Recipe: Butter chicken

Here at Ice Moon Prison, we like a good curry, especially that most British of curries, butter chicken.  Home recipes for butter chicken tend to be awful, and usually end up being given to the Ice Moon Prison Hound.  When we came across a recipe from MasterChef’s Jimmy Seervai, we were sceptical.  But it proved to be authentic, and ever since, we’ve been tweaking it to taste more like what we can get from our local Indian restaurant, Tandoori Cottage (Urbanspoon page).

The latest version, heavily adapted, is presented here.  The most important spices are the fenugreek leaves (methi) and Kashmiri chilli powder; there really is no substituting them.  Ice Moon Prison uses and recommends Herbie’s Spices (unlike MasterChef since 2011).

Prep Time: 3 hrs | Cook Time: 1 hr | Difficulty: Medium


Garam Masala mix (or just use 2 tsp of any Garam Masala, but the flavour will vary):

  • 1 tsp Herbies Garam Masala
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp green cardamom

Tandoori Chicken:

  • 1 kg chicken thigh fillets, cut in three
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup thick Greek yoghurt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic paste, minced on microplane
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste, minced on microplane
  • 1 teaspoon Garam Masala mix
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves

Butter sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 1 large brown onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste
  • 1/2 green chilli, finely chopped
  • 3 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 1/2 tsp blade mace
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons cashew paste
  • 800 g can whole tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon Garam Masala Mix
  • 1 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves
  • 25 g unsalted butter
  • 65 mL cream


For tandoori chicken, add all ingredients for marinade to a bowl and mix well. Coat chicken with marinade and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.

Preheat barbecue grill. Grill chicken until surface is browned (it does not need to be cooked through). Collect the drippings if possible. Set aside.

For butter sauce, heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat, add onion and cook until translucent. Add ginger paste, green chillies, cardamom, mace, nutmeg and cashew paste and fry for a further 2 minutes.

Add tomatoes, stock and salt. Simmer, stirring, occasionally for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Once cool, blend to a purée to make a smooth sauce. Strain through a sieve. Return sauce to pan and cook over low heat. Add the honey, followed by the tandoori chicken and drippings. Stir and simmer until chicken is cooked through.

Sprinkle over garam masala, Kashmiri chilli powder and dried fenugreek leaves. Add the butter and stir until it melts. Finally stir in cream and take off heat. Serve with rice or naan bread.

Adapted from:

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