Posted on March 30, 2016 by

March – Old Delhi-Style Butter Chicken

In honour of James Martin’s final Saturday Kitchen Live appearance, March’s recipe has to be his all-time favourite – Old Delhi-Style Butter Chicken! Without doubt butter chicken has to be India’s favourite dish when eating out. I must have asked hundreds of people to name the one dish they always order when they go out and Butter Chicken has featured in every response! As for me personally, this is the best dish ever – it has sugar and spice, kick and texture, creamy unctiousness and bite, all at the same time.

2x 750g free-range young chicken (poussin), skinned and each cut in half along the backbone (alternatively use 800g boned chicken thighs cut into two)

For the marinade

120g Greek yoghurt

2 tablespoons Ginger & Garlic paste

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 ½ teaspoons salt

Juice of 1 lemon

3 teaspoons red chilli powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon garam masala

For the sauce

1kg tomatoes

125 ml water

5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled, half crushed and half finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, peeled

4 green cardamom pods

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon red chilli powder

80g butter, diced

2 green chillies, slit lengthways

75ml single cream

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves, crushed between your fingertips

½ teaspoon garam masala

1 tablespoon sugar


First, prepare the chicken.  Make small cuts all over the chicken pieces with a sharp knife to help the marinade penetrate.

To prepare the marinade – mix together the yoghurt with all the other ingredients for the marinade in a deep bowl.  Smear the cut chicken with the marinade, cover and set aside in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Cook the chicken in an oven preheated to 220C/Gas Mark 7 for 13-15 minutes. You may need to turn the pieces after 8-10 minutes or so to ensure they colour evenly on both sides. Cut the cooked chicken into smaller pieces as per your preference.  The chicken should not be completely cooked at this point as it will be simmered for a few more minutes in the sauce. Strain off the juices through a fine sieve and set aside.

For the sauce, slice the tomatoes in half and place in a pan with the water, crushed ginger, garlic, cardamom, cloves and bay leaf and simmer until the tomatoes have completely disintegrated. Now blend this tomato broth with a hand-held blender and pass it through a sieve to obtain a smooth puree. Return to a clean pan, add the chilli powder and simmer for 12-15 minutes. It should slowly begin to thicken. When the sauce turns glossy, add the chicken pieces and the reserved roasting juices. Then add a cup of water and simmer for about 3-5 minutes until the water is absorbed and the sauce returns to its original glossy consistency.

Slowly whisk in the butter, a couple of pieces at a time, and simmer for 6-8 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is beginning to acquire a glaze. Add the chopped ginger, green chillies and cream and simmer for a minute or two longer, taking care that the sauce does not split. Stir in the salt, crushed fenugreek leaves and garam masala, then check the seasoning and add the sugar. Serve with naan bread or pilau rice.