Butter Chicken / Murgh Makhani

By Resident Chef: Harvey Pincis


Butter chicken / Murgh makhani


The other day in my haste to complete my shopping, I picked up skinless and boneless chicken thighs instead of breasts as my much better half intended to make chicken rouladen. The thighs of course would not work for rouladen, but as the meat is actually tastier, I thought to tackle Punjabi Butter Chicken as we fancied something on the spicy side. The ingredient list is on the longish side, but can easily be simplified and the process itself is quite simple. The actual prep time is quite short, the most time spent is in the marinating and slow cooking.

The origin of the dish is relatively recent; sometime in the 1950s, three Punjabi restaurateurs devised a creamy tomato sauce to use up leftover tandoori chicken pieces and the rest is history. Realistically most households do not have a traditional tandoor, so pan-frying is the most practical solution, though grilling or BBQ would be closer to the original.




500g chicken thigh meat, cut in large diced pieces


For the marinade:
1 tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder (or standard mild chilli powder)
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp of each: salt, garam masala, ginger paste, garlic paste (crush the ginger and garlic with a little water to a paste)
1 tbsp Greek yoghurt
½ tbsp lemon juice


For the masala:
5 medium fresh tomatoes, quartered
250g chopped tomatoes or 1 can Tinned, chopped tomatoes (Mutti is excellent)
2 fresh green chillies (split)

½ tsp salt, or to taste
½ tsp sugar
1 tsp red chilli powder
¼ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp fresh coriander, chopped
6 skinned almonds or plain cashews, ground to a paste with a little water
½ tsp diced ginger
¼ tsp chopped fresh green chilli

Dash of Lee & Perrins’ Worcestershire sauce
50g butter
30ml cream. (Président cooking cream works well)
Sliced ginger and fresh coriander, to serve


With an electric whisk or by hand, mix the marinade ingredients to a smooth paste, smother over the chicken and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight. The lemon and yoghurt will tenderise the chicken for a melt in the mouth experience.

Either grill or pan-fry the chicken until almost cooked through and set aside.

On a medium heat, add the tomatoes first to break down and then add all the masala ingredients save the ginger, chilli, butter and cream.

Stick blend the sauce and then add the chicken, ginger, butter and cream, stirring to combine the elements and reduce the heat to low and leave for an hour or more checking both the seasoning and moisture. The heat is a personal issue and the moisture we are aiming for is a thick rich sauce that is moist without being runny.


Garnish and serve with naan bread or Basmati (or any long grain) rice.








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