Wednesday, July 6, 2011

No butter, no chicken

Several years ago, my office was located in the city which meant commuting on a daily basis and getting home late in the evenings. A meal (or two) was usually prepared during the weekend and other weeknight meals were quick and simple to prepare. Once a week the man used to lend a hand in the kitchen. More often than not, butter chicken was the meal he chose to make. 

A special recipe was given to him by an Indian colleague he used to work with. He was a lovely guy who was more than happy to share his knowledge of Indian food and seemed almost humbled that we were so interested in the cuisine of his country of origin. He warned that his butter chicken recipe is not comparable with the mild version that is served up in Indian restaurants to westerners, instead it's a spicier, more traditional recipe.

We used to feast on butter chicken on an almost weekly basis and although it was technically my night off cooking, I began trying out different Indian vegetable-based recipes as our side dish. This catalog of vegie curries served with a multitude of dal recipes helped me through our early days of vegetarianism. Butter chicken was initially sorely missed, although as time passed so did the urge to consume our old favourite.  

Mock meat is something I don't cook with often as there is such a wide variety of more nutritional foods out there, however, I do quite enjoy it now and then as an occasional treat. There had been a bag of soy nuggets hiding away in the freezer for a long time and I had plans to make a "butter chicken" the moment they were purchased. I decided that it would be a great time to put them to use on the man's birthday eve as he would be able to enjoy a delicious birthday lunch of leftovers at work. 

The only problem I encountered was that the recipe was nowhere to be found! Luckily I do have quite a good memory bank for recipes that have been made several times. After consulting with the man, we were fairly confident that we had the spices nailed. A couple of other tweaks here and there were required to replace the dairy products that were once a part of it.

The "butter chicken" turned out just as delicious as we all remembered, although no chickens or cows were harmed in the making. We enjoyed this curry with punjabi sprouts which was a replica of this punjabi cabbage recipe using brussel sprouts instead. Although the man loved his birthday Mexican dinner and cake, it was the "butter chicken" left-overs that really made his gastronomic day.  

"Butter Chicken" (Adapted from Shohil's recipe)

1 onion, chopped roughly
4 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
2 cm knob ginger, chopped roughly
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cinnamon sticks
6 cloves
8 cardamon pods
2 heaped teaspoons ground coriander
2 heaped teaspoons ground cumin
2 heaped teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1/4 teaspoon saffron powder
400ml tomato passata
1/2 cup ground almonds/almond mill
1 1/2 cups water
600g packet Lamyong soy nuggets (almost fully defrosted)
1/2 cup soy milk
2 tablespoons tofutti cream cheese
2 tablespoons dairy-free margarine

Place the onions, garlic and ginger into a blender with a couple of tablespoons of water and process until a smooth paste is achieved.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot and fry the cinnamon sticks, cardamon pods and cloves until fragrant. Add the onion, garlic & ginger paste and cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Stir through the coriander, cumin, garam masala, turmeric, salt, chilli and saffron powder and cook for another minute.

Add the tomato passata and then the ground almonds and mix until thoroughly combined. Pour in the water, bring to the boil then reduce the heat to simmer. Add the soy nuggets, cover the pot and cook for 5-10 minutes until the soy nuggets are cooked through.

Stir through the soy milk, tofutti cream cheese and dairy-free margarine. When the tofutti and margarine have dissolved into the gravy, turn off the heat and serve. 


  1. Hey, nice work!! This was an old favourite for me back in my omni just-discovered-Indian-food days, so I can imagine how pleased you must have been to replicate it. :-)

  2. Looks good and kinder to the figure too.

  3. Thanks Cindy, we were all pleasantly surprised that it turned out so well. :D

    Thanks Shaheen, the photo doesn't do it enough justice but am hoping to upgrade my old relic very soon to improve the quality of food pics.