It was only a few years ago that I realized that my Mom’s ‘No-Butter, Butter Chicken’ recipe was one confined strictly to our home. I discovered this only after I’d (heartily) tucked into several bowls of what I thought was guilt-free Butter Chicken on a cold winter afternoon in Delhi and later refused to eat anything the rest of the day after the cook told me there was no such thing as ‘Butter Chicken without Butter’. I think she might have even rolled her eyes at me. _Didn’t everyone know my Mom’s cheat’s way of making Butter Chicken? _Apparently not, because the aforementioned act of gluttony took place at my Massi’s (maternal aunt’s) place. Did I mention that my Mom and Massi are twins? Yep, that’s how closely guarded this recipe has been.
But now her secret’s out –
these blanched almonds blended with 3 – 4 tablespoons of water is what my Mom’s kept under wraps for years! This little trick is what will make the rich tomato gravy turn orange sans any artificial food colouring or butter. It’s the sort of trick that lets you enjoy the richness of the ingredients without being rendered immobile for the next few hours. I’ve borrowed slightly from Aditya Bal’s recipe, mostly in the marinade, to enhance the flavours and give them an extra ‘punch’. So if you find yourself panicked over a rather yellow-looking marinade because of the slight addition of turmeric and are contemplating skipping it while making the gravy, well don’t worry about it, it comes together really well in the end.
The long-ish recipe can seem intimidating at first glance, but you only need to make it once to have it at your fingertips. A few basic spices get used in the marinade and then reappear whilst making the gravy. I find that different households have varying thresholds for how sweet they’d like their homemade Butter Chicken to be, so while I’ve kept this to a pinch of sugar while pureeing the tomatoes and another ½ teaspoon to the gravy, feel free to adjust this to your taste… let’s do this!
Adapted slightly from The Chakhle India Cookbook by Aditya Bal.
Mom's 'No-Butter, Butter Chicken' recipe
It was only a few years ago that I realized that my Mom’s ‘No-Butter, Butter Chicken’ recipe was one confined strictly to our home. I discovered this only after I’d (heartily) tucked into several bowls of what I thought was guilt-free Butter Chicken on a cold winter afternoon in Delhi and later re
In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the marinade. Put the chicken in a large bowl pour the marinade over the chicken and use your hands to mix the chicken well with the marinade. Cover refrigerate for a couple of hours.
After a couple of hours, bring the chicken to room temperature. Heat a large non-stick pan with 2 Tablespoons of oil. Once the pan is hot, add the chicken pieces and cook them on medium-high heat until they are slightly charred around the edges. Add the remnants of the marinade to the pan and cook the chicken until nearly cooked through.
Meanwhile, heat 2 Tablespoons of oil in a large wok, add onions, green chilli ginger and sauté for a couple of minutes on medium heat.
Add the turmeric, red chilli powder, cumin coriander powders and sauté till they release their aromas.
Stir in the tomato puree and simmer on low heat for about 4 minutes until the gravy has a deep red colour. Add the sugar and salt to taste.
Stir in the almond-water paste and let it cook on low heat for a minute.
Add the cooked chicken to the gravy, mix well and allow it to cook together for another couple of minutes on low heat until chicken is cooked through. Check for seasoning before taking it off the heat.