Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tandoori Murgh Makhani

The green garnish on top of the dishes isn't green hair; they're dried kasoori methi or fenugreek leaves (see next photo).

Raghavan Iyer, the author of 660 Curries, translates this dish from "Murgh Makhani" to "Grilled Cornish Game Hens with a Tomato-Fenugreek Sauce", but I think it is also Butter Chicken, which is Murgh ('chicken') Makhani ('with butter'). He suggests using Cornish hens instead of chicken because they more closely resemble the size and flavor of the chicken in India. I, unfortunately, went to the only grocery store without Cornish hens, so I bought a package of thigh and drumstick pieces. You could also use packages of leg pieces (thigh and drumstick together). He suggests cutting up the chicken AFTER grilling it to hold in the juices and flavors.
First photo: Dried kasoori methi or fenugreek leaves: a vital ingredient for this dish. It has a strong fragrance you can smell before even opening the box! Second photo: dried leaves soaking in water for 15 minutes.

This chicken dish was worth all of the work. It really was. I ate a few forkfuls and am letting it cool as I type this post. I have learned that this dish is also worth burning your tongue various times haha.
I apologize for the dark photos. I started working on this dish late and the sun was close to setting.

I opted to grill the chicken instead of baking it just to practice my grilling skills, which are um below average. For some reason, I cannot get my charcoal hot enough. So, what did I do? I turned to Youtube for help on how to properly fire up a charcoal grill, and it worked (almost) perfectly. I managed to get the charcoal hot enough to cook three out of five of the chicken pieces. Two of them were 95% cooked (I don't know how I figure out these percentages. Just bear with me.).
TASTE: The marinade on the chicken was very fragrant because of the balti masala and other ingredients. It smelled divine and very new to me. I ate a piece of the chicken before adding the sauce, and it was incredible. It was so great, that I was hesitant to add the sauce to all of the chicken just in case I didn't like the sauce. Fortunately, both the sauce and chicken complement each other perfectly. The sauce smells of tomato, butter, and spices. I can't describe the taste very well. It is a comforting dish, and as I stated already, it was totally worth all of the work. I think I'm going to have to make more sauce because it yielded enough only to coat the chicken.
Lastly, I was so focused on making this dish that I forgot about the side dishes like rice, vegetables, and naan. I wanted to make naan but ran out of time. I quickly put together some turmeric rice (forgot to add peas) before the sun completely went down for photos. If I make naan or some other type of Indian bread tomorrow, I will post it then (I've blogged about naan before, but I want to try another recipe for fluffier bread) to go along with yummy leftovers of this chicken dish.
Now that I have prepared balti masala and ginger-garlic paste, I can throw this together much more quickly in the near future. I really hope you make this dish. Just break down the process. Make the paste, balti masala, and marinade the chicken on one day, and grill or bake the chicken the next day. Don't forget to make rice and naan!

Tandoori Murgh Makhani
adapted from 660 Curries

2 Cornish game hens (about 1 1/2 lbs. each), skin removed, cut in half lengthwise (I used chicken thighs and legs)
1/3 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt for its thicker nature)
1 1/2 Tbsp ginger/garlic paste
2 tsp Balti masala
2 tsp ground Kashmiri chiles; or 1/2/ tsp cayenne (ground red pepper) mixed with 1 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1 1/4 tsp coarse kosher or sea salt
Vegetable cooking spray (I never used this)
2 Tbsp Ghee or butter (I bought ghee from the Indian store b/c it was there, but it's not hard to make)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup chopped fresh or frozen kasoori methi or fenugreek leaves (thawed, if frozen); or 2 Tbsp dried fenugreek leaves, soaked in a bowl of water for 15 mins and skimmed off before use
1/2 tsp cayenne (ground red pepper)
1/2 cup half-and-half

Using a sharp knife, make four slits in each hen or chicken pieces: two into the breast meat, one in the outer thigh meat, and one in the inner thigh meat. Place the hens or chickens in a biaking dish, meat side up.
Left to right: fatty chicken (1); marinade (2); marinade brushed on chicken (3); covered for overnight refrigeration (4)

Combine the yogurt, ginger-garlic paste, balti masala, Kashmiri chiles, and salt in a small bowl, and whisk to blend. Smear the hen or chicken halves with this orange-red marinade, making sure to stuff some of it into the slits. Refrigerate, covered for at least 1 hour or as long as overnigh, to allow the flavors to permeate the meat.

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to high, or preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.

GRILL: spray the grill grate with cooking spray (I forgot to do this, and it worked out fine). Place the hens or chicken pieces, meat side down, on the grate. (Optional: Reserve any marinade for basting the meat.) Cover, and grill the meat, basting them occasionally with the remaining marinade and turning them over halfway through, until the meat in the thickest parts is no longer pink inside and the juices run clear, 30 to 40 minutes (or 60 minutes for the bigger pieces of meat, if you heat up your grill incorrectly like me hehe). Transfer the meat to a serving platter, and cover them with foil to keep them warm while you quickly make the sauce. (I SUGGEST MAKING THE SAUCE TOWARD THE END OF THE GRILLING TIME INSTEAD OF AFTER)

OVEN: Place a rack in a roasting pan, and spray it with cooking spray. Place the hens or chicken pieces, meat side down, on the rack. (Reserve any marinade for basting the meat) Roast, basting them occasionally with the remaining marinade and turning them over halfway through, until the meat in the thickest parts is no longer pink inside, and the juices run clear, about 45 minutes. Transfer the meat to a serving platter, and cover them with foil to keep them warm while you quickly make the sauce.
Left to right: chicken on the grill (1); sauce before simmer (2); sauce after simmer (3); sauce + half-n-half (4)

SAUCE: To make the sauce, heat the ghee in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the tomato sauce, fenugreek, and cayenne. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, to allow the flavors to meld, 5 to 10 minutes. Then stir in the half-and-half, and continue to simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, to let it warm, 2 to 4 minutes.

To serve the curry, cut the meat into smaller pieces, and toss them with the sauce. (Cut the meat better than I did hah!).

Turmeric Rice
adapted from the back of the Basmati Rice bag and Pastor Ryan
double this recipe if feeding more than two mouths

1 3/4 cups water
1 cup Basmati rice
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp turmeric
1-2 cups frozen peas (forgot to use)

Frozen peas
Dried kasoori methi/fenugreek leaves (I used this)
Chile peppers

Boil water with salt. Add rice, butter, and turmeric, and cover. Turn heat to med-low, and cook for 20 minutes. Add the frozen peas into the cooked rice; give them a stir. Allow the heat of the rice to cook the peas.



  1. ive tried making butter chicken unsuccessfully :( yours looks good!

  2. This looks so authentic! I always thought that Indian food required a lot of preparation and ingredients but the results are so worth it!

  3. I wondered what you would make with the balti masala and the garlic/ginger paste...this dish looks fantastic.

  4. I can almost smell those aromatic spices from here. This dish looks like a bowl of heaven.

  5. Wow, u did this from scratch!! They look marvellous.
    I will only make tandoori chicken with boxed seasonings, plus some fresh yogurt.

    I like my tandoori chicken served with yogurt + mint + lime.

  6. I can almost see the flavor coming off that dish. The color you got is gorgeous...my kind of comfort food.

  7. I have just started to make curries at home. This has such a pretty deep color!

  8. Your tandoori murgh makhani looks so good. Wow, I wish I could be there to share this Indian dish with you, my child! The photo colors really pop and the bowl and the sauces and the chicken (before and after it has been grilled) make my mouth water with anticipation. I am telling you, my friend, you ought to open up an authentic international restaurant!

  9. Se ve muy delicioso y es en un plato bonito. I love my gas grill. It was a present last year for my birthday.

  10. Yumm. Intwrestig about thw chicken in India and Cornish Hen. Indian food is painstaking but well worth the effort as we can see here with the photos. I need this book.

  11. I am always looking for amazing and flavor-forward things to with chicken and this looks like just the ticket!

  12. Is that last bite for me? Yes!

    This looks tasty and it's in such a cute bowl too.

    Last night I was racing against the clock too to get photos taken of a dish. ha ha!

  13. Hi, This is my 1st time here, hop over from The Little Teochew's blog. Amazing you did this from scratch. I will come back to check what you cooking!

  14. This dish looks so delicious! I adore Indian food and have recently been trying out a few recipes. I think I actually prefer the thighs over Cornish hens. The hens are a lot of work for not a lot of meat!

  15. glad i found your site... hubby took me to an impromptu dinner last saturday and guess what we both craved for tandoori! hahaha... our palette has been expanding we both thought...
    love the intense color of this dish.. great site!

  16. looks FANTASTIC!! yes kasoori methi is vital and I see you got the MDH brand. it is the best I have used so far (got a different one this time and had to throw it away). The sauce has the perfect color and the dish looks amazing.

  17. Amazing work here and I love that bowl!

  18. Yay, you made it! This chicken looks fabulous. I have never tried using the methi leaves but they sound like an excellent addition. I will definitely try them next time I make this.

  19. I love your blog! Real ethnic recipes... I will definitely be back to try out some of these. Thanks for stopping by :)

  20. Wow that looks really fantastic! That bowl is beautiful too :)

  21. Sounds absolutely delicious.
    Don't you love youtube? haha You can find just about anything on there!

  22. looks great..dear
    hey iam hosting give away if u get a chance pls stopby at my blog ..

  23. I was looking for a recipe for butter chicken and came across your site. We've been spending way too much on Indian take-out and need to learn to make it ourselves!


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