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Butter Chicken

January 13, 2011

Before the beginning of our renovations, which have turned our house into something vaguely resembling a bombed out building, I went on a bit of a cooking spree, surprisingly exactly no one. Knowing that my le creusets would be inaccessible for a month, I used them more than I should have considering the outside temperature. I made tons of bread, one-pot dinners, and even a ragù bolognese. I was getting it out of my system; it was worth the sweltering.

One of our favorite one-pot dinners is this butter chicken, another relic of my college days in Montréal. Since coming to Australia, I’ve seen butter chicken, an Indian curry favored by Anglos, all over the place. Though the name evokes images of chicken dripping in butter, the (minimal) butter involved doesn’t play a huge part in the flavor of the dish. Instead, the chicken floats in a glorious sauce of tomato, cream, turmeric, cinnamon and other spices. Both Francesco and I love butter chicken so much that the excessive amounts I make with leftovers in mind never make it into Tupperware. The ends of last week’s butter chicken were spooned out of the pot with thick slices of bread. Not even the dog got a lick.

A disclaimer: as you can tell from our pairing crusty bread with Indian curry, we’re no experts on the intricacies of Indian cuisine. This recipe, which comes from Katharine (see Banana Dream Cake), is, at best, a bastardized version of the real thing. But it’s an absolutely delicious bastard: sweet and savory, as easy to make as it is to eat. You’ll want to ignore our example and serve your butter chicken with steamed rice or naan. If you’re too lazy to make rice (achem), just make sure you have something to help you wipe up all the sauce. Oh, and one more thing: don’t plan on having leftovers, I assure you there won’t be any.


I’ve found that even if I don’t have all the spices on hand, this still comes out perfect every time. Just go with what you’ve got and you won’t be disappointed. Recipe adapted from Katharine Caldwell. Serves 2 – 4, use the equivalent of 1 chicken breast per person.


¼ cup (50 grams) butter

1 onion

1 small piece of ginger, grated

1 small green chili pepper, chopped

spice mixture:

½ teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cinnamon

2-3 cloves, or ¼ teaspoon ground clove


1 small can (10 oz) tomato sauce

½ small can tomato paste

1 cup whipping cream (or 1 cup Greek yogurt or 1/2 cup creme fraiche)

¾ cup sultanas, if desired


3 chicken breasts, cubed (you can also use thighs if you prefer)

2 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp fresh parsley, chopped

1 tsp fenugreek

In a pot, sauté butter, onion, ginger, and chili together over medium heat until onions are golden brown. Add spice mixture to the onions.

In a separate bowl use a whisk to mix tomato sauce, tomato paste and whipping cream together until well blended, then add to the onion mixture. Add the sultanas if using, then simmer the mixture for 15 – 20 minutes over low heat.

In a separate pan, sauté chicken, oil, minced garlic, and parsley together over med-high heat. Stop cooking as soon as chicken is done, then add everything in the pan to the sauce. Simmer everything together, then, just before serving, add the fenugreek and simmer for another minute.

Serve with rice or naan bread.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Brenna permalink
    January 14, 2011 3:45 am

    This takes me back – one of my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITES!

  2. July 22, 2011 10:12 am

    absolutely mouth watering!

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