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Joanna Marsh’s Butter Chicken

Updated: May 23, 2020

In 2009, my son Henry was 6 and was a frustratingly picky eater. He liked mashed potato, fish fingers, pasta and white rice: standard kid food, but also, bizarrely, french beans and broccoli. Nothing much else, however, so the weekly meal cycle was pretty dull. One day, we ran out of rice, but the girl who was then cleaning for us, Melani, had bought a chicken biryani and he was so hungry for rice that he was willing to try it. ‘Burning rice’ was suddenly top of the list of favourite foods, and we thought ‘how hard can it be?’ But then we spent about a year making every chicken curry recipe we could find in a search for the holy grail, the ultimate chicken curry recipe that ticked all the boxes, only there wasn’t one. So this one is the result of our experimentations, and is now most definitely our house special. We have made it hundreds of times and everyone who tastes it loves it.


Serves 6-8


2lbs of chicken breast

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1/2 tsp ground tumeric

6tbsps of butter, divided into 2 tbsp chunks

1 1/2 cups of yellow onion, diced

3 tsp garam masala

1/4 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp cumin

1tsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp grated ginger

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 inch stick of cinnamon

14oz passato

1 cup of water

1 cup of double cream

chopped coriander for garnish


Marinate the chicken breast in chilli powder, turmeric, salt and pepper, and let it sit for 15 mins.

Brown the chicken in 2 tbsps of butter over medium heat

Add onions, garlic, garam masala, grated ginger, chilli powder, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Cook until fragrant.

Add the tomato passato and bring to a simmer.

Add the water and cream, bring back to a simmer, covered for another 10-15 mins.

Stir in the last 2 tbsps of butter and add a little more salt and pepper according to taste (and maybe a bit of chilli if you wish it to be hotter).

Serve with basmati rice, and coriander garnish on top of the rice.

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