Recipes | Vivek Singh's butter chicken


Vivek Singh's butter chicken

In the run-up to National Curry Week TV chef Vivek Singh shares his favourite recipe for Old Delhi-style butter chicken from his enticing new book Spice at Home.

"Butter chicken has to be India’s favourite dish when eating out. I must have asked hundreds of people to name the one dish they always order when they go out and Butter Chicken has featured in every response! As for me personally, this is the best dish ever – it has sugar and spice, kick and texture, creamy unctiousness and bite, all at the same time."

Old Delhi-style Butter Chicken

Serves 4

2 x 750g free-range young chickens (poussin), skinned and cut in half along the backbone (alternatively, use 800g boned chicken thighs, cut into two)

For the marinade

80g full-fat Greek yoghurt

1 tablespoon Ginger and Garlic Paste (see below)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1½ teaspoons salt

juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon red chilli powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon garam masala

For the sauce

1kg tomatoes, halved

5cm piece of ginger, half crushed and half finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, peeled

4 green cardamom pods

5 cloves

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon red chilli powder

80g butter, diced

2 green chillies, slit lengthways

75ml single cream

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves, crushed between your fingertips

½ teaspoon garam masala

1 tablespoon sugar

First, prepare the chicken. Make small cuts all over the chicken pieces with a sharp knife to help the marinade penetrate. To prepare the marinade, mix all the ingredients together in a deep ovenproof dish. Smear the cut chicken with the marinade, cover and set aside in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 220ºC/Gas Mark 7.

Cook the chicken in the preheated oven for 13–15 minutes. You may need to turn the pieces after 8–10 minutes or so to ensure they colour evenly on both sides. The chicken does not need to be completely cooked at this point as it will continue to cook in the sauce. Cut the chicken halves into smaller pieces. Strain off the juices through a fine sieve and set aside.

For the sauce, place the tomatoes in a pan with 125ml water, the crushed ginger, garlic, cardamom, cloves and bay leaf and simmer for about 10 minutes over medium heat until the tomatoes have completely disintegrated. Pick out the larger spices, then blend the tomato broth with a hand-held blender and pass it through a sieve to obtain a smooth purée. Return the purée to a clean pan, add the chilli powder and simmer for 12–15 minutes. It should slowly begin to thicken.

When the sauce turns glossy, add the chicken pieces and the reserved roasting juices. Then add 200–250ml water and simmer for 3–5 minutes until the sauce turns glossy again and the water is absorbed (for a thicker sauce, either add slightly less water or simmer for a little longer).

Slowly whisk in the butter, a couple of pieces at a time, and simmer for 6–8 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is beginning to acquire a glaze. Add the chopped ginger, green chillies and cream and simmer for a minute or two longer, taking care that the sauce does not split. Stir in the salt, crushed fenugreek leaves and garam masala, then check the seasoning and add the sugar. Serve with naan bread or pilau rice.

Eat what you can, then store any leftover chicken and sauce in the fridge. Leftovers make a great filling for ravioli.

What to drink: with the butter and cream in this dish you could drink a creamy oaked chardonnay from Limoux in the South of France or from Chile.

Ginger and Garlic Paste

Makes about 8 tablespoons

100g ginger, peeled

75g garlic, peeled

Chop up the ginger and garlic. Blend it to a fine, thick paste with 175ml water. Keeps in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Recipe extracted from Spice at Home by Vivek Singh, published by Absolute Press, price £25

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