Fijian Butter Chicken
Fijian Butter Chicken

Ingredients

CHICKEN MARINADE
1kg / 2lb boneless chicken thigh fillets, skinless
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
1 cup natural or Greek-style yoghurt
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp fresh garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon hot masala or garam masala powder
2 Tbsp oil (mustard or coconut)
2 Tbsp butter or ghee
MAKHANI SAUCE
3 Tbsp butter or ghee
2 Tbsp minced ginger/garlic
1 Tbsp red chilli powder
4-5 small red chillies (adjust to suit)
1/2 teaspoon black cardamom seeds
4 cloves
1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon ground
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi)
400gm / 14oz tinned tomatoes, chopped
1 Tbsp hot masala or garam masala powder
1 cup water
1/4 cup honey
0.5 cup cooking cream
0.5 cup coconut cream or milk
When I first arrived to Fiji I was surprised that Indo-Fijian cooks did not know what butter chicken was? Just as most Chinese cooks know how to cook a good fried rice, I naively thought that all Indian cooks knew butter chicken. However as I was soon to discover, Fiji’s Indian population had been somewhat...

Method

1.Marinate the chopped chicken with all marinade ingredients overnight EXCEPT the butter (which will be used to cook the chicken)
2.Preheat oven to 200C/390F. Place marinated chicken on a baking tray and baste with melted butter. Bake for 15 minutes, turning pieces over to brown each side. Cook to medium-rare - do not overcook. Set aside.
3.In a pot, heat 3 Tbsp butter and add cardamom seeds, cloves, peppercorns and cinnamon. Fry for 2 mins to release flavours.
4.Add ginger, garlic and chopped chillies. Cook for further 2-3 mins.
5.Add tomatoes, red chilli powder, masala powder, salt and 1 cup water. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer for 10 mins.
6.Add honey and kasoori methi leaves.
7.Add baked chicken pieces, mix thoroughly and simmer for 10 mins until chicken is fully cooked
8.Add coconut milk and cream, fold thru the sauce and turn off heat.
9.Serve with steamed rice and roti

When I first arrived to Fiji I was surprised that Indo-Fijian cooks did not know what butter chicken was? Just as most Chinese cooks know how to cook a good fried rice, I naively thought that all Indian cooks knew butter chicken. However as I was soon to discover, Fiji’s Indian population had been somewhat disconnected from their motherland recipes including Murgh Makhani, or butter chicken. The original recipe has is origins in a sweet shop in Peshawar, India. It was here in the early 1940’s that shop owner Kundan Lal Gujral invented the Tandoori Chicken that we all love today. An astute businessman, Gujral realised that the tandoori chicken hanging above the tandoor all day would tend to dry out if unsold. He then came up with the genius idea of creating a basic gravy with tomatoes, butter, cream and some spices to immerse the roasted chicken pieces in, helping them regain moisture and become palatable again. And thus, was born the Butter Chicken. His restaurant chain, Moti Mahal Delux is today a global franchise with more than 120 outlets.

The beauty of Butter Chicken lies in the subtle balance of tanginess and a velvety texture. The spice mix can be a little complicated so if you are looking for a good shortcut, I’ll let you in a little secret I use when time is limited – Sharwood’s Tandoori Paste. This paste has been around for a long time and its recipe closely mimics the ingredients in this recipe. To reduce the richness of the cream I have also substituted in some coconut milk to bring some tropical taste to this already great recipe.