“Can I take your order?” Asks the waiter at a local quaint no frills Mughlai restaurant in the bustling city of Mumbai. Without looking at the menu my father says, “Three plates Butter Chicken, three roomali rotis and one black dal. Also we’ll have some raita and onion salaad.”
Rich butter chicken gravy coating the slightly charred pieces of tandoori chicken and soft rotis/ bread to mop up the spicy flavoured curry alongside the buttery creamy slow cooked black dal. With our hearts content and a full belly we end another delicious meal with some cooling creamy malai kulfi.
Most of what I said might sound like a cliché where Indian food is concerned or rather dishes that are commonly heard of. And they most definitely are! As so many of these dishes have been eaten for years by people across communities in India.
I always veer towards regional varieties of Indian cuisine and for obvious reasons. With a sub continent as big as ours it always baffles me how little people know about the diversity of Indian cuisine and what makes up the interesting dynamics of the states in India. But that said; if there is one thing you will find served in over 90 cities in India, it would fittingly be a classic Butter Chicken. Quintessentially north Indian dishes have paved their way across the country (and beyond!) and have offered not just the essence of comfort food but also a sense of nostalgia. I can honestly say growing up in Mumbai; visiting north Indian/ Mughlai restaurants meant the sheer delight and glee on my face because I could order Butter chicken. Some places for us were a regular haunt as they got it just right in terms of flavour and spice. Recipes in these restaurants haven’t changed and even when I go back today visiting them brings back memories of eating this wonderful gem of a dish.
To think the humble beginnings of this delicious Indian dish came out of necessity! The legendary Kundan Laal Gujral has been widely known to have made tandoori cooking hugely popular when he opened his restaurant Moti Mahal in Delhi after partition. It was within the rustic kitchens at Moti Mahal that Butter Chicken evolved into what it is today. Tandoori chicken and tikkas over skewers were kept beside hot tandoors and would dry out in the absence of refrigeration. To reduce wastage Kundan Lal introduced a butter gravy in which the chicken could be added helping the Tandoori chicken stay moist and enhance flavour of the overall dish. A stroke of genius if you ask me!
Dishes like these are classics, which never go out of style or follow a trend. They stay true to their taste and also meet our expectations when we cook it or eat them at restaurants. Indian cuisine is consistently evolving, growing and reaching homes everywhere. There are loads of Indian restaurants now putting inspired regional varieties on the menus in the UK and India but also going back to classics which for me define the essence of Indian food.
So if you haven’t tried it I urge you to. Dare I say it’s a ‘curry’ that ticks all the boxes and gives you a glimpse into what Indians across the world are so crazy about. Recipe for Murgh Makhani/ Butter Chicken
Sometime back I cooked Butter Chicken with Jamie on Food Tube and for me it was a chance to share my recipe and show how amazing this dish really is. It’s usually a given that Indians love it but getting those who don’t know what the dish is all about to try it has been brilliant. There have been so many amazing comments, twitter, facebook and instagram photos of everyone having tired the dish. I am overwhelmed by the response. To see the video reaching 1 million views is testament to people’s love for Butter Chicken and of course everyone’s love for the wonderful Jamie Oliver! Thank you to the amazing team at Jamie’s Food Tube for giving me a platform to share some truly incredible food and also my love for spices and Indian dishes. More importantly a big THANK YOU to all of you who have seen the recipe, tried it and enjoyed cooking it in your own homes. It means so much to know that recipes I cook in my little kitchen are making it over to yours! x