India’s festivals are as diverse as the country’s landscapes and as lively as its people, bringing together a blend of cultures, religions and understanding for people to celebrate.
In this gastronomic celebration of India’s festival cuisine, head chef of London’s acclaimed Cinnamon Club, Vivek Singh brings his unique touch to traditional festival recipes and gives his insight into the significance of food from a country with a history of such diverse religions and cultures.
Chapters include the most popular festivals celebrated around the world, such as Holi, Onam and Diwali, covering all religions and geographical areas within India, with Vivek’s very own take on the recipes most associated with them. As well as these brand new recipes, the history and culture surrounding each festival will be explored in colourful detail.
The accompanying photography will further bring alive the beauty and vibrancy of these incredible celebrations.
Chicken Butter Masala
Similar to chicken tikka masala in Britain, chicken butter masala is a very famous and widely interpreted dish all over the country, but especially in Orissa, Bengal and the eastern part of the country when I was growing up. Much as Punjab restaurants would be judged by the quality of their black dal, in the east restaurants would often be judged on the quality of their chicken butter masala. It was always such a treat to eat, so I learnt this recipe from the banquet cooks from Orissa who catered for my sister’s wedding, preparing this dish for 1,200 people.
750g chicken breast, cut into 1cm thick strips or dice
For the sauce
4 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
4 green cardamom pods
2 black cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
1 large onion, finely chopped
1½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1½ tablespoons ginger-garlic paste
1½ teaspoons red chilli powder
4 ripe tomatoes, puréed
2 tablespoons whole milk powder
1 tablespoon full-fat Greek yoghurt
1 tablespoon boiled cashew nut paste
1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves
½ teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons single cream
25g cold butter
1 tablespoon freshly chopped coriander
juice of ½ lemon
For the sauce, heat the ghee or oil in a heavy-based casserole dish. Add the cumin seeds, green and black cardamom pods and the bay leaf and let them crackle. Add the onion and sauté over a medium heat for 4–5 minutes, stirring constantly. Then add the salt and reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid and cook for 8–10 minutes, until the onion has softened and reduced to bring out its natural sweetness.
When the onion is reduced and soft, add the white pepper, ginger-garlic paste and red chilli powder and cook for a further 3–5 minutes over a low heat, stirring constantly. Now add the puréed tomatoes and cook for a further 10–12 minutes over a low heat until the tomatoes are reduced by half and the entire mixture comes together or the ghee begins to separate from the sides of the pan.
Add the milk powder and incorporate well, then add the yoghurt and mix well with constant stirring, add the cashew nut paste and cook for another 3–5 minutes. Add the chicken and stir for a couple of minutes, taking care to stir continuously. Add the dried fenugreek leaves, garam masala and sugar, stir in the cream and simmer for 1–2 minutes, covered. The chicken should be thoroughly cooked but don’t let it overcook.
Finally, add the cold butter and stir to emulsify the butter in the sauce but do not allow it to boil. Sprinkle with coriander, squeeze over the lemon juice and serve with pilau rice or paratha of your choice.
The cooking of onions over a slow heat with the lid on is the secret to getting a really lovely, silky, velvety sauce that is so unique about chicken butter masala, so take your time to get the onions right and you will enjoy the dish that much more.
Extract taken from Vivek Singh’s Indian Festival Feasts (Absolute Press, £26) out now
Photography © Jodi Hinds