Butter Chicken is an important meal for our family. On Parnell Road, in Auckland there is a little restaurant called Oh Calcutta. Mark and I used to live down the road from here in 2001, and this is when we discovered Meena’s (the owner of the restaurant) version of Butter Chicken. This is unlike any I have ever had, and has a rick creamy tomato soup-like sauce with chucks of grilled tandoori chicken, we never eat it with rice, it is more like a soup and we simply eat it with naan bread.
Oh Calcutta has become a favourite with our family, when Mark was commuting to Whakatane to Auckland, he would regularly order a take-away butter chicken, in fact he was such a regular that they got to know him by name. After we moved to Australia and had been away for a few years, when we returned Meena recognised Mark, and knew exactly what he was going to order. Oh Calcutta has been the favourite restaurant of choice for birthdays, leaving parties, welcome home dinners, we even had out pre-wedding dinner there. I remember one night ordering the butter chicken, and I exclaimed that the butter chicken is better than sex, one of the petite waitresses overheard this, and said “perhaps you have not found the right woman yet”, if only she knew.
This recipe has been a bit of a collaboration between Greg and myself, Greg and Natasha visited us for a couple weeks on their way to London, and Greg showed us his version of the recipe, which was very good, and probably the closest I have ever had to the famed Oh Calcutta version, the key ingredient he used was Ferns butter chicken paste, this is available from good Indian stores, and Greg found a place in Fremantle that sells it here. After Greg and Natasha left for London I headed back to NZ to see my family for a few days, and of course there was a welcome home dinner at Oh Calcutta, this time I tried very hard to work out the flavours in the dish, and I worked out that the tomato flavour is very similar to tomato soup. I noted this down, and as soon as I got home I set about trying to recreate this delicious meal. Now, I never expect to be able to match the dish exactly to Oh Calcutta, and I would not want to, this restaurant is a special place, and will always be a favourite, but I would be happy with a 9 out of 10 match, for me to have more frequently than once a year when I visit NZ, and this is what we have archived.
500g chicken thighs (boneless and skinless)
200g natural yoghurt
3tbs Ferns butter chicken paste
Butter Chicken Sauce
2 tsp cumin seeds
15 cardamon pods, lightly crushed (greener cardamon is best)
1 cinnamon quill
1 tbs ghee or vegetable oil
2 punnets ripe mini tomatoes, or 3-4 ripe roma tomatoes
1 tbs Ferns butter chicken paste
1 tbs raw sugar
1 can condensed tomato soup (500g)
100ml single (pouring) cream
2tsp extra ghee
plenty of naan bread (we use frozen naan bread from out local Indian supermarket)
Slice the chicken into bite-size pieces, trim any excess fat and give this to your cats. Combine the yoghurt with the butter chicken paste, add the chicken and combine well. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat grill or barbeque to a high heat, and cook the chicken pieces until slightly charred, and drain off any excess liquid.
In a large heavy based pan toast the cumin, cardamon and cinnamon. Once toasted fish out the cardamon and lightly crush the pods further to extract the seeds, discard the husks. Pound the cumin and cardamon in a mortar with a pestle until smooth. In the same pan add ghee or oil, butter chicken paste, spices, cinnamon quill, and tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes are very soft and well cooked, about 10 min. Add the sugar and cook for a further 2-3 min. Discard the cinnamon quill and add the tomato mixture to a food processor and blend until very smooth. Return the tomato mix to the pan, and add can tomato soup, and 1 can of milk. Stir in the grilled chicken and cook for 20 minutes on a low heat, try to prevent the sauce from boiling.
At this point taste the sauce regularly, it will still be a bit spicy, so add the cream until the taste is right, add it slowly, you can always add more but if you add too much it is difficult to get it back. You may also need to add a smidgen more sugar. I guess the tasting is the most important part to tweak the final flavour, but add any extra ingredients slowly in case you over-flavour the sauce.
Melt the extra ghee, and brush the naan lightly, cook the naan in a hot oven for a few minutes until warm. Serve the butter chicken with the naan and enjoy.