey-chickeny-spicy mixture into the pan and stir all around. You will initially be able to see the butter mixture as distinct from the yoghurt mixture, remedy this! Bring them together! Now is the time to add your star anise. Add an entire star, it imparts incredible sweetness and don’t chicken out like i did when i first smelt how strong it was, it really comes through a lot tamer than you expect. Give everything a good mix up and taste test what you’ve made. If there’s something missing add it, i tend to find a shake or two of garam masala is a good idea at this stage although adding it 5-10 minutes before serving will mean it holds its flavour best and comes through strongest; it weakens a fair bit on cooking. Now place a lid on your curry and leave it on a low heat for roughly 10mins before stirring, taste testing* and replacing the lid. Now is the time to start cooking your rice as the curry is about 20mins from ready. I wish I knew Andre’s rice cooking secrets but I don’t so you’ll just have to make it up to packet directions, however throwing in 1/2tbsp of salt per full cup of rice works very well. Return to curry after another 10mins and repeat taste test*. Now is the time to add a healthy final shake of garam masala if it seems required. If you prefer a thicker curry I would strongly recommend leaving the lid off for the final 10mins, which should see the rice ready and the curry should have your mouth watering. A portion of rice each and the curry either served on top of or to the side. Na’an is the obvious accompaniment to this meal…however I have no recipe for na’an…except calling your local Indian take away and ordering some sooooo…prolly your best bet is to do that! (try the garlic na’an its awesome stuff)

* Curry isn’t sweet enough = add a shake of nutmeg, a pinch of cinnamon and some coriander seed. Also remember that the star anise will just develop more sweetness as it cooks

Curry tastes too bland = add more of everything esp. garam masala and turmeric

Curry has achieved a “powdery appearance” = add a splash of water

Curry looks too runny = leave lid off for next 10mins

Curry is too hot/spicy for you = man up; there’s no such thing

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