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True butter chicken for the soul

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About Thomas

I write because I can type. I can type because I have a keyboard.

I am a new age Australian resident that is experiencing this new continent with a fresh set of eyes. 

I write on a wide range of topics. Well, I write on food. There you have it, I write on a wide range of food as well. 

Step aside Gordon Ramsay ... this is how you make real butter chicken.

I love it when I see chefs from places other than the Indian sub-continent state that they make great ‘Indian’ food.

Butter chicken is delicious.

Butter chicken is delicious. Picture: Shutterstock

The pick of the lot is Gordon Ramsay. I have tried his butter chicken. Let me give you an honest and brutal opinion like he does so famously on Twitter: ‘It was horrendous’. Just because you get the colour of the dish right, it does not mean the dish is right. Please stop trying and learn how it is done.

Butter chicken, like chicken tikka masala, is one of the most popular Indian curries in the world, for all the right reasons. It is also popular by its Hindi name - Murgh Makhani.

The taste of the creamy, bright-coloured masala with chunks of grilled chicken is an unforgettable one. I love to eat mine with some soft rumali rotis, though you can have it with any kind of Indian flatbread. Like its north Indian origins and name suggests, good quantities of butter go into the making of this dish.

So how do you actually make it? Here is a tried, tested formula that I use. And believe me, everyone who has had it, loves it. This recipe ideally will feed 2-3 people.


  • 400g boneless chicken, cut into 4cm cubes
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 Tbsp butter 
  • For marinade

  • 1/2 cup of yoghurt
  • 2 tsp ginger paste
  • 2 tsp garlic paste 
  • 1/2 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder (no, not paprika)
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tsp mustard oil 
  • For makhani gravy

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 green cardamom pods
  • 2 cloves
  • 2-3 black peppercorns
  • 2.5cm piece of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 cup of tomato puree
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder 
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp of powdered dried fenugreek leaves 
  • 1/2 cup of fresh cream
  • How do you make it?

  • Apply a mixture of red chilli powder, lemon juice and salt to the chicken pieces and set aside for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
  • Hang the yoghurt in a muslin cloth for 15-20 minutes to remove extra water. When done, remove and add the ginger and garlic pastes, red chilli and garam masala powders, salt and mustard oil.
  • Apply this marinade to the chicken pieces before placing back in the fridge for 3-4 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. String the chicken pieces onto skewers and cook in the pre-heated oven, or a moderately hot tandoor, for 10-15 minutes, or until almost done.
  • Baste with the butter and cook for another two minutes. Remove and set aside.
  • To make the makhani gravy, heat the butter in a non-stick pan. Add the green cardamoms, cloves, peppercorns and cinnamon.
  • Sauté for two minutes, add the ginger and garlic pastes, and sauté for two minutes. Add the tomato puree, red chilli powder, salt and half cup of water.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for ten minutes. Add the sugar and powdered fenugreek.
  • Add the cooked tandoori chicken pieces. Simmer for five minutes and add the fresh cream. Serve hot with Indian bread
  • Now this will get you the real Indian butter chicken. It is mild, tangy, delicious and not the abomination that you get in most stores.


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