At the height of India’s Independence in 1947, one man began to experiment with Punjabi traditions, combining recipes from both Pakistan and India. Kundan Lal Gurja and his restaurant Moti Mahal Delux which still remains in New Delhi, India today, became the birthplace of two famous dishes, Tandoori Chicken and the world’s go-to for Indian cuisine, Butter Chicken.
The latter’s tomato and milk-based sauce combines leftover grilled Tandoori chicken to make this popular curry but some have questioned the authenticity of the dish; is it truly Indian or a spin on western cooking? I once asked my grandmother who considers herself an Anglo-Indian, an english speaking Christian who was born in Pakistan before Partition, what she thought about the dish. She simply wrinkled her nose and nodded- waggled her head in that way that says something clearer than the actual words themselves. I laughed and felt the reply was enough, but the curiosity remained.
It is said that chefs in India refuse to share their recipes and secrets for the oft imitated and re-envisioned dish but online and beyond there is a plethora of how to’s. I turn to my handed down little red book, The Traditional Gourmet Delights book of recipes that once belonged to my mother and came from her’s. Here we take the traditional Butter Chicken Recipe to a new level, making a Paleo-style dish that even Kundan Lal Gurja would approve (maybe) of.
Let the chicken marinate for at least an hour or prepare up to two days in advance. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.
2 Chicken Breasts or 4-6 Chicken Thighs- Cubed
1/2 Cup Coconut Cream
1 TBLS Lemon Juice
1/4 TSP Garam Masala
1/4 TSP Ground Coriander
1/4 TSP Ground Cumin
1/4 TSP Turmeric
1/4 TSP Paprika
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1 Onion- Diced
1 Inch Ginger- Finely Chopped
1 Small can of Plain Tomato Sauce or 1/2 Cup of Finely Diced Tomatoes
1 Can of Coconut Milk
1 TSP of Garam Masala
1/2 TSP of Cayenne
1 TSP of Coriander
Coat the bottom of a deep pot with oil. Fry the onion on hight until translucent, add garlic and ginger. Stir constantly, careful not let the goods burn. Once the onions run clear, add all of the spices from the sauce. The bottom of the pan might get sticky so be sure to add water to the spice bowl and add as needed. Add the chicken and the marinade, stirring well. Once everything is blended- the air should be fragrant with sweet and spicy by now- add the tomatoes. Once your tomato sauce is fully mixed or your fresh tomatoes have broken down, add the can of coconut milk. Stir on a medium heat, cover and simmer until ready to eat.
Garnish with fresh coriander, serve on white Basmati or Cauliflower rice and pair with a side of sliced cucumbers.