India’s vibrant and exotic cuisine is quite popular in Australia and most of us have a favorite go-to Indian restaurant. However, the varieties of spices and ingredients in Indian food makes it tricky to pair with wines. The complexity of Indian food requires a wine with simplicity to balance out the overall experience. So, lets learn to cook Butter chicken, which is one of the most popular Indian dishes in Australia. This creamy, rich and flavorful mix of spices goes well with a medium weight white wine with good acidity such as an Australian Chardonnay. For instance, we would recommend the youthful and easy drinking Chardonnay from Jacques Audras who is using his French savoir-faire on his McLaren grown vines.
Matched wine: Chardonnay, McLaren Vale, Australia
Having a medium to full body with excellent flavors of apple, grapefruit, peach and melon, Chardonnay is the most planted white variety in Australia. Cooler regions, such as McLaren Vale, produce elegant Chardonnays, which are balanced, complex and long-lasting, with white peach and nectarine flavours. It is a versatile wine that goes well with mild, creamy or buttery curries and thus pairs well with Butter Chicken.
Recipe: Butter chicken, Punjab, India
Preparation time: 30 minutes, or overnight for best results
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Butter chicken is a mild, but complex curry with cream and a variety of flavors. Therefore, an acidic but rich Chardonnay will cut through the creamy, buttery sauce and cleanse the palate without drowning out the taste of the dish.
For the chicken marinade:
- 28 oz (800g) boneless and skinless chicken thighs or breasts cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger (or finely grated)
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder
- 1 teaspoon of salt
For the sauce:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons ghee (or 1 tbs butter + 1 tbs oil)
- 1 large onion, sliced or chopped
- 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon ginger, minced or finely grated
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala (to make garam masala mix 1 tbsp cumin, 1 1/2 tbsp coriander powder, 1 1/2 tbsp cardamom powder, 1 ½ tbsp black pepper, 1 tbsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tbsp ground cloves, and 1/2 tbsp ground nutmeg in a bowl)
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 14 oz (400 g) crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder (adjust to your taste preference)
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
- 1 cup of heavy or thickened cream (or evaporated milk to save calories)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves
- In a bowl, combine chicken with all of the ingredients for the chicken marinade; let it marinate for 30 minutes to an hour (or overnight if time allows).
- Heat oil in a large skillet or pot over medium-high heat. When sizzling, add chicken pieces in batches of two or three, making sure not to crowd the pan. Fry until browned for only 3 minutes on each side. Set aside and keep warm. (You will finish cooking the chicken in the sauce.)
- Heat butter or ghee in the same pan. Fry the onions until they start to sweat (about 6 minutes) while scraping up any browned bits stuck on the bottom of the pan.
- Add garlic and ginger and sauté for 1 minute until fragrant, then add ground coriander, cumin and garam masala. Let it cook for about 20 seconds until fragrant, while stirring occasionally.
- Add crushed tomatoes, chili powder and salt. Let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until sauce thickens and becomes a deep brownish-red color.
- Remove from heat, scoop mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. You may need to add a couple tablespoons of water to help it blend (up to 1/4 cup). Work in batches depending on the size of your blender.
- Pour the puréed sauce back into the pan. Stir the cream, sugar and crushed fenugreek leaves through the sauce. Add the chicken with juices back into the pan and cook for an additional 8-10 minutes until chicken is cooked through and the sauce is thick and bubbling.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with fresh and hot basmati rice and a glass of Chardonnay from McLaren Vale!