Saturday, February 14, 2009

Mmm.... Butter chicken....

Butter Chicken is one of my absolute favourite Indian dishes – it’s rich, creamy and spicy. But it’s also loaded with saturated fat and calories (sometimes upwards of 1500 per serving) because it’s made with a lot of cream and gobs of butter. So, I’ve engineered a bit of a healthier version using skim milk, non-fat plain yogurt, and only a small amount of butter. Oddly enough I got the foundation of this recipe from Guy’s Big Bite on TV – but I’ve jacked it up and made it a lot healthier.

This recipe makes 6 very generous servings. It could possibly serve up to about 8 with additional sides. The nutritional analysis is only for the chicken dish. I would recommend serving it with brown basmati rice – nutty, aromatic, and more nutritional that white basmati rice. The recipe may seem like a lot of work, but it's actually VERY straightforward. Hell, if you buy the ingredients, I'll teach you how to cook it!

Drumroll please....

For the chicken:
1 tablespoon of a ‘good’ oil (eg. canola, grapeseed, olive)
¼ cup of fresh ginger, pureed (chop it in a mini-chopper)
¼ cup of fresh garlic, pureed (chop it in a mini-chopper)
1 tablepoon chili powder
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon garam masala
¼ cup beet juice or pomegranate juice
¼ cup white wine
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

In a small sauté pan, weat the ginger and the garlic in the oil over a low-medium heat. As they start to soften and yield some of their natural liquid, add the spices and stir them until the ginger and garlic are fully coated. Turn the heat to low and add the juice and wine, and stir everything together until it forms a nice bright burgundy paste. Remove it from the pan and set aside to cool.

Cut your chicken breasts into bite-sized chunks. Toss them in the paste, making sure that each piece is coated well. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 F.
After 30 minutes, spread the chicken out on a non-stick cookie sheet (I recommend lining it with foil, because the turmeric will stain your sheet otherwise), and bake it for about 15 minutes.

For the butter sauce:
1 tablespoon of ‘good’ oil (eg. canola, grapeseed, olive)
1 large red onion, finely diced
¼ cup of fresh ginger, pureed (chop it in a mini-chopper)
¼ cup of fresh garlic, pureed (chop it in a mini-chopper)
1 tablepoon chili powder
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 large can (about 3 cups or 28 ounces) of low-sodium diced tomatoes, drained of their juice (reserve the juice)
1 cup of skim milk
1 cup of non-fat skim milk yogurt
3 tablespoons of butter, chopped into small cubes.
1 package (10 ounces) of frozen spinach, drained and dried
2 cups of frozen green peas

In a large saucepan, sweat the chopped onion, ginger and garlic over medium heat. Once the mixture has started to yield its own liquid, add the spices, along with the drained tomatoes. Simmer this mixture for about 5 minutes until all of the ingredients are well combined and the tomatoes start to break down. Add the tomato juice in small amounts if you find that the mixture dries out too much.

Once everything is simmered, place it into a blender. Add the milk, yogurt and the butter, and cover your blender jar tightly with its lid. Don’t fill the jar more than ½ full because hot liquids expand. Turn the blender on low and gently stir all of the ingredients. Turn it off and open the lid for a few moments to allow some of the steam to escape. Return the lid to the jug, and then puree the ingredients until smooth. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan, and return it to the stovetop with the heat on low.

Add the baked chicken pieces into your butter sauce, and simmer for about 30 minutes, slightly covered. In the last 5 minutes, add the spinach and peas, and stir well.

Serve over brown basmati rice. Jack up the basmati rice with about 1/4 cup of toasted sliced almonds, and about 1/4 cup of chopped dried apricots. If you like Indian-style breads to dip in your curries/sauces, go for a whole-wheat roti bread instead of the naan. It’s better for you -- it only has 150 calories and 1 gram of fat per piece. Naan bread is about 350 calories, and about 14 grams of fat.

Nutrition Facts for the Butter Chicken (courtesy of

Per Serving of chicken and sauce (approx 560 grams, or 1/6 of the total recipe)

Calories 512
Calories from fat 119

Total fat 13g (approx 21% of daily value)
Saturated 6g
Trans fat 0g

Cholesterol 159mg

Sodium 303 mg

Total Carbohydrate 33g (11% of daily value)
Dietary fiber 9g
Sugars 15g (eliminate the wine, and this amount drops!)

Protein 63g

About 3/4 cup to 1 cup of brown rice will add about another 200 calories to this dish, including about 40 grams of GOOD carbohydrates and another 5 grams of dietary fiber!

Enjoy! Let me know if you like it!

Kia Kaha.
Stay Strong.