Butter Chicken

Image of Rick Stein's Indian cookbookI’m a pushover for cookery books and when my good friend Karon told me she’d made the best curry she’d ever eaten from Rick Stein’s latest, it was a no-brainer, especially as I’d just been watching the TV series. I was straight onto Amazon.

His India is a very handsome book, illustrated with gorgeous photographs by James Murphy. I confess I find Rick Stein’s on-screen personality quite irritating but he does write a good cookbook.

Being contrary, the first thing I made from the book wasn’t Karon’s favourite, but some lamb chops I’d seen Mr S cook on the telly. Well, he cooked them on a stove, but you know what I mean. (You can say that out loud in a Rick Stein-ish sort of voice if you like).

Image of a plate of lamb chops

The chops were simmered briefly in a spicy milk mixture then dipped into a spicy batter featuring fennel seeds and fried. I thought they looked and sounded amazing.

In the event I was a bit underwhelmed. Even after increasing the amount of spices I found the chops bland and boring. Maybe it was the chops, spring lamb I bought at the supermarket rather than direct from the farm as I usually do. Or maybe my chilli-loving husband has finally succeeded in conditioning my palate.

So, as the ingredients list would take ages to copy across, if you want to try that one yourself, you’ll have to get the book, sorry.

Image of lamb chops spiced with fennel

Moving swiftly on, the next recipe I cooked from the book was the one that got Karon’s vote: Butter Chicken. I actually made it with turkey and it worked pretty well. I took the meat off the bone on an enormous turkey leg, with the advantage that the cat got the trimmings and the still meaty bones went into a stock for a later soup. Thrifty cooking.

Ah, but … it is at this point that I shuffle my feet and advise you to check your store cupboard before embarking on the recipe. It’s a case of do as I say, don’t do as I did.

I was missing a couple of vital ingredients so I had to improvise. I think the dish still turned out well but I can’t make an informed judgement on whether this would have been the best curry I’d ever eaten because I had departed too much from the original recipe.

Rick Stein would probably, and quite rightly, be appalled by this mangling of his recipe. I think it’s well worth a go either way. I’ve given the original ingredients list. My substitutions are in brackets. I doubled some of the spices to suit my own chilli-hardened palate.

Butter Chicken (or Turkey)

Image of turkey in the second marinade

The turkey gets its second marinade


4 large chicken breasts, skinned, each cut into 2-3 pieces at an angle (or boned turkey leg, cut similarly)

For the first marinade:

Juice of 2 limes

1 tsp of Kashmiri chilli powder (I used hot chilli powder)

1 tsp salt

For the second marinade:

50g natural yoghurt (I used Greek)

50g double cream

20g/4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

25g/5cm ginger, roughly chopped

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp turmeric

3/4 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp beetroot powder, for the colour (omitted in my case)

Image of the pounded nuts in a pestle and mortar

Pounding the nuts to a paste

For the sauce:

50g ghee (or a slug of olive oil)

25g/5 cloves garlic, finely crushed

25g/5cm ginger, finely grated

400g tomato passata (or chopped tomatoes)

1/2 tspn Kashmiri chilli powder (again, I used hot)

1/2 tsp ground coriander (I used double)

1/2 tspn ground cumin (I used double)

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tspn garam masala (I used double)

1 tspn desiccated coconut (I used a heaped tablespoon of grated coconut from the freezer)

1 1/2 tsp salt (I thought the finished dish too salty so I’d use less next time)

200 ml water

25g cashew nuts (I used pistachios)

25g pumpkin seeds (I used pine nuts)

2 tbspn boiling water

1 tbspn dried fenugreek leaves (omitted)

1/2 tsp caster sugar

45 ml double cream

For the garnish:

A pinch of chaat masala 

A handful of fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped

15g/3cm ginger, finely shredded


Image of butter chicken cooking in a pan

Cooking the butter chicken

For the first marinade, mix the lime juice, chilli powder and salt together in a large bowl.

Add the chicken pieces, cover and refrigerate for an hour.

For the second marinade, put all the ingredients (except the nuts, pumpkin seeds and boiling water) into a mini food processor and blend until smooth.

Add this to the marinated chicken and stir well to coat. Cover and put back in the fridge for another four hours.

Preheat the oven to 475F/240C/Gas 9.

Place the chicken on a lightly oiled wire rack over a roasting tin.

Roast for 15-20 minutes, until lightly charred but not cooked through.

While the chicken is cooking, heat the ghee or oil in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat.

Add the garlic and ginger and fry for a minute, then add the tomato passata and simmer for five minutes.

Add all the spices, coconut, salt and 100 ml of the water and simmer for 10 more minutes.

In a mini food processor or pestle and mortar, blend the nuts and pumpkin seeds and boiling water into a paste.

Stir this into the sauce, add the chicken pieces and another 100 ml of water and simmer for 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Stir in the fenugreek leaves, sugar and cream and cook for a further two minutes.

Garnish with chopped fresh coriander, chaat masala and finely shredded ginger.

Image of remains of the dish

It got devoured fast, in spite of all the substitutions

5 thoughts on “Butter Chicken

  1. Pingback: Mrs Portly’s Top 10 | Mrs Portly's Kitchen

  2. Thanks for sharing, it was very good! I’m sure it would have been better with coriander (dried) but for the life of me, I could swear I bought more when I ran out, but couldn’t find it! Ugh.

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