Luscious, easy to make, Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken) was a big hit at November’s Indian Favourites Class

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(Servers 6)

1/2 cup yoghurt
2 Tbsp ginger, minced and crushed to a paste with a 1/2 tsp of sea salt
2 Tbsp garlic, minced and crushed to a paste with a 1/2 tsp of sea salt
2 tsp amchur (green mango powder)
1 tsp deggi mirch (hot Indian chile powder)
2-1/2 Tbsp kala jeera (black cumin), briefly toasted and ground, divided
2 Tbsp sweet paprika, divided
2 tsp shahi garam masala, divided
18 small boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat
vegetable oil or ghee
4 serrano chiles, seeded and chopped
2 Tbsp chopped ginger
4 cups tomatoes, peeled and seeded (out of season, substitute 1 can whole peeled tomatoes)
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup whipping cream
sea salt, to taste
1/2 cup minced cilantro


Combine the yoghurt, ginger and garlic pastes, amchur, hot chile powder and half of the black cumin, sweet paprika and shahi garam masala. Marinate the chicken in this mixture for up to two hours at room temperature or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. If the latter, take the chicken out of the fridge an hour before you plan to cook it.

To cook, place a large roasting tray in the middle of the oven and preheat to the highest possible temperature. Remove the chicken from the marinade. Brush the hot roasting tray with a little oil or ghee and quickly arrange the chicken pieces on it. Cook, turning once, until no more than just done – underdone with good colour is ideal, since the chicken will be cooked again in the sauce. Remove the tray from the oven and set aside. (The chicken, prepared to this point and fully cooked, is basically a home version of tandoori chicken and is delicious as is.)

Start the sauce while the chicken is marinating and/or being roasted: Purée the green chiles and ginger in food processor, then add the tomatoes and process until smooth. Heat the butter over medium heat in a large pan until it foams and sizzles. Add the reserved jeera and paprika and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Add the tomato mixture and continue to cook, stirring, until it thickens – about ten minutes. Add the cream and the chicken and heat through. Add salt to taste. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce thickens and takes on a gloss. Turn off the heat and let the dish stand for at least 10 minutes.

When ready to serve stir in the reserved garam masala and the minced cilantro, check for salt and reheat if necessary.

Recipe © 2011, Don Dickson / South China Seas Trading Co. Limited