Butter Chicken aka Murgh Makhani (The best dish ever invented)

It’s almost the end of June and before you’ve even realized half the year has gone by. The reality is, time really flies. In the humdrum of our daily routine we don’t even know how days turn into months and months into years. Now, June means monsoons in my part of the world, which obviously means staying indoors, chit-chatting with family over a hot cup of coffee and Goli Bajje. Staying indoors also gives you a good opportunity to have your meals together, a luxury most of us miss in our busy city life. As a family, we always believe in having our meals together. This is a value my mum instilled in us as kids and it is something that we follow till date. So the other day, when we were planning our meal for the coming Sunday, we decided that it needed a bit of glamour; something that is nice, wholesome, spicy and goes with the flavour of the season.  My sister suggested Hariyali Paneer Tikka or Butter Chicken, while Mum and I were of the opinion, that we should go contemporary with either Thai Pineapple Fried Rice or Smoked Sausages with Cheesy Mushroom Rice. So we decided to make all of these in sequence and I couldn’t decide which goes first on the blog, so I decided to run a poll on my facebook page. The winner not surprisingly was Murgh Makhani or Butter Chicken!  😉

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 There is probably no one on this planet who hasn’t yet heard of Butter Chicken. It is the face of Indian cuisine to the world; much like what Sachin Tendulkar is to Indian cricket or what Amitabh Bachchan is to Indian cinema. No one can miss the tender, succulent chicken chunks that are just seasoned in the right proportion, immersed in rich, tangy and creamy tomato gravy. I might probably not be exaggerating when I say, that Butter Chicken is not just another dish, it is a cult in India. A dish that would only get better with age, a timeless classic.

I have made butter chicken many times earlier, each version a bit different from the other, for instance I tried replacing the cream with full fat yogurt, left out the cashew paste, didn’t grill the chicken and so on. The result? Nowhere close to the original. That is when I decided I would not compromise on any of the ingredients of ingredients and stick to the original version. This is not a dish that can be made every day, so indulge if you must, but remember to jog an extra round the next day!

Butter Chicken, Jeera Rice and a plain vanilla ice cream completed the menu that Sunday. Coupled with a nice afternoon siesta; I couldn’t ask for more.

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Ingredients:

For the Chicken Tandoori:

Marinade 1:

  • 600 grams boneless chicken, cut into medium sized cubes (Usually, its made with chicken on the bone; I preferred the boneless variety. Feel free to use whatever suits you)
  • 1 large tablespoon Kashmiri red chill powder
  • 2 large tablespoons lemon juice.
  • Small dash of crushed black pepper

Marinade 2:

  • 1/2 cup thick yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon ginger paste
  • 1 tablespoon garlic paste
  • 1 tablespoon red chilli powder
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
  • 2 tablespoon garam masala powder
  • 30 ml mustard oil
  • Salt to taste

For the Makhani Gravy

  • 8 medium sized tomatoes, pureed (Make sure to choose bright & red tomatoes, else the rich orange colour may be compromised)
  • 5-6 cashews, soaked in lukewarm water
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3-4 green cardamoms
  • 1 gram mace, powdered
  • 1 tablespoon ginger paste
  • 1 tablespoon garlic paste
  • 2 tablespoons red chilli powder
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala powder
  • Water if required
  • 1/2 tablespoon Kasoori Methi (dried fenugreek leaves), powdered
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 tablespoons fresh cream
  • Corriander leaves, finely chopped- for garnishing
  • Salt to taste

To make the Chicken Tandoori:

  • Combine all ingredients mentioned under “Marinade 1” and let the lemon juice and masalas to coat the chicken well. Refrigerate for about an hour. 
  • Whisk all ingredients mentioned under “Marinade 2” except the oil. Add in the chicken pieces that we had marinated earlier and mix well so that chicken pieces are covered well with the marinade. Add the  mustard oil and give it a nice stir. Keep aside for at least one hour.
  • Meanwhile, pre-heat oven for about 10 minutes at 100 C.
  • Once you’ve marinated the chicken for an hour,  put the chicken on the skewers and grill at 300 C for 3 -4 minutes on each side, basting with butter in between.
  • That’s your chicken tandoori. Ready to be served as a snack as well.

For the Makhani Gravy:

  • Chop the tomatoes into quarters and grind to a fine puree along with the cashews and very little water. Keep Aside 
  • Heat the Butter in a pan and add the cardamom and mace and saute on medium heat till the spices are fragrant. 
  • Add the ginger and garlic pastes and stir continuously ensuring that the spices and paste don’t burn.
  • Now add the tomato puree, and the red chilli, garam masala and turmeric powders. Mix well. Now cover the vessel and reduce the heat to the low and let it cook for about 7-10 minutes.
  • After about 10 minutes, you will see that the paste is mushy and has an almost dry consistency . Add some water (to suit your preferred gravy consistency) and cook for a 3-4 minutes. Keep in mind that at a later stage, we will be adding fresh cream which will thicken the gravy.
  • Once the gravy is simmering, add the kasoori methi and the honey and mix well. Add the chicken tandoori pieces and mix well so that they are well covered with the gravy.
  • When the gravy begins to simmer, put the heat off for about 5 minutes, add the fresh cream and mix well. This is done to prevent the cream from curdling in the high temperature of the vessel. Cook for another 7-10 mins on a slow flame.
  • Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve hot with naan, roti or jeera rice. 

Goli Bajje

One of the ‘must dos’ while planning any trip is to research on the best eating place in that city. I did the same when I had been to Mangalore on a recent trip. On reaching there, I couldn’t help, but admire the tall coconut trees swaying in the summer breeze as if performing a well-choreographed dance. The  rivers forming a neat maze, and endless number of jackfruit trees almost seducing you come over and pluck a ripe fruit. A sight, anyone from the concrete jungle would die for. But for me, deep down, something was not complete; the fabled Mangalorean cuisine was yet to show up. The first two days passed by and I was getting worried. Very worried. Almost wondering if the trip would end without exploring Mangalore’s cuisine? What a waste! We had planned a trip to a place called Karkala. On the way back home, our tummies started growling and somehow everyone in the vehicle said in a single chorus “let’s stop for tea and goli bajje”. Wow!!! That was the moment I had been waiting for. Goli Bajje, the first of the many culinary adventures that followed.

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Goli Bajje (goli- round & bajje- fried) is another snack from Mangalore. It’s stature in the minds of all Mangaloreans is no less than what ‘Vada-pav’ is to us Mumbaikars or what ‘Sondesh’ is to every Kolkattan. Available at almost all snack joints as well as fine dines across Mangalore, it is a hit with office goers and the college students who probably give the boring lecture a slip and sit in a college canteen hogging them by the plateful. Ask someone where you would get the best goli bajje in Mangalore and be rest assured you have stirred up a controversy. For me, I couldn’t have timed this post better. With the rain Gods being benevolent (and surprisingly on time this year), a lazy week end and an India- Pakistan cricket match on TV, all you need to do is make yourself a hot cup of coffee and a huge tubful of these babies and curl on the couch whilst watching your favorite movie or sport. I got this recipe from my aunt in Mangalore, honestly, there’s no fixed recipe to make goli bajje, each house has its own proportion for the ingredients. Play around with the spices to suit your taste.

I got a big thumbs up for this recipe from my mum and sister. And yes, at the restaurant where we stopped to have Goli Bajje in Karkala; we lost count of the number of plates we ordered.  Absolutely delicious!

 
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Goli Bajje
 
Ingredients:
 
  • 160 grams Maida (All purpose flour)
  • 80 grams Besan (Gram flour)
  • 100 grams thick yoghurt
  • 1 green chilli (increase if you want to up the spice quotient)
  • 1 tablespoon, baking powder
  • Small piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • Coconut bits
  • Few curry leaves, roughly shredded
  • 80 ml water
  • Oil to deep fry.
  • Salt- to taste
Procedure:-
  • In a large mixing bowl, sieve together the maida, besan and the baking powder.
  • Add the curd and mix well slowly incorporating air into the mixture. Add water bit by bit until the mixture comes together. The mixture should be of a thick pouring consistency.
  • Add the chilli, ginger, coconut bits and salt. Mix well and let the batter rest for atleast an hour.
  • Heat oil in a pan on medium heat. You could test the heat by dropping a bit of the mixture in the oil. The batter should rise to the surface. It is important to keep an eye on the temperature of the oil as overheating the oil will result in the possibility of the inside remaining uncooked.
  • Now, take a spoonful of the batter and let it slide into the oil. Repeat the process for the remainder of the batch.
  • Once a nice golden brown colour is obtained; remove and drain on an absorbent paper.
  • Enjoy hot with equally hot coffee or tea and chutney.

Mango and Cottage Cheese Snowballs in Custard Sauce

“Stressed spelled backwards is desserts” goes a very popular quote. Couldn’t agree more since desserts somehow, have this innate ability to  transcend you into a fairy tale world. A world that has all things nice, mushy; a dream that has no end. Who can deny the mood lifting, luscious goodness of a chocolate cake , the delicate arrangement of a trifle pudding, the creamy goodness of a strawberry ice cream, the rich, silky smoothness of a custard with the caramel set on top. Sheer culinary pleasures!!

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Traditionally, no Indian meal is ever complete if there are no desserts. And then there is the omnipresent  ‘mooh meetha kijiye’ (‘please have a sweet’) usually when there is happy occasion to celebrate.  I am not exaggerating when I say that in a country of the size of India; you would get a new variety of dessert may every 200 kms. At my place, desserts are a regular indulgence. The most regular one being the “kheer” or the very Mangalorean “payasam”; while the more extravagant being the custards and rich cream cakes or puddings. So, like I had mentioned in my post on the “Kheema Kofta Pulao”, when we had guest coming over for dinner and we had Mango and  Cottage Cheese Snowballs in Custard Sauce for desert. Long name ehh? Relax and don’t let it scare you. This recipe is a product of my mums eureka moment. Honestly, I am not much a mango lover. As a kid, and even to this day I ran a mile at the mention of mangoes and when my mum explained the dish; I tried my best to cajole her into making something else but I guess the king of fruits deserved his rightful debut on the blog. You could make the snowballs and custard earlier at your convenience and refrigerate; combine the two just as your about to serve. My guest who were expecting some of the routine stuff, gave out a loud cheer when I brought them out. I felt I just won the moon!!

Go ahead and try these, the very regal mango given a makeover and perfectly complimented by the custard sauce. Your very own journey into the fabled land of desserts. I promise you mangoes and custard will never be the same anymore.

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Ingredients:

To make the snowballs:

  • 2 large and ripe alphonso mangoes, skinned and cubed into fine bits
  • 125 grams cottage cheese, finely grated
  • 50 grams powdered sugar
  • 8-10 slices white bread, cut of the sides
  • Sugar Syrup, for drizzling on the bread & 2 teaspoons for the cottage cheese and mango mix

To make the custard sauce:

  • 400 ml milk.
  • 4 teaspoons of custard powder (I used Vanilla Flavour)
  • 6-8 teaspoons sugar.
For the Garnishing
  • 1 ripe mango, pureed *Refer notes below
  • Few glazed cherries

Procedure:

To make the snowballs:

  • Grate the cottage cheese in a bowl and add the mango cubes & powdered sugar. Mix well.
  • Cut the sides of the bread and drizzle with the sugar syrup till the slice is sufficiently moist. Do not wet the bread slice too much as it may be too soft and may not bind well.
  • Now, place a spoonful of the mixture in the center of the bread slice and gently fold the slice into a sphere.
  • Repeat the same for all the bread slices.
  • Once you complete all the spheres, refrigerate for an hour

To make the custard sauce:

  • Heat the milk in a saucepan over medium heat
  • Combine the custard power in some water in a small bowl. Mix thoroughly so that there are no lumps.
  • Add this mixture to boiling milk, stir continuously. 
  • As the milk starts to thicken add the sugar. Continue stirring.
  • Once the mixture has reached desired thickness, remove from the heat and allow it to cool thoroughly.
  • Refrigerate for about half an hour.
To assemble:-
  • Keep one snowball in each of the serving portions.
  • Pour a generous quantity of the custard in each of the serving portions.
  • Add a spoonful of the mango puree and the cherries.
  • Serve chilled
Notes:
  • To make the make mango puree, combine mango pulp, 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 teaspoon of milk. Blend using a hand mixer till all ingredients are combined well and the mixture is of a pouring consistency.