On a Rich Note

A very Happy 2009 to you all! I hope together we can make 2009 as delicious as 2008 was.

(There was supposed to be one neat peak of ketchup for each month of 2009 but I counted wrong as there are only ten. So this kind of fell flat but I like the picture so much that I want you to imagine the other two and I hope your 2009 is filled with new highs and lots of color.)

For some of us, it's time to pull out that trusty tape measure and start making New Year's resolutions. Or stand on the weighing scale and swear to make it to the gym.

Not me. Uh-uh. Never. I don't make New Year's resolutions. If I need to change something, why wait till the end of the year? Besides, I am looking forward to snowshoeing in the mountains every weekend - almost - for the next six weeks so I am hoping that all those extra inches that love my short frame so, will just melt away.

Our New Year's celebrations are usually low-key with just the three of us ringing in the New Year, first at the Indian Standard Time, then at all the time zones within the US. By the time we're done, those we called earlier in the day call us back to wish us and it gets really confusing after a while, as everyone tries to figure out if we've already spoken or if they spoke to someone we spoke to and thought they had spoken to us instead. Anyway, it's just plain mayhem!

Medha and I have been freaking out on Guitar Hero and I'm the cat's whiskers on some songs already - so what if it's at the Easy level! Her Dad, who kicks ass at Wii Sports, can't hold a candle to me! Medha plays the drums while I play bass, cos the drums are too complicated. There are 3 drums, 2 cymbals and a foot pedal. The mind boggles at that! My eye-brain-hand coordination has improved considerably but not enough to work the drums. I now manage to hit both the colored button and the strum at the same time on the wireless guitar. If only my aerobics instructor could see me now! She wouldn't walk up to me, grab hold of my hands to bring them down and say "Stop!" with a deeply pained expression in her eyes. The Eye of the Tiger and Beat it are our favorite songs. So we rocked late into the night and let the phone ring...

But, before the ball dropped in Times Square and the Clintons hugged each other like there was no Monica Lewinsky between them, we had a scrumptious dinner. We said goodbye to 2008 on a rather rich note. Murg makhani. Yup, butter chicken with just enough butter and cream to make it rich and luscious.

It is a two step process where the chicken is made tandoori-style and then released into a delicately flavored buttery tomato sauce. I say delicate because the sauce is sans onions or garam masala. It rides on the tang of tomatoes, lots of ginger and garlic, the inherent buttery goodness of cashewnuts and of course, butter and cream. It's so good that the serving spoon is always licked clean and the bowl in which it is served looks like it was just pulled out of the dishwasher.

I base my recipe on Makhani Chooze from one of my fave recipe books, Prashad: Cooking with Indian Masters by J Inder Singh Kalra.

Jen, my dear, this recipe is especially for you!

Chicken Makhani

Step 1: Tandoori-style chicken

  • 1.5 lbs of boneless chicken, breast or thigh meat
  • 2-3 tsp red chilli powder
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp salt (use more depending on your taste)
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp grated garlic
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • a good pinch of saffron threads
  • 2 tsp red paprika
  • butter for basting
  1. Rub red chilli powder, lime juice and salt onto the chicken and set it aside for about 15 minutes.

  2. Whisk together yogurt and cream and then add grated ginger, grated garlic, garam masala, saffron and paprika and mix well. This is your main marinade.
  3. Add this marinade to your chicken and ensure that the chicken is coated well with this mixture.
  4. Marinate it for at least 4 hours for best results.
  5. Arrange the chicken on a rack with a tray underneath to collect the drippings. Discard the marinade.
  6. Set your oven to broil on high and broil the chicken for 5 minutes. Turn it over, baste with butter and broil for another 5 minutes. If you use chicken breasts then adjust the time accordingly.
  7. At this point, you have several options: serve it with roast potatoes and salad or eat it as is and hope for some leftovers so that you can move on to Step 2. Or put a hand of steel on your heart and move on to Step 2.
This picture was taken in a huge hurry as my guests waited for their meal. I served tandoori-style chicken breasts with aloor dum, a spring salad with a vinaigrette dressing and naan for a simple meal with neighbors. They said they had never eaten chicken this tender before.

  • If you use breast meat, don't forget to make a few deep incisions so that the marinade can seep in as much as possible.
  • The original recipe calls for a drop of orange color. I prefer to use red paprika instead.
  • I made this without garam masala last week as we had visitors who were not big on spice and it worked just fine.
  • While 4 hours is preferable, I have marinated it for as little as 2 hours and the chicken has not been any the worse for it.
  • If you like the burnt bits on your meat, broil the chicken until that point.
  • I have tried cooking the marinade with the drippings from the tray but it wasn't very popular. The chicken is very moist and tender and has a fair coating of the spices that it does not need any gravy with it when served tandoori-style.

Step 2: The Makhani sauce

  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 3 tbsp grated ginger
  • 3 tbsp grated garlic
  • 1.5 cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 3-4 Thai chillies. slit vertically and deseeded (use more if you want to up the heat)
  • 5 tsp ground cashewnuts
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder (or cayenne pepper and red paprika)
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • salt to taste
  • chopped cilantro for garnish
  1. Melt butter in a kadhai and add grated ginger and grated garlic.
  2. Stir over medium heat for a few minutes until the fibers turn a golden color.
  3. Add diced tomatoes and about 2 cups of water.
  4. Cover and cook down until most of the water has evaporated.
  5. While this is cooking, chop the tandoori-style chicken into bite-size pieces.
  6. Blend the cooked down chunky sauce into a smooth mixture using a hand blender or in your blender. If your blender is like mine, you may want to cool the mixture quickly using a few ice cubes.
  7. Pour the smooth mixture back into the kadhai and add the chopped ginger and green chillies. Cook for a few minutes and then add ground cashewnuts and stir to ensure they mix well into the sauce.
  8. If you like, adjust the sauce to a thickness of your liking by adding some water.
  9. Add salt and Kashmiri chilli powder and bring the sauce to a boil.
  10. Gently add the chopped chicken into the sauce and simmer for 7-8 minutes.
  11. Stir in heavy cream and remove from heat.
  12. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with naan, roti or with rice. The choice is yours.
  • The original recipe called for 2 sticks of butter and 2/3 cups cream in the sauce. I think that much is rather unnecessary. Also, I don't particularly care for a floating layer of grease on my chicken.
  • I used almonds instead of cashewnuts yesterday and it worked just as well.
  • I used half the number of green chillies. Add more green chillies to make it spicier if you like.
  • And, yes, there really is all that ginger in the sauce. Do not reduce the amount of chopped ginger as it gives a lovely bite to the sauce.
What you see in this little one-serving bowl is all that is left of last night's butter chicken. We shared some for a very late brunch earlier today. Then off went Medha for a sleepover but only after hugging me profusely and telling me just how much she loved me and could I please save the rest of the chicken for her.


Jen Yu said...

Oh yummmmmmmm!!! Thank you for the recipe, you lovely, wonderful, scrumptious woman! Happy New Year, love. I'm looking forward to 2009 as I know we'll have some fun cooking, eating, gossiping, laughing together. We should kidnap Kitt too. I still have your tupperware. xxoo!!

sunita said...

Wishing you and yours a wonderful 2009, dear Manisha.

Purnima said...

Happy 2009 Manisha! Have a Rollicking year! (So does the 1st pic go to B?? GIMME RED says she!)

Rima said...

Happy New Year! And that recipe looks so yum, that I must try it this weekend.

Navita (Gupta) Hakim said...

hey I play the guitar too...n love murg makhaani..;p

Hi, first time here. U got a lovely place girl.

M new to ur blog n blogosphere.
Swing by my lil place sometime plz.:)

Happy New Year!

Sig said...

Happy New Year Manisha! I suck at Guitar Hero, I love the sports stuff lot better... PGA is awesome!

Shilpa said...

I loooove chicken makhani. What a great way to start new year. I think this is the first year when I didn't call anyone. I hope the new year brings lots of happiness to everyone.

Anita said...

What an awesome recipe to open the new Year with!

J Inder Kalra used to have a tv show a long time back. But I had a problem with them recipes - they were so elaborate and tedious and all called for pureed gravy! Who has the whole day to make one dish?!

Meeta K. Wolff said...

Manisha - wish you a delicious 2009! It's been great with you and I look forward to 2009! Jen told me about the butter chicken ;-) Love the stuff!

Manasi said...


Tuhin A said...

color... surely you mean colour :P

Kitt said...

Nom! That looks delish.

I want to see your Wii performance. Did your aerobics instructor really do that???

I'll be a willing kidnap victim. I have your cooler for collateral.

Happy New Year!

Nirmala said...

The chicken looks super yummy and make these for me when we meet :) Couldn't stop laughing at the last line. All kids are the same. My elder one doesn't bother about me travelling for two week's leaving him but makes sure I bring lotsa toys for him. Crazy they were and I remember me too being the same in childhood.

Bong Mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bong Mom said...

Wishing you a great new year, Manisha, that is as rich and scrumptious as the Murgh makhani and of course same goes for medha, her dad and your extended family.

Thistledew Farm said...

rich pictures - rich food - sounds wonderful. Happy New Year - very cute post!

bee said...

no onions, no garam masala? i am making this for for my next dinner party. wishing you, d and medha a fantastic and delicious 2009.

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

I don't know if this is late, but a very Happy New Year to you.

I don't make New Year resolutions either and actually made to the gym end of last year. But at this age the fat is taking its time melting!!

We spent the last day of 2008 at home too (three of us) but with naan and paneer butter masala (our daughter's favourite)!!

Pelicano said...

That looks so delicious! I actually haven't yet met any non-veggies who are able to refuse this dish!

Pelicano said...

Oh, and a HNY to you, yours, and the other readers!

Nic said...

Oh that looks so good!
Happy New Year Manisha!

Manjusha Nimbalkar said...

kay mast color ahheh Makhani cha. Yummmmm!!!

Sheuli said...

Awesome pics and the recipe is also good..Keep on the good work.

Priya said...

you posted a r.e.c.i.p.e while I was away!!! I really need to google 'guitar hero' now....

Rachna said...

hey manisha, happy new year to you... love the tomato tangy sauce....

Cynthia said...

It's late I know but nevertheless! Happy New Year to you and the family!

I want a Wii so bad! :)

Unknown said...

Ohh, I stumbled upon your blog looking for Chicken Mikhani and Vindaloo recipes. I am so thankful for your recipes and all your tips. May I ask you a question...when you say red chili powder, is that cayenne, or is that "chili powder" like you buy at the grocery store?

Indian Food Rocks said...

Bishop Family, it's neither but cayenne is a good substitute. It is a lot milder than powders made from Indian dried red chillies. Please do not use the chili powder or chili mix found in supermarkets for this recipe.

It's "chilli" with two l's - it's how we spell chile in the Indian subcontinent. If you have an Indian grocery store nearby, you could buy a packet of red chilli powder there. If you want something that imparts color and is not as spicy, you could look for Degchi Mirch powder. I hope this helps!

Indian Food Rocks said...

Sorry! That should be Deghi Mirch powder. Degchi is a type of pot - the 'c' managed to sneak in!

Unknown said...

Thank you so very much for helping to direct me to the correct chili powder!! I will let you know how my dish turns out after I attempt it. Have a wonderful day!

Rianne said...

Just checking, how big are your cans of diced tomatoes? the ones I buy here are 28oz but I see references to much smaller ones in recipes all the time. I frequently end up with very tomato-laden dishes.