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Variations on a theme - Madhur Jaffrey's butter chicken

"Can someone please explain to me how in the world Madhur Jaffrey doesn't have an online recipe for Butter Chicken, the single most popular Indian dish? " Stirring the Pot (2019)

Last week I had forgotten that I was going to 'explore' butter chicken this month, but this week I remembered and so I returned to my quest for the perfect version, which meant I just had to try a Madhur Jaffrey version. The version shown here is actually her recipe for Butter chicken as presented on the MasterClass website, where she is one of their Masters. So this is definitely hers.

It's not as simple as that though. I gave the quote at the top of the page a date, just to show that there may well not have been any recipes online back in 2019, but there are now. Several, and it has taken me an hour or so to sort out how many different versions there are. The answer I think is just two, although it would take you a while to sort that out.

The photo shown here is the Butter Chicken made by the author of the quote at the top of the page, in the piece on her website Stirring the pot. She found it thanks to her friend Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, who found it in one of Jaffrey's books - 100 Weeknight Curries. It's the only one I have found from this book - but that doesn't mean anything as I was to find. And - a sort of spoiler - this is not the version I made last night.

As you can imagine it was a bit discouraging to see that quote, but nevertheless I continued my ramblings, becoming ever more confused as I went on. The fundamental problem was the source. Various people gave their sources as Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking and Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cookery, and my memory being what it is I could not remember either what was in each recipe or in which book the recipe could be found. I did all this yesterday and became so confused that in the end I gave up.

Today I had another go. First of all I decided to check on the titles. Also not simple. There are indeed those two different titles, but each of them have undergone reprints and revisions, and also even the publishers seem to be confused. I saw one recent revision with two different titles in two pictures - same book though. I don't have either of them, so I could not physically check. However, in the end, going back to my list of sites I had found with recipes, I decided to print out their recipes - well do a screen dump of them - and then compare. So I am here to tell you that there is just one recipe in all of them. People have fiddled with them of course But nevertheless it's the same recipe, which you make with some leftover tandoori chicken - either you have made it yourself or acquired it from somewhere else - which you heat up in a tomato based sauce.

Same recipe - but it doesn't always look the same does it? And it's the same recipe as the one at the top of the page on the MasterClass site, given by Madhur herself. So authentic. Well authentic in that it's Madhur Jaffrey, the world Indian cooking guru's version of a dish that was invented just last century and is not authentically Indian.

So just to illustrate how the same recipe can look so different in different hands here are those that I found: Tandoori chicken in a butter sauce on the Irish Examiner website (Indian Cooking); Tandoori chicken in a butter sauce - Makkhani Murgh on the Meanderings Through my Cookbook website (Indian Cookery); Butter Sauce on the Ooh La Loire website (Indian Cookery); and Butter Chicken – Makkhani Murghi Chicken on the Once Upon a Feast website (Indian Cookery)

In the end, however, this was not the version that I chose to make myself because I had already found a recipe in Madhur Jaffrey's very first cookbook An Invitation to Indian Cooking, on my bookshelves, where it is called Chicken with tomato sauce and butter - you can find the recipe on a website called - rather sadly - Lonely Kitchen - plus a piece of advice I should have paid attention to:

"One thing I'll do differently in the future, is to follow my own past experiences and put 'hard' spices, such as the cinnamon stick, cloves and peppercorns into the coffee grinder instead of the blender. My ice crushing blender just wasn't made for cinnamon sticks."

Because neither is my small blender. I knew my food processor wouldn't cope but I did think the little one would. It didn't. So yes, if you make this, grind the whole spices first before combining with the onions and other stuff.

You can also find the recipe on the Goats and Soda (NPR) website but there is no picture. The picture that heads the article is from the original restaurant.

In her introduction to the recipe Madhur Jaffrey explains that it's her version of her sister's attempt to reproduce the original founding recipe from the Moto Mahal restaurant in Delhi which I shall tackle another week. Her sister, who lives in India where the chickens are tough just threw everything into a pot and cooked it together, before finally boiling off excess sauce. Madhur Jaffrey adapted it again because our chicken is much more tender and would disintegrate. She sort of does the same but in a slightly more complicated way in that the chicken is cooked separately first and not cooked for as long It's still pretty simple though. The spices are rather different from the ones in her other recipe as well, and they didn't seem very Tandoori like either. Mind you what would I know? Whenever I make tandoori chicken - well it's not proper tandoori chicken I don't have a tandoori oven - just an oven - I use Charmaine Solomon's version and it is yellow rather than red but delicious all the same.

The writer of the Lonely Kitchen describes the taste as:

"The spicing was a little different, and it didn't have quite so many tomatoes, but it was good."

And yes, I think that's pretty accurate, although it weirdly did have a faint taste of butter chicken as served in Indian restaurants all the same. Here is my version - it's a bit scrappy because I almost forgot to take a photo at all. I'm fundamentally greedy and all about wanting to get stuck in before I even think of photographs. And as you can see, my version was brown, not red, or even yellow. I did use tomatoes from a tin, because of their more tomatoey taste, but maybe there weren't enough. I also used a chicken breast cut into chunks rather than breasts and drumsticks with the bones in. I'm lazy too. Lots of others did the same.

Would I make it again? Maybe, maybe not. It was, after all, pretty tasty, surprisingly tasty in fact. However, I think I need to try her 'proper' version first, and maybe one of the other three, that I have on my list to try, will turn out to be better again. More about them when I try them.

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Mar 23
Rated 4 out of 5 stars.

Pretty delicious I thought. Chicken yes, butter well not good for you, but in combination un-resistable !

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