Sunday, September 30, 2012

Butter Chicken 'Chak Le India' Style and book review

Aditya Bal's show on NDTV Good Time's, called Chak Le India, was a "don't-miss" one for me back when I was in Hyderabad. But here in Kerala, it's not part of the local cable network so it's been a while since I watched it. So obviously I jumped at BlogAdda's book review program to review his first cookbook. I was thrilled when I was one of the 10 bloggers to get copies of the book. So far, I've cooked one of the dishes-butter chicken. This is one dish that is my favorite (but which self-respecting Indian doesn't like butter chicken?!). Surprisingly, I haven't attempted to make it even once in my kitchen because most of the recipes required elaborate grilling or tandoorifying the chicken and I wasn't up to it. This recipe, though, charmingly lures you into trying it out, making the process seem simple. No need to grill the chicken, just sear it on high fire and make the different bases for the curry and combine them and you're done! The flavor was restaurant-style (if I may humbly say so myself!). Even though I was in a hurry and didn't give any time for marination, this dish got done in about 45 minutes and still the taste was spot-on. Do try this out! I'm going to review the book now. The recipe is given at the end.

If you buy this book, you have to read the introduction section at leisure. I have read many an introduction to many cookbooks, but I felt this was the one that was written from the heart and because of that, really struck a chord with me. It has been written in a heartfelt, genuine way that makes you feel you know Aditya on a first-name basis! He also gives detailed notes in "The Indian Pantry" section, that touches on everything from aromatics to dairy, herbs, spices, oils, and everything in between. Coming from a guy who has not professionally studied the culinary arts, this knowledge base struck me as really indicative of his passion and interest in all things food related. After all, I've been cooking for almost a decade and a half now but I never thought of researching stuff in such depth! The main sections are divided into the usual suspects-meat, chicken, seafood, vegetarian, snack, and sweets.

Thumbs up:
Aditya Bal's television program showcased a lot of traveling and food from different parts of India, so it follows that this cookbook has diverse recipes from a variety of states, from Kashmir to Kerala. Every recipe has a small note introducing the dish, with a little bit of its history. The photographs are mouthwatering. Aditya gives thorough instructions in every step. The unique thing about his descriptions, which I think is missing from most cookbooks, is how at the end he describes how the dish should look and taste once its cooked. Super like!

Thumbs down:
This is something very subjective. I'm a person who likes to spend minimal time in the kitchen, even though I'm a foodie and enjoy cooking and baking (yes, I'm contradictory that way). After all, that's why my blog is called effortless cooking easy baking. So for a person like me, this book seemed to be full of recipes that required a lot of time and effort. This could also be an illusion stemming from the fact that most of the recipes had about 15 steps on an average. While this could be the other side of the coin (since I praised his thorough instructions in the previous paragraph!) I feel it could have done with some tighter editing, leaving only the really essential details in the recipe so as not to put off people like me who are lazy gooses! And for the photographs, I really would have liked to see less of close-ups and more of some elegant food styling with great props that gave off a whiff of the dish's ambience (for amateur food photographers like me, this is something that I still can't achieve, so I expect it from the best blogs and cookbooks!)

One more thing, especially since I'm from Kerala-his recipe for Kerala Chicken Stew on page 52, was frankly, something that I had never come across in all my years of making stew in Kerala. This is not the way I've seen my mother, grandmother, aunts, or anyone I know make stew! Basically, its a very complicated version of a recipe that's essentially so simple that it should not take more than 20 minutes to make and not more than 5 to 6 steps! Here is the Kerala chicken stew which is the way we make it in our family:
Swift Chicken Stew

I wish Aditya all success in life....would love to see him come up with even better cookery shows and cookbooks for us as the years go by!

Enjoy the butter chicken recipe, which is a keeper, and note Aditya's description in the end, which I have highlighted.

Butter Chicken Chak Le India Style (as in the book)

500 gms boneless chicken
1 tsp salt
A few drops of refined oil
50 gms butter
1/2 tsp sugar
Juice of half a lime

The marinade
3 tsp ginger-garlic paste
1/2 an onion, pureed
4 tbsp whisked curd
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp turmeric 
1 tsp hot red chilli powder
Juice of 1 lime

The rich tomato gravy
7-8 ripe red tomatoes
A few drops of refined oil
50 gms butter
1/2 inch ginger, chopped fine
2 green chillies, chopped fine
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp hot red chilli powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar, to balance the acidity of the tomatoes
4-5 tbsp full cream

The garnish
2-3 tsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
A knob of butter

  1. Wash the chicken and trim it.  Cut it into tikka-sized chunks.
      The Marinade
  1. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a small bowl.  Put the chicken into a large glass or plastic bowl.  Add the marinade and mix it well into the chicken with your hands.  Cover and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
  2. While the chicken is marinating, prepare the rich tomato gravy.
     The Rich Tomato Gravy
  1. Blanch the tomatoes, peel them and puree the flesh.
  2. Heat a medium-sized saute pan and add the oil and butter. Keep the pan on medium heat, till the butter is foaming. The oil prevents the butter from burning as it has a much higher smoking point.
  3. Once the foam subsides somewhat, add the chopped ginger and green chillies and saute for a couple of minutes on medium heat.
  4. Add the spice powders and saute till they are aromatic and richly coloured.
  5. Now add the fresh tomato puree and stir to mix with the spices. Simmer on low heat, till the tomato gravy is thick and has a rich, deep red colour and the oil rises to the surface.
  6. Season well with salt and add the sugar. Stir through and simmer for a few minutes longer. Turn off the heat and set the gravy aside to mature.
     To Cook The Chicken
  1. Remove the marinated chicken from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Season with salt and mix well.
  2. Heat a heavy nonstick frying pan and add a few drops of refined oil and the butter.
  3. Once the butter is hot, add a few chicken pieces at a time and sear them on high heat, till they develop a rich caramelized crust and are slightly charred around the edges. Remove to a plate and repeat with the remaining pieces.
  4. Now, return all the seared chicken pieces to the pan and fry them all together. Add the sugar, lime juice, and any remaining marinade. Continue to fry the chicken, till it is almost fully cooked and turns a lovely, charred, golden brown.
  5. Add the thick, spicy tomato gravy to the chicken and deglaze the pan to lift up those intense pan deposits. Cook on medium heat, stirring well to make sure the chicken is fully submerged and coated in the delicious gravy.
  6. Simmer uncovered to reduce the gravy.
  7. Turn the heat down to a simmer and add the thick cream. Stir through to combine and cook for about 5 minutes to blend well.
  8. Check for a balance of flavours; the gravy should be rich and buttery, bursting with the spices and concentrated tomatoes; the chicken, perfectly tender and packed with the rich flavours of the creamy tomato gravy.
  9. Sprinkle some coriander leaves, add a knob of butter and enjoy this home-style butter chicken with naan or tandoori roti.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

Until next time, ciao!


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