I am somewhat of a dragon when it comes to curry. I want fire in my mouth.
I am the kind of freak who will order a curry in a restaurant and then ask for a small bowl of chillies on the side. I don’t fuck about with curries.
However, having said that, every now and then I will want the creamy magic of something softer just to remind my taste buds that there are other options. So when I am craving the soft, melt-in-your-mouth buttery kind of curry, it has to be the Butter Chicken.
The first time I had this was in an Indian restaurant back home in the Valleys where my mum lives, and we frequented it a lot when I was a teenager. I want to say it was our favourite place to go because of the food, but in all honesty it was because you could take your own booze and the Bells loved a piss up.
I say all that to say, I remember having the Butter Chicken for the first time and being genuinely surprised. I usually hate the “kormas” and the softer curries because why bother, but this was different. It was laced with almonds, which gave it a nutty, creamy sweetness and it still had a sharpness and a warmth to it, which I never really get with a korma.
Yes, it was made which chicken breast (which rarely sees the confines of my kitchen) but I could get over that.
The other night I was cooking for someone that wanted a curry but didn’t like spice (go figure!!) so I decided to wheel out this recipe for one last number before I retired it. But after tasting it one more time, I decided it deserved a reincarnation. Like Madonna before it, there’s life in the old bird yet.
Now I know this is not a traditional Butter Chicken Curry. The original is usually made with tomatoes and has a lot more spices but like I said, I really wanted to keep this as tame as I could with what I had. I don’t claim this to be an authentic Thai Butter Chicken at all, but I stand true in my solidarity of being inspired by the original dish and creating my own yellow brick road version.
Bulked out with an almond packed yogurt, this curry is the creamiest, flavour packed curry you will ever taste – if you’re the kind of person that doesn’t like spice that is. I mean, you could absolutely add some chillies to this and be done with the damn thing but if you want to keep it the way it is, you won’t be blamed.
A lot of Butter Chicken recipes will call for almonds which have already been blitzed into a flour, but I prefer using flaked almonds which I bash myself because it adds a super crunchy texture to the meal. I also then like to scatter them on top of the curry at the end to give it a final nutty crunch.
Slice up a pack of chicken thighs (yes thighs, not breasts) and throw them in a bowl.
Grate in a thumb size piece of fresh ginger and a whole garlic clove.
Add a teaspoon of turmeric and a scattering of salt and pepper. Grate in the zest of a lemon and squeeze in the juice (watch the pips). Mix everything together, cover and leave to sit for a bit to marinate.
Bash up a generous handful of flaked almonds with a pestle and mortar – not to a fine rubble, but to a mix of bashed almonds and some dust. Spoon about 3/4 tablespoons of natural yogurt into the bowl and mix into the almonds. Leave to one side.
Melt a big dab of butter in your biggest frying pan and once it’s melted and frothing, add a finely chopped white onion and some salt. Stir and cook on a low heat for about 20 minutes and in this time, boil the kettle.
Add a big tablespoon of Thai curry paste (I couldn’t be bothered to make my own) and stir into the onions, turning up the heat.
When the pan is hot again, throw in your marinated chicken thighs. Stir everything together until the chicken begins to lose it’s pinky colour.
Now add in the almond yogurt paste and stir through, watching the golden curry begin to thicken. Crumble over a chicken stock cube and add a quick dash of water from the boiled kettle.
Bring it to a vigorous bubble, drop it to a simmer and keep it simmering for about 15 minutes.
Serve with an extra sprinkle of flaked almonds and some coriander. I served this with some plain boiled rice scattered with sesame seeds and some poppadoms.
But let’s be honest, I also ate the leftovers straight from the Tupperware with just the poppadoms.