Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Murgh Makhni....or you might know it as Butter Chicken

The nation's favorite curry.  That orangey creamy sauce with a deep tomato flavor and a subtle combination of spices that makes it appealing to even the most timid of tastebuds.

Consumed from the streets of Kerikeri down to the pubs of Mosgiel kiwi's consume more Butter Chicken than any other curry.  In fact were it not for butter chicken I doubt many Indian restaurants would still be around today, it is that loved within our shores.

Strange then that in the UK, the western worlds home of the curry, Butter Chicken is not as you know it.  In fact it is very hard to find an Indian Restaurant that has it on the menu.  Even when you do find it the dish served is not the one that we love but a version without the sweet Tomato sauce that makes the dish so special. Perhaps it's anonymity is due to it's slight similarity to Tikka Masala.  Or perhaps it is beacuse Brits are far too interested in the hotter curries like Vindaloo and Rogan Josh, to have interest in a mild offering.

Whatever the reason it was this forced embargo that lead me to the following recipe.  If no one shall deliver me butter chicken then I will learn to make butter chicken!!

So to the internet I went.  Of course, like most things on the internet, there is a lot of content!!  Most of which is crap but some of which is gold.  Thankfully I stumbled across a video demonstration of a recipe by Alfred Prasad, from the Michelin-starred Tamarind Restaurant in London.  A Michelin-starred Indian Restaurant?  Good enough for me!

Little was I to know where this journey would take me.  Still a novice to the world of spices I found some of the ingredients on the list a bit strange.  Kasoori Methi?  Kashmiri Chilli Powder?  Chances are you will not find these in your local supermarket.  So what do we do?  Give up?  Find replacements?  Time for a food mission!!

Now Indian Cuisine is found the world over.  There are few places on the face of the earth where you will not find at least one small Indian takeaway making curries for the locals.  And Indian spices are the same.  For thousands of years Indian spices have been dealt the world over, going as far back as to the 5th Century BC!  In fact in the 17th century whole shipping fleets such as the Dutch East India Company were devoted to the shipment of things like pepper from India to the western world.  It was such an important business that it even had military protection.

Chances are that somewhere near to you will be a trader selling bulk spices.  It may just look like an ordinary dairy.  The first time I went to my local shop  Malabari Spice Merchants in New Lynn was such a pleasurable experience.  Lined up along the wall were bins of spice.  Loads and Loads of Spice.  Five types of Chilli Powder.  Proper Cinnamon Tree Bark.  Ground Spices.  Whole Spices.  And at a price that was unbelievable.  You will never be buying spice from the supermarket again!

It is in one of these places you are likely to find your Kasoori Methi (Dried, ground fenegreek leaves) and your Kashmiri chilli powder.  Kashmiri chilli powder is milder than standard chilli powder and produces a deeper orange color.  You can replace with standard chili powder if you like but be careful with the heat. 

I'm not going to plaigarise this recipe as I cook it pretty much exactly as done by the creator.  Unfortunately I'm unable to embed the video so please head to the following link for your taste of a magical curry:

Butter Chicken from Alfred Prasad at Tamarind Restaurant

A few tips I've learned from cooking it countless times:

  • You can easily alter the heat of this dish by playing with the whole chilli amount.  I swap the five green chillies for two large red chillies and it gives a bit more bang.
  • I add about twice as much water to the tomato and spice mix and cook it on a slow heat for about an hour.  I find this gives a deeper final taste.  If you like you could swap the water for chicken stock too.
  • Instead of using just a Tbsp of Tomato Paste I add half a tube of the stuff.  It gives a richer tomato flavor and adds to the color.

Oh, and just to clear the air for any UK bound folks.  If you ask for Murgh Makhni chances are you may get the version we know and love.

I'm off on a road trip to Ohakune over the next few days.  Tomorrow night I'm attempting a vegan meal in honor of a dear friend.  Look out later this week for a glimpse of how this devoted eater of anything on a plate gets along!!

1 comment:

  1. I've probably been past that Indian spice place hundreds of times considering New Lynn is our local shopping centre! I'll have to actually hunt it out and pay a visit.

    The Eccentric English Boyfriend does not like Butter Chicken at all - to someone who grew up on the curries available in England apparently it's not spicy enough!