Esther’s Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken with Naan cooked on the BBQ

In my twenties when we lived in Nottingham, Friday night was Irish night.  We’d head into town around nine o’clock for a few pints before last orders when I’d drag everybody to the Irish Centre for three hours of dancing in a venue that was more reminiscent of a church hall than a night club.  Still the music was excellent, the beer cheap, and the chat-up lines truly unoriginal.

Ten years ago we moved to Newcastle and Friday night was no longer Irish night.  If I’m honest, my thirties welcomed this change (there’s a limit on how many times you’re allowed to walk four miles at 2am in your bare feet).  Friday nights became about exploring our new city, walking along the river to the eat at one of the many restaurants on the Quayside and up in the ‘Toon”.  Seafood, Italian, Japanese (sadly now closed), a whole Chinatown, plenty of pubs and a couple of very posh Indian Restaurants.

We slowly began to make friends, which had similarities to clubbing in that it seemed easier in our twenties.  One Friday evening we apprehensively approached R&R’s for the first time.  We didn’t know them very well: would the evening fly by in laughter or drag in stilted conversation?  We needn’t have worried.  Standing at her cooker, furiously deep frying her own poppadoms, R exclaimed Friday night is curry night! Our hearts and stomachs leapt with anticipation of home made curry.

Friday night is curry night! Its been repeated many times over the years.  And its taken many Friday nights to find a perfect curry.  One that has a rich, smooth gravy with enough spice for me and not too much for him.  A curry that you want to eat over and over, and prefer spend the energy making than phone for take out.  One that doesn’t repeat on you the next day – if you know what I mean!

I have built up a considerable repertoire of curry recipes, including two terms of Indian cooking classes, but the perfect curry alluded me until I happened upon this recipe on Esther Walker’s blog Recipe Rifle.  Esther describes it as the best curry in the world which was enough to have me rummaging through my spice drawer without a second thought.  Her version (which she attributes to Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall) was too spicy for Jonathan, so I cut out the fresh chillies and halved the chilli powder.

Don’t be afraid of the list of spices.  Once you make this, you will make it again.  And again and again.

Three final things:                                                                                                                               1. A good friend recommended Rosé wine with Indian food – he is so right                             2. R&R became very good friends                                                                                                     3. If there are just two of you, Saturday night is leftovers night!

Esther's Butter Chicken
  • 700g chicken thigh pieces
  • 1tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp plain yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp garam masala
  • juice ½ lime (1 tbsp)
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 2 tsp fenugreek
  • thumb sized piece of ginger, grated
  • 1-2 tbsp oil
Tomato Sauce
  • 2 x 400g tins tomatoes
  • thumb sized piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 175ml water
Butter Sauce
  • 125g butter
  • 2 tsp ground cuin
  • 2 tsp tomato puree
  • 4 tsp honey
  • 150ml double cream
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  1. Mix together the salt, plain yoghurt, garam masala, lime juice, chilli powder, ground coriander, mixed spice, fenugreek, grated ginger and oil. Marinade the chicken pieces in the mix overnight in the fridge.
  2. Pour the chicken pieces and marinade into a shallow baking dish and cover in foil. Bake at 220 degrees C for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200 degrees C for a further 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Put the tinned tomatoes, grated ginger, crushed or finely chopped garlic, cloves, salt and water in a saucepan, bring to a gentle boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Blend to a smooth consistency.
  4. In a large saucepan, gently melt the butter and ground cumin. Add the blended tomato sauce followed by the tomato puree, honey, double cream, lime juice and black pepper.
  5. Heat gently for about 5 minutes, then add your cooked chicken and all its juices and marinade. Cook for another 8 to 10 minutes.

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