On the menu

Recipe of the week: Kalpna Woolf’s butter chicken

It’s a dish to warm your stomach and your heart

Nothing reminds me more of my childhood than coming home to the smell of my amazing mum preparing her “famous butter chicken”, says Kalpna Woolf’s son, Ben. With tender chicken pieces in a perfectly balanced spicy yet creamy sauce, it’s a dish to warm your stomach and your heart.

Serves four people

Ingredients

For the marinade:

  • 2 large pieces of skinned chicken breast
  • 3 large boneless chicken thighs
  • 115ml full-fat Greek or unstrained yoghurt
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 Kashmiri chillies, roughly chopped
  • 2 green chillies, finely chopped, or 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 2.5cm fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tbsp tandoori masala
  • 1 tbsp each of ground turmeric and coriander
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt

For the sauce:

  • 85g butter
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 tbsp tandoori masala
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp each of ground turmeric and red chilli powder
  • 200g tomato passata
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 150ml sour cream
  • 4 tbsp double cream
  • 100ml hot water
  • 100g baby spinach leaves
  • small bunch of coriander leaves, roughly chopped
Method
  • Score the chicken breast and thighs deeply without cutting right through, then cut them into 2- or 3-inch chunks. Put the yoghurt in a large bowl and whisk so there are no lumps. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and whisk again, then coat the chicken chunks in the marinade. Cover and leave in the fridge to marinate for at least 1 hour, but overnight is best.
  • When the chicken is marinated, heat up the grill as hot as it will go. Shake the excess marinade off each piece of chicken (keep the marinade for the sauce) and grill for 5mins on each side. The chicken should be part-cooked and should have a slightly charred colour. Set aside.
  • To make the sauce: heat up a wok or large pan with the butter and olive oil in. When hot, add the sliced onion and fry until soft and light brown. Stir in the spices and cook for another 2mins, then add the passata and tomato purée. Cook on a medium heat for a further 3-4mins, then turn off the heat and leave it to cool.
  • Whisk the leftover marinade until smooth. When the sauce is cool, put the pan back on a very low heat and slowly pour in the marinade. Cook for 5mins, then pour in the sour and double cream. After 3-4mins, fold in the grilled chicken pieces. Turn a few times, then add the hot water. Bring to a slow boil and then turn down the heat to a simmer and half cover the pan with a lid.
  • Continue cooking until you have a fairly thick sauce (this will take around 10mins). Add a little more water if the sauce is too thick. Stir in the spinach leaves and then, as they wilt, scatter over the fresh coriander. Serve with plain basmati rice.
Eat Share Love book cover

Taken from Eat, Share, Love: Our Cherished Recipes and the Stories Behind Them by Kalpna Woolfpublished by Meze Publishing at £22. To buy from The Week Bookshop for £17.99, call 020-3176 3835 or visit theweekbookshop.co.uk

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