murgh makhani (butter chicken)

Butter chicken is a pretty common offering at Indian restaurants, and is a good way to ease into Indian food if you haven’t tried much of it yet – it is leftover tandoori chicken in a luxuriously creamy and spicy tomato sauce. The name is a bit deceptive, and makes it sound like a pretty boring meal of chicken cooked in plain butter. A lot more than butter goes into the sauce, but for some reason it is named after the butter swirled in at the very end, which adds an extra bit of creaminess to the sauce.

Butter chicken isn’t difficult, but it is time-consuming, since you need to first make tandoori chicken. Tandoori chicken is traditionally cooked in a tandoor, a clay oven that will get as hot as 900 degrees F. Most recipes for the home cook simply instruct you to heat the oven to its highest setting (generally around 500F). The recipe I ended up using for the tandoori chicken recommended baking it at a much lower temperature – the justification for this was that you can’t really recreate tandoori chicken at home, and cooking it at 500 degrees ends up drying the chicken out, so why not just admit the inadequacies of your oven and enjoy tender chicken instead? I was pleased with the results; I’ve had butter chicken from restaurants and that I have made myself with dried-out chicken. Baking the chicken at a lower temperature solved that problem, as the chicken stayed nice and tender, though it did seem a little less authentic. Read the rest of this entry »

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indian-spiced lamb burgers with mango chutney and caramelized onions

My favorite pub in Cambridge for a pint and a bite to eat in a snug setting was The Castle Inn, which was also conveniently close to where I lived. They made a solid fish and chips and would occasionally offer a delectable sticky toffee pudding on their specials board, but my favorite thing to get there was their Indian burger: a burger made with spiced lamb mince (as they would call it), topped with mango chutney, caramelized onions, a slice of tomato and cucumber, and served with chips (i.e. fries) that were crisp on the outside but perfectly soft and creamy on the inside. I had strong cravings for that burger that would rear their heads every once in a while and result in a trip to the pub not long after.  Read the rest of this entry »


green beans with onion paste

Green beans with onion paste

There’s a lot more than onion that goes into this Indian recipe for green beans, but this is the name my cookbook gives it. I’ve stuck with it, since there are so many different flavors involved in this dish that it’s hard to pick just one or two to define it. You start with a paste of onion, ginger, garlic, and tomato, add ground coriander and cumin, fry black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and hot red peppers separately, then add everything together and allow the beans to simmer and soak up the flavors for about half an hour. The final product isn’t distinctly oniony; my onion-hating boyfriend even liked them (though I didn’t tell him their proper name until after he’d had a few bites lest it unfairly prejudice him against them!).  Read the rest of this entry »