Indian cooking is done from the heart and I don't think measuring spices and quantities to the 't' can give you the perfect end result - so you can slack a bit on the measurements I have mentioned and keep tasting the gravy to make it your liking. Good indian gravies always smell as nice as they taste so if you start getting a wierd whiff of anything, stop and take a step back. Taste your gravy and see what's gone wrong with it. Also, I have never been able to stick to the original recipe of any cookbook coz the personal touch you add to the recipe will give it it's unique flavor.
Indian cooking as most people know also gives also a dense heady aroma of spices so I like to prepapre my dishes in advance so I don't smell like the dish. I remember my rommie in NY would get a bit annoyed when I cooked in our small apartment coz she felt her coats would smell of the dish I had cooked (as you can guess her coat stand was right next to our open kitchen)! You need a nice big ventilated kitchen to be able to cook gravy and curry dishes and always switch on your exhaust!
My recipe for the butter chicken follows. Feel free to email me for any clarifications... and pictures will follow soon. I don't think I should bother being apologetic about not getting pictures up soon enough because a baby at home keeps my hands rather full. It seems like a rather long list of ingredients but don't get daunted!
500gm boneless & skinless chicken breasts – cut into bite sized pieces
3-4 cups yogurt / curd (hang in muslin cloth for 30 mins) – Use 1 cup for marinade and 1 cup for gravy. Squeeze as much water out of yougurt as you can before removing from muslin cloth.
2tbsp ginger-garlic paste
2tbsp any tandoori chicken masala (Recommended: Roopak’s Chicken Mughlai Masala)
1 pinch turmeric powder
Pinch of salt
Chicken Makhani Gravy
2-3 tbsp oil, 1 bay leaf (tej patta), 1tsp dry fenugreek leaves (kassori methi), 2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste, 1 tbsp sauted onion paste*, 1-2 whole dried red chili (kashimir mirch)
5-6 medium sized tomatoes blanched, peeled and pureed
1/2 cup tomato puree (ready-made)
2 tbsp cashewnuts (soaked in hot water, drained and ground into a fine paste)
1 cup milk
1 tbsp cream for garnishing
1tsp garam masala, ½ tsp red chili powder and ½ tsp dried coriander powder (optional)
¼ tsp sugar
Salt as per taste
1tbsp tandoori chicken masala (same as marinade)
There is prepration required to make this dish but if you plan a bit in advance you can prepare this in 30 minutes. It tastes great and is always great to have on the menu when tertaining and it isn’t too heavy on the waist. This can be made with chicken on the bone too but I prefer this with boneless chicken breasts.
Wash the chicken. Mix all the ingredients for the marinade in a big bowl. Cover with cling film and put in the fridge. (The chicken can be marinated overnight also).
Take a heavy bottom non-stick pan or non-stick pressure cooker. Add the oil – let it heat. Add the bay leave and stir for a couple of seconds. Now, put the sauted onion paste, ginger-garlic paste and red chili into your utensil of choice and saute for a couple of minutes. At this point I also add all the dry spices - garam masala, tandoori chicken masala, coriander poweder and fenugreek leaves and saute this further for a couple of seconds.
Add all the pureed tomatoes (first fresh and then ready-made) and sugar and cook till the oil starts separating from this mixture and the color turns slightly brownish.
Now spoon in the prepared cashewnut paste and stir for a few minutes till it has completely mixed in the gravy. Add about ½ a cup of water or keep adding more till you get a slightly thich gravy / curry.
Add the marinated chicken, 1/2 of the remaining hung yogurt and simmer till the excess water given off by the yogurt has evapourated and the chicken is almost cooked. Add salt to taste. Give this a whistle if cooking in the pressure cooker or simmer and cover utensil till chicken is cooked if using a heavy bottom pan. Incase you feel the gravy is not creamy enough - add the remaining yogurt.
Add the milk and keep stirring slowly and bring to boil. At this point do taste your curry and see how it tastes and tinker with it a bit to refine it! Remember to not overcook the chicken since the chicken breasts can become a bit chewy if they are.
Garnish with swirls of cream and enjoy!
If it’s too spicy and thick – you can a couple of tsps of milk and simmer it.
If your gravy is not creamy enough or it’s too spicy – you can a tbsp of yogurt.
If the spice level is a bit on the lower side – you can add more of the tandoori masala.
* I always keep a paste of well sauted (browned) onions in my kitchen and use it in all my gravy dishes. Instead of the sauted onion paste you can use a small finely chopped onion. After sauteing it - do puree it otherwise there will be onion pieces floating in the gravy. You can also elimitae the onion paste - but I think it adds flavor, color and a nice earthy taste to the makhani gravy.