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Tandoori and Butter Chicken for the Soul

Since chicken dishes are very popular , I want to share with you two more recipes of my favourite chicken dishes. I have cooked these an umpteen number of times and have shared the recipes with my friends and family.

Usually Tandoori and Butter Chicken are the top favourites when we dine out in Indian restaurants ...its enough to constitute a meal in itself too. Pair these with Naan and a good night’s sleep is guaranteed!

Tandoori Chicken is a great dish that Punjabi's can swear by . We think we own it! Music, Dance and Tandoori Chicken can make any true-blood Punjabi’s day! Many dialogues and songs have mentioned this great dish in Bollywood too.

The Tandoor is much more than just kitchen equipment in Punjab. In rural areas, the communal tandoor, dug into the ground was a meeting place for womenfolk and many had these tandoors in urban neighbourhoods too. Tandoori food bacame popular in the mainstream in Delhi after India’s partition in 1947 when Punjabi's resettled in places such as Delhi. With the influx of refugees from Pakistan, Delhi acquired yet another layer of culture, that of adventurous , eat-well-drink-well Punjabis , and with this spirit came the invention of the Tandoori Chicken.

During my years in Dubai , I had the opportunity to meet Monish Gujral, the owner of the famous Moti Mahal Restaurants in India. His grandfather , Shri Kundan Lal Gujral, was a key innovator for Tandoori and Butter Chicken.

His story is full of passion – he started off as an assistant to Mukha Singh, the owner of an eatery and catering joint in 1920 called Moti Mahal (The Palace of Pearls) in Peshawar (in British India, now present day Pakistan). This eatery was more of a takeaway joint. After the partition of British India into India and Pakistan in 1947, Kundal Lal Gujral’s family came to Delhi as refugees. And thus he started his trail of restaurants, the first one in the starting with Daryaganj area of Delhi - and gave it the same name – Moti Mahal. He was to spell culinary magic by giving India the Tandoori Chicken. His manner of cooking the chicken was this: a hole was dug into the ground to make a mud baked oven (called the Tandoor) and he roasted the chicken in this oven, which was lit with wood or coal. After the Tandoori Chicken he went on to discover the famous, Murgh Makhani or Butter chicken…..

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Skewered chicken tikkas(bite size pieces)....nearly done !

A very interesting excerpt from Monish Gujral’s book, Moti Mahal’s Tandoori Trail

Birth of Tandoori Chicken

During my late teens, when I started working part time with my grandfather, Kundan Lal, in the restaurant, I asked him how he invented the tandoori chicken. He said that one evening after a hard days work, his master, Mukha Singh, requested a light and dry chicken dish for dinner. Determined to please his mentor, he took a chicken, marinated it with yoghurt , salt, pepper and red chilli powder and put it in the tandoor. In those days, the tandoor was only used to cook tandoori breads. He took an iron wire used to hang clothes for drying as a skewer and pierced it through the chicken. He also skewered a raw onion at the end of the wire. Slowly, he lowered the wire holding the chicken in the tandoor and what came out was Tandoori Chicken.

Taken from Monish Gujral's Moti Mahal Tandoori Traill.

I find his recipe so easy to prepare for parties or even for a quick dinner for the kids or for using in kathi wraps (chicken rolls)

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Tandoori Murgh (Tandoori Chicken) from the book Moti Mahal's Tandoori Trail


750 gms chicken cut into 4 pieces, washed and pat dried ,

1 tbsp whisked Yoghurt

For the First Marinade

1 ½ tbsps Lemon (nimbu ) Juice

1 tsp Red Chilli powder

Salt to taste

For the Second Marinade

½ cup Yoghurt

1 tbsp Garlic paste

1 tbsp Ginger paste

½ teaspoon rock salt

1 tsp Garam Masala

Few drops- Food red colour

Salt to taste

½ tsp dry fenugreek leaves, powdered

2 Onions, cut into rings

1 Lemon, cut into wedges

To prepare:

1. Make deep incisions(cuts) on the breasts, thighs and drumsticks.

2. For the first marinade, mix all the ingredients and rub over the chicken pieces and inside the incisions. Keep aside for 1 hour.

3. For the second marinade, mix all the ingredients and rub over and into the chicken pieces, keep aside for 3-4 hours to marinate. I usually keep the marinated chicken overnight in the fridge.

4. Preheat the oven at 180 deg C/ 350 deg F. Place the chicken on a grill rack or wire rack (place a tray underneath to collect the drippings) and grill for 8-10 minutes.

5. Brush the pieces with oil and turn them around and grill for another 8-10 minutes till the chicken is dry and cooked.

6. Remove from the oven, sprinkle dry fenugreek powder and serve with onion rings and lemon wedges.

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My tip: If you add, chaat masala to the onion rings and sauté it with the dry fenugreek leaves for a minute…it becomes even tastier!

To make rolls, On a whole wheat roti, after being rolled ,add some egg wash and place it on the tawa. When its cooked on both sides, place it on a plate. Add shredded or chunks of tandoori chicken , sauteed juliennes of onions and capsicum sprinkled with dried fenugreek leaves and chaat masala or juiennes of purple cabbage with cucumber , and lace it with mint chutney. Wrap with foil , roll and enjoy. Alternatively , you can roll in a Naan.

Serve with Boondi Raita , Daal Makhani and masala potato fries.

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Butter Chicken

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The dish that can make people drool forever … Butter Chicken . A meal in itself, Butter Chicken with Naan is savoured the world over. You will find Butter Chicken in most Dhabas (roadside eateries) and on most menus in restaurants in the Northern part of India.

Heavily influenced by the Mughal cuisine of the rulers of India from the 16th century, which was very rich in ghee, butter and cream, Butter Chicken still remains Punjab's favourite choice.

In Punjab, Amritsari styled Butter Chicken is made a bit differently where the marinated chicken is placed on a hot charcoal bed and then immersed in the rich tomato gravy.

I had trained at the Maurya Sheraton in New Delhi in the 1990’s which has the world renowned Bukhara and Dum Pukht Restaurants. This recipe is from Prashad, by J. Kalra, a very old recipe book that I bought once I joined Hotel School which helped me through my years of cooking after marriage. It is a recipe from the kitchen of the renowned chef Manjit Gill who was once the Executive Chef of the Hotel.

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Cashew paste

Murgh Makhani or Butter Chicken


Tandoori Chicken as above

2 cups Tomatoes or puree, can be organic

1 ½ tsp Ginger paste

1 ½ tsp Garlic paste

½ tblsp ginger, finely chopped

4 green chillies

2 1/2 tsp Cashewnut paste, soak cashews in hot water and make a paste.

125 gms of butter

½ tsp Kashmiri red chillies or pakrika

75 ml cream

Salt to taste

Finely chopped coriander to garnish

To prepare:

1. Melt half the butter in a heavy bottomed vessel, add the ginger and garlic paste and stir over medium heat until the liquid evaporates. Add the tomato puree and salt and cook for a few minutes (I use puree for this recipe for ease of cooking).

2. Melt the remaining butter in a Kadhai, add chopped ginger and green chillies and sauté over medium heat for a minute. Add the cashewnut paste , bhunno(cook very well) until light brown , add the Kashmiri chillies or paprika, and stir.

3. Add the gravy as made in Step 1 and bring to a boil.

4. Add the Tandoori Chicken pieces and simmer for 7- 8 minutes.

5. Stir in cream and adjust seasoning.

Serve hot with Naan or rice.

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Celebrate the birth of Tandoori and Butter Chicken by serving up some deliciousness today !

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