Butter Chicken


IMG_3169This butter chicken has to be one of the most delicious things that I have ever made! So much so that you will be forever indebted to me if you try it. It is however a bit fiddly. No real skill is needed but it takes a lot of preparation and commitment to using the best ingredients. This is actually true for all Indian cooking and by that I mean buying whole spices and grinding them yourself at home before using them. I really feel that what separates an amazing curry from a fine one is freshly ground spices. Everyone knows that freshly ground black pepper is better than the dust you buy that’s labelled “finely ground”. There’s a reason waiters in restaurants come to your table with a pepper mill offering freshly ground pepper. It’s the same reason you should grind all other whole spices. It’s simply much better. You need to invest in an electric coffee bean grinder for this. They can be really cheap online and if you would attempt all these spices with a pestle and mortar it would take so long you might ironically die of starvation during your dinner prep! It can be really hard to estimate how much of the whole spices will give you the specified amount in the recipe so use the recipe quantities and a light suggestion. If you have ground more cumin than you need, just go ahead and add it. This isn’t an exact science so you are allowed to be as heavy handed as you like, even with the kashmiri chillies as they are very mild. I generally try to stick to the guidelines when dealing with hotter chillies though.

I’ve made this curry for so many people by now and what many comment on is the intense depth of flavour. It’s a real show-stopper and definitely one for the kitchen show-offs.

8 chicken breasts

First marinade

Juice of 4 limes

3 tbsp kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp salt

Second marinade

100 ml double cream

100 g natural yogurt

10 cloves of garlic

50 g ginger

2 tsp Garam Masala

2 tsp turmeric

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp beetroot powder (optional for colour)


100 g ghee/unsalted butter

10 cloves of garlic

50 g ginger

800 ml tomato passata

2 tbsp kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp Garam Masala

2 tbsp desiccated coconut

3 tsp salt

400 ml water

50 g cashews

50g pumpkin seeds

4 tbsp boiling water

2 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves

2 tsp caster sugar

100 ml double cream


50 g coriander leaves

50 g ginger matchsticks

Mix the ingredients for the first marinade in a bowl and add the chicken breasts that have been cut into pieces. Put in the fridge to marinade for an hour.

Grind all the spices for the second marinade and add to a food processor along with all other ingredient for the second marinade and blitz until smooth. Add the paste to the marinading chicken and leave in the fridge overnight.

Lay the marinaded chicken pieces on a baking rack and roast at 200 C for 30 minutes. Then set them aside to be added to the sauce later.

Grind the spices for the sauce. Here I divide them into 3 groups according to when they need to be added to the sauce and keep each group in a separate cup next to the hob before I start the sauce. This preparation step makes cooking the sauce much easier. In the first cup, add the Kashmiri chilli powder, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, Garam Masala and the coconut. In the second cup, add the cashews and pumpkin seeds after they have been ground. In the third cup, add the fenugreek leaves and caster sugar.

Melt the ghee/butter in a heavy based pot and add the finely chopped garlic and ginger. Fry for one minute.

Add the passata, mix and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the first cup of ingredients, the salt and 200 ml of water, mix and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the boiling water to the second cup and mix to form a paste with the cashews and pumpkin seeds. Add this paste to the sauce. This will thicken the sauce a bit like a French roux. (If making ahead, this is a perfect time to stop. Cover with a lid and finish before serving.)

Add chicken and another 200 ml water. Stir and let simmer for 10 minutes. Add the fenugreek, sugar and cream and mix in.

Cover with the fresh garnishes and serve with rice.


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