Butter Chicken

A beautiful rich curry laden with spices.

OK, so my love affair with Indian began several years ago when a friend of mine organised a cooking class with Ajoy Joshi, he of Nilgiri’s restaurant fame. At his restaurant he changes the menu every three months to showcase all the regions of India. His food is complex, delicate, sophisticated and delicious. He is a LEGEND in terms of dragging the India food scene in Australia forward by a hundred years. On top of that, he is THE MOST lovely guy.

Anyway, his cooking class completely demystified Indian food for me and I was hooked.

Now forget the cloying butter chicken from the bain marie and brace yourself for something from a different realm.

Some pointers:

  • This recipe takes time and there is a huge list of ingredients. I break it down, marinating the chicken the day before and then making the sauce and assembling the dish the next day.
  • You can make it as hot or as mild as you like, I tend to put in the full amount of chilli powder in the marinade and then less chilli powder and green chilli in the sauce so it’s more palatable to all the kids.
  • Embrace the mis en place. Get everything ready before you start cooking. I measure out the spices into a little saucer/dish so when it comes to adding them it’s just put it all in from a dish rather than farnarkling around with teaspoon measures.
  • Prepare the garlic and ginger in bulk. I have one of those mini blitzing bowl things (technical term) that attaches to my stick blender. I peel a whole head or two of garlic, blitz it and then put in a ramekin. Ditto for a piece of ginger. Even if you have some left over, cover what’s left with a layer of olive oil, wrap in clingfilm and keep it in the fridge. Sorted.
  • Use your food processor to chop the onions and blitz the tomatoes.
  • When I say cook the onions for 20 minutes I really mean it – they need to be a deep caramel colour.

The main thing to remember here is to just take your time, the end result is totally worth it.

I think it's impossible to photograph a curry without it looking like a bucket of sick, but this special, #everyfuckingnight, 2-day in the making, birthday dinner request butter chicken is freakin' sensational.
I think it’s impossible to photograph a curry without it looking like a bucket of sick, but this special, #everyfuckingnight, 2-day in the making, birthday dinner request butter chicken is freakin’ sensational.

Butter Chicken
For the chicken marinade
  • 1kg chicken thigh fillets, cut into bits
  • ¼ cup white vinegar or lemon juice
  • ⅓ cup coriander seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken into smaller pieces
  • 5 brown or black cardamom pods
  • 10 green cardamom pods (I've never been able to find brown or black ones so just up the green amount)
  • 1 tsp whole cloves
  • 3 tsp ground tumeric
  • 2 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground mace (I've never added this as always forget to look for it when somewhere with a good spice range)
  • ¼ cup natural yoghurt
  • 2½ tbsp crushed garlic
  • 2½ tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2½ tbsp vegetable oil
For the sauce
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • 1 kg brown onions, chopped in a food processor
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2½ tbsp crushed garlic
  • 2½ tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp chilli powder
  • 3 tsp ground tumeric
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh green chilli peppers
  • 1 kg tomatoes, chopped in food processor
  • ⅔ cup double cream
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 4 tsp honey
  • 2 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves (again, have never added/found these)
  • ⅓ cup fresh coriander, chopped
For the marinade
  1. Cut the chicken thigh fillets into pieces and place in a ceramic or glass bowl with the vinegar or juice
  2. Combine the coriander seeds, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves in a frypan and heat until fragrant.
  3. Put the spices in a spice grinder and blitz until it is a powder - get it as fine as you can
  4. Combine the ground spices with the tumeric, chilli powder, paprika, nutmeg, mace, yoghurt, garlic, ginger and oil
  5. Season with salt, add the chicken and refrigerate for 30 minutes - or overnight, depending on how much time you have.
To cook the chicken
  1. Preheat oven to 240C
  2. Oil a roasting pan and place the chicken pieces on it in a single layer
  3. Bake, without turning, for 12 minutes
  4. Remove from the oven and set aside
To make the sauce
  1. Heat the oil and butter over medium-low heat and add the onions and salt.
  2. Cook uncoverered, stirring occasionally until the onions are dark golden brown - this will take about 20 minutes and really important - don't skimp on this step
  3. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring for a couple of minutes (have a bit of a taste to make sure the garlic and ginger flavours have 'softened', meaning they're not raw!)
  4. Add the chilli powder, tumeric, green chilli peppers and cook for a minute
  5. Add tomatoes and cook, uncovered, stirring often for five to 10 minutes
  6. Add the cream and butter and stir until the butter melts
  7. Stir in the chicken, honey and fenugreek leaves and cook for about five minutes
  8. Stir in the coriander
  9. Taste and add salt if necessary and adjust flavours to your preference (I added more cream and butter (of course I did)
  10. Serve with cucumber raita, papadums and naan.



Ode to Nigella 27 – Pollo alla Cacciatora

This is out of Nige’s latest, Nigella Express, and I was keen to give it a go because a) it was quick, b) it didn’t use any ingredients you wouldn’t normally find in my cupboard on any given day and c) the picture was purdy.

Pollo alla Cacciatoro
Nigella Lawson, Nigella Express

  • 1tbsp garlic oil
  • 75g pancetta cubes
  • 6 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 1tbs rosemary, finely chopped
  • 500g chicken thigh fillets, each cut into four pieces
  • 1/2tsp celery salt
  • 125ml white wine
  • 1x400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2tsp sugar
  • 1x400g can cannellini beans (optional)
  1. Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and fry the pancetta cubes, spring onions and rosemary for a couple of minutes
  2. Add the chicken pieces and celery salt
  3. Pour in the wine and let it come to a bubble before adding the tomatoes, bay leaves and sugar
  4. Put the lid on and let it simmer for 20 minutes
  5. Drain the cannellini beans and add to the pan to heat through
  6. Serve with a green salad and/or steamed rice – I served it with my foccacia and a green salad.

Ode to Nigella 20 – One Pan Sage and Onion Chicken and Sausage

The idea of cooking sausages with chicken seemed excessive to me. But somehow it all works and is now on high rotation in this household (with leftover sausages going into sandwiches the next day and chicken into a salad for dinner the following night)

One Pan Sage and Onion Chicken and Sausage

  • 2kg chicken, cut into 10 pieces (or 10 drumsticks or thigh pieces or whatever you choose)
  • 12 chipolata sausages (she suggests anything from a traditional English sausage, to Italian or Chorizo)
  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut into eighths
  • 1 lemon, juiced and rind cut into eighths
  • 125ml olive oil
  • 1tbsp dried sage leaves
  • 1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2tsp English mustard
  • cracked pepper
  • 2tbsp fresh sage leaves
  1. put all the marinade ingredients in a large snap-lock bag and squidge everything together (I love this Nigella tip as it cuts down on washing up and lets your really mush the marinade into the meat)
  2. add the chicken and really mush the marinade and chicken together and marinate for as long as you have or up to two days
  3. Preheat oven to 220C
  4. All chicken to come to room temperature in the marinade
  5. Arrange chicken pieces in a roasting tin, skin side up, with the marinade, and tuck the sausages in around them
  6. Sprinkle over the fresh sage leaves and cook for 1hour and 15 minutes, turning the sausages halfway through to colour them evenly.

Delicious with a crisp green salad or potatoes dauphinois

Roast chicken w/ ricotta and pine nut stuffing

I’m not posting a roast chicken recipe. Everyone has their favourite. But I will say this, basically 20 minutes for each side at 200C. Go see Joke if you want all manner of brines and rinses and entertaining reads on moist breasts.

I love experimenting with roast chicken. I mean, see here (that’s the roast chicken with cankles)and here for two examples. Monday was no different. I had ricotta that had to be used, left over rice from Sunday night and a hankering for pine nuts. These are rough quantities – it made a lot of stuffing. I stuffed the cavity, between the breast meat and skin and in the pocket between the thigh and the breast.

Leek, ricotta and pinenut stuffing

  • 1 leek, finely sliced
  • 2 zucchinis, grated
  • 1-2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • About 4oog of ricotta
  • Probably about 1 cup of cooked rice
  • a good handful of pinenuts
  • juice of half a lemon
  • finely grated rind of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • 4-6 sprigs flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  1. heat a frypan over medium high heat, spray with oil, saute the leeks until softened
  2. add zucchinis and garlic and cook for a few minutes, then remove from heat and cool slightly
  3. mix all the ingredients together
  4. taste and season accordingly
  5. stuff in chicken

Spice-rubbed roast chicken and tabouli

So this might not look the best, but the flavour was sensational. Because we’re I’m currently in the midst of Project Boombalardy, I took most of the skin off as the WW recipe that inspired this said to do, but if you’re just a sane rational person with no emotional issues regarding food, just rub it over the chicken. Maybe rub some up under the skin as well just for even more flavour. That said, taking the skin off the chicken I mean, I was amazed at how much fat still came off the bird (I didn’t bother taking the underside skin off.

Spice-rubbed roast chicken

  • 1 chicken, cut down the backbone and pressed flat
  • 1 tbs sumac
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 lemon – finely grated zest and the juice
  • 1/4 cup plain yoghurt
  1. Combine all the spices with the lemon zest, juice and the youghurt
  2. Rub into the chicken
  3. Marinade for as long as you’ve got (I did it for a couple of hours, I reckon overnight would be sensational)
  4. Preheat oven to 200C
  5. Place the chicken breast down in a baking dish and roast for 20 minutes
  6. Turn and roast for a further 25 minutes

Great with tabouli
Low-fat high-flavour tabouli

  • 1/2 cup cracked wheat
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes, finely sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2 cups flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup mint, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon
  1. Soak the cracked wheat and sun-dried tomatoes in 1 cup of boiling water for 10 minutes then drain well
  2. Combine with grated zest of the lemon and juice of half the lemon