Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Indian Food Challenge

This past weekend was the Taste of Buffalo festival, reportedly...the largest two-day food festival in the United States. The deal is that you buy tickets at .50 increments and then get to sample food from over 50 local restaurants at a cost of 3-8 tickets, with most restaurants offering 3-4 choices. Here's a list of the offerings this year:

The boy advised he would be a "buzzkill" and suggested he spend the night a friend's. So that was that and The Mister and I headed down on the morning of day one, starting AND ending as pre-child ritual had it at the Merritt Estates Winery booth for a large sangria slushie! We looked at the menu before we left and enjoyed a dozen or so dishes, none of which were the award winners...all of which were FANTASTIC! The award winners can be found here:

Absolutely divine was the Chicken Makhani (Indian Butter Chicken) with Basmati Rice from the local Kabob & Curry Restaurant, so I was really looking forward to making it a meal this week. I've never made Chicken Makhani before but it is one of my favorites to eat out. The origins of the dish can be traced back to a Hindu Punjabi named Kundan Lal Gujral. Kundun lost his father at the age of 10 and needed to find a way to support his family. He was the first in Peshawar to dig a tandoor smack in the middle of an eatery, introducing the locals to the culinary art of Tandoori chicken.  Neat story I think, so here goes!

First off, don't let the name fool you. It's called butter chicken, but there's only 1/2 T of butter per serving and the spices are wonderful for your health! I made the recipe as stated below except instead of buying Ginger Garlic Paste, I made my own with a mortar & pestle since a had the fresh ingredients on hand. It was very good as prepared. I was reminiscent of the tasting at the festival, however MUCH spicier. Luckily I had put some plain chicken aside for the boy as a just in case, so after he tried two pieces, as required in our effort to get him to try new things, he opted for the plain chicken. My husband and I finished our plates and thought it was very good, but agreed that next time to cut way back on the cayenne. I did use a rather large pinch or four on the cooked chicken at the end of the preparation. Next time I will probably omit that step all together, and will probably marinate the chicken in yogurt with cayenne instead for a day in advance as I do with other Indian dishes. Also I was out of Basmati Rice, so I just used plain white rice :)

I do highly recommend you try the recipe. It was easy, fun and economical to prepare. 

Also, if Garam Masala is not available at your local grocery, you can easily make your own as follows:

(Keep in an airtight container)
1T ground cumin
1 1/2 t coriander
1 1/2 t cardamom
1 1/2 t pepper
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t cloves
1/2 t nutmeg

MURGH MAKHANI (Chicken Makhani)

Ingredients (recipe credit to

  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/4 white onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Saute shallot and onion until soft and translucent. Stir in butter, lemon juice, ginger-garlic paste, 1 teaspoon garam masala, chili powder, cumin and bay leaf. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add tomato sauce, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in half-and-half and yogurt. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat, and season with 1 teaspoon garam masala and cayenne. Stir in a few spoonfuls of sauce, and simmer until liquid has reduced, and chicken is no longer pink. Stir cooked chicken into sauce.
  3. Mix together cornstarch and water, then stir into the sauce. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, or until thickened.

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