Butter Chicken Lasagna | The $185000 recipe


It started with reading a recipe for Murg Makhani. A restaurant feature in TimeOut Abu Dhabi covered Ushna, a fine dining Indian restaurant in Abu Dhabi. To start of, the sauce requires 5 kilograms of fresh tomatoes to be boiled for two hours. I’m sure most of us home cooks don’t have stock pots large enough to hold even 3 kilograms of tomatoes. In any case, I kept reading. If there’s one thing I have learnt from Masterchef classes and recipes is that more than adapting it to the home kitchen, it’s the technique that we can learn from. This recipe, too, had an important line that will shatter one of the most common concepts of a great butter chicken. Chef Amrish Sood states the logic behind the curry is that the texture of the sauce should be similar to butter, smooth and fine. You would think the idea was that the sauce itself should taste buttery. It just happened that I was on the lookout for a sound lasagna recipe at the same time. That’s when I had the Eureka moment. Given the amount of tomatoes that go into the sauce, why don’t I make a Lasagna using butter chicken?!

At that point, it sounded incredible. I thought I had struck gold. While typing it out on Google, and hoping I wouldn’t get any hits, the results had me stumped. Ontario based, Rick Matharu won 250,000 Canadian dollars on a competition show on Food Network Canada for this very creation. This was a competition based on online voting and beat 7 other creative recipes. If anything, I knew I had the validation to go ahead and experiment on this recipe. I’m sure purists out there would cringe at the thought of this fusion. Last year, we had an Iftar for my awesome cousins and I made this keeping in mind one of them who absolutely loves Lasagna. And once we were done, I even packed off the very little that was left because he absolutely loved it. Let’s just say that I’ve been making this for close to 5 years to date and it hasn’t failed me once.


This recipe does take a while to come together, given all the components. The sauce takes the longest. The chicken chunks, ideally, needs to be marinated overnight. Mind you, the recipe for this grilled chicken is one that will melt in your mouth. I didn’t even bake mine. I used my grill pan and cooked them on the stovetop. Another tip I picked up from this recipe is to use pure ghee to baste while cooking. Please give the olive oil a rest for this one. I’ve found that grilling gives them the char that only adds to the flavor of the sauce. The only thing to keep in mind that since, the chicken is meant for Lasagna, they have to be cut a bit smaller than they would be for chicken skewers.


Look at that colour! I promise I’ve toggled with the saturation ever so slightly. I have simplified the sauce part quite a bit but followed through the other steps. This is a recipe where you don’t want to take shortcuts. So crush that cardamom pods finely and dry roast some cashews just enough to make a tablespoon of paste. Once I rushed through this recipe myself and felt that the texture lacked that consistency and the deepness of the flavor was lost. The final step in the sauce requires more attention to taste than actual measure of ingredient. To balance out the sourness of the sauce, you need to add honey. Apparently the sourness of the tomatoes depends on the season they’re grown in. Summer grown tomatoes are more sour than their winter counterparts which means you would need to add a little more honey. Since I don’t use fresh tomatoes, I thought that this technique wouldn’t apply to me. However, there was a time I needed to use up to five tablespoons of honey to fine-tune the sauce. I usually start grilling my chicken half way through making the sauce so they can be added straight away


The assembly is a little more than just layering sauce between lasagna sheets. As it has to be baked for close to an hour, the heat would naturally cause the sauce to dry out. This is where Ricotta comes into play. Considering it is one the of the ingredients in a lasagna, I made sure I used it the recipe.  After adding the sauce, I add a few spoons of Ricotta and then swirl them both together. Given it’s mildly sweetness, it doesn’t alter the taste of the sauce, melds while baking and add a touch of creaminess. 


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Possible my favorite part of this Lasagna is the addition of fresh Mozzarella. For the past few years, these can be found in the supermarket exactly how you would find them in Italy. Globes of snow white milky goodness encased in a thin skin soaked in brine. Eating these is still is one of my favorite memories from honeymooning in Italy. I rarely use the shredded variety and prefer these while making pizza too. I remember a couple of years ago, my cousin came over to bake and I was making Ali pasta for lunch. While cutting the mozzarella, I offered her a cube. She asked why would I eat this raw and I told her give it a go. To date, she waxes lyrical about the difference and says it has changed her life. It sounds {very} dramatic but you’d agree if you tasted them for the first time too.



How can I lure you with a recipe of lasagna without another cheese pull? Come to think of it, I’m sharing three recipes with this post. Juicy tandoori chicken, a delectable butter chicken and using it both for a lasagna. It has a tendency to taste better the next day exactly how Biryani does. I like making this for a Friday lunch too. Considering the Iftar timings are close to dinner, this will be a firm favorite on your table.

Butter Chicken Lasagna

Serves 8 people

Butter chicken recipe adapted by Chef Amrish Sood  

INGREDIENTS

Tandoori Chicken

  • Chicken breast (boneless) – 500 g
  • Freshly squeezed Lime juice – 1 small Indian Lime
  • Ginger Garlic paste – 3 tsp
  • Chilli Powder – 1 tsp
  • Thick curd – ¼ cup
  • Cardamom powder – 1 tsp
  • Fresh cream – ¼ cup
  • Ghee – for basting

Tomato Sauce

  • Strained tomatoes (I use Pomi) – 1000 g
  • Garlic – 8 cloves peeled and finely chopped
  • Freshly Crushed Cardamom seed powder – 2 tsp + 1 tsp (see notes)
  • Ghee – 1 tbsp
  • Kashmiri chilli powder – 2 tbsp
  • Roasted Cashew paste – 1 tbsp
  • Butter – 4 tbsp
  • Cream – 100 ml
  • Crushed Fenugreek leave [Kasuri Methi] – 3 tsp
  • Honey – as required
  • Salt – to taste

Assembly

  • Lasagna sheets [no pre-cook]
  • Ricotta – 250 g
  • Fresh Mozzarella – 400g cut into chunks
  • Shredded mozzarella – as required

METHOD

  • Cut the chicken into small cubes.
  • Marinate it in lemon juice, ginger garlic paste and salt for at least an hour.
  • Add the chili powder, 1 tsp cardamom powder, curd and fresh cream.
  • Marinate it for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  • Bring the marinated chicken to room temperature before cooking.
  • Thread the chicken onto skewers and grill them basting occasionally with Ghee.
  • If you do not have a stovetop grill pan, cook them in a pre heated oven at 250˚C for 10-15 minutes, basting with ghee occasionally.
  • In a large saucepan, heat a tablespoon of ghee.
  • When it is hot, add chopped garlic and fry till it changes color.
  • Pour the strained tomatoes and add Kashmiri chili powder, 1 tsp cardamom powder and salt.
  • Stir it well and bring it to boil on a medium flame.
  • Once it starts bubbling [splatter alert!], lower the flame and let it simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the roasted cashew paste and butter and stir well.
  • Once the butter has melted completely, switch the flame off.
  • Blend the tomato into a fine puree.
  • Cook the blended puree for a further 30 minutes.
  • Chef Amrish says the basic logic of makhani is that the texture of the sauce should be similar to butter and NOT the the sauce should taste like butter.
  • Add the grilled chicken, fenugreek leaves and season with salt.
  • Once it boils, taste the sauce and start adding honey a teaspoon at a time. The aim is to balance out the sourness of the tomatoes. Keep tasting the sauce till it tastes balanced.
  • Once the sauce has thickened, reduce the heat and add fresh cream.
  • Finish with crushed fenugreek leaves and 1 tsp cardamom powder.
  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
  • In a baking dish, pour a tablespoon of sauce and spread well.
  • Layer with lasagna sheets and add top with tomato sauce.
  • Add a teaspoon of ricotta cheese and roughly mix it into the tomato sauce.
  • Repeat this method of layering till the dish is close to full.
  • Add one final layer of tomato sauce and ricotta mixture.
  • Chop the mozzarella into cubes and distribute them on top.
  • Fill in the gaps with shredded mozarella cheese.
  • Loosely cover the dish with a piece of aluminum foil.
  • Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the foil and use a toothpick to ensure lasagna sheets are cooked through. The toothpick should pierce right to the bottom.
  • Carefully remove the dish and place it close to the top rack. 
  • Switch on the broiler inside the oven to grill the cheese till it is bubbly and golden. Watch carefully or your cheese might burn.
  • If your oven does not have a broiler, simply remove the aluminum foil and let it bake till the cheese melts and becomes bubbly and golden.

NOTES

If you’re using store bought cardamom powder, use 3 + 1 tsp. 

You can halve the recipe and bake it in a loaf pan if you’re cooking for 2. You’ll have leftover butter chicken for the next day too. 🙂

Have a good food day.

Cheesecake Tartlets | To each their own


When I first baked a cheesecake, I didn’t know I was stepping on what is considered to be a slippery slope. I first baked it for my husband on his birthday because it is his favorite. Honestly, not knowing that it’s a recipe that might fail more than succeed helped because I just followed the instructions, put it in its water bath and let it bake. And it came out just flawless. Later on when I was hoping to bake something other that the classic version did I encounter the horror stories. Cracked tops, collapsing middles and still wet insides. There seemed to be so many things that could go wrong. After having read that, the next time I attempted to bake a cheesecake I added some fear. And this despite having read troubleshooting tips from my trusted baking bloggers’ list. It came out of the oven with a crack on the top pretty much like the Mercedes logo. I laughed aloud at the coincidence and didn’t bother covering it up. It did make me want to find a daunting free cheesecake recipe.


My husband pretty much expects a cheesecake for his birthday and doesn’t care for cracks and such. And one time round, I wanted to mix things up from the usual Classic. As far as flavors goes, there’s lots and lots of cheesecakes out there. This time round I wanted to nail it. Crack free, great rise, velvety smooth, the works. I saw these cheesecake tartlets first a couple of years ago and at that time mini-desserts were quite the hype. That’s when I thought, I can bake wee cheesecakes and there’s no limitations to toppings too.


His birthday was in the 30’s which is why I thought I should have three flavors for the day. The classic cheesecake should be one, no doubt. Around that time I had bought my first tub of fleur de sel solely for making salted caramel. It’s something else that he loves. So salted caramel popcorn cheesecake would be the second version. I knew the popcorn would get too soggy had I assembled these beforehand. I made popcorn on the stove right before serving and warmed my day old salted caramel. I picked out the cheesecakes that had sunk a tad bit in the center. They’re perfect for holding a pool of caramel and stacked popcorn without budging.


Then there was Nutella. It’s as simple as swirling it into the cheesecake batter. I considered chocolate chips but wasn’t sure how they would while baking. I was planning on arranging the cheesecakes in his birthday numbers and experimented with chocolate chips on one lone cupcake. While I thought they would sink to the bottom, they actually rose to the top and melted into the batter. A bit of a brown mess. Aesthetics always matter to me so in that regards, the Nutella swirls won in the elegance round.


I’d say if you’re a bit skeptical about tackling a full sized version of a cheesecake, this would be a great place to start. I’ve seen quite a few no-bake cheesecake recipes too but I’m not a fan of gelatin based desserts. My favorite bit about these tartlets is how they are completely customizable. Stir in a vanilla pod for a fragrant, seed flecked cheesecake. Top off with a berry reduction or dot with blueberries for a fruity flavor. You could try Oreo for crusts. Or swirl in peanut butter. Or spread freshly scooped passion fruit. I told you, endless options.

These are perfect for an Iftar gathering and won’t fail to impress. Of course, size matters when it comes to cheesecakes. No worrying about cutting out slices (and hoping the knife goes through the chilled crust as well), which makes them perfect for little children. With this petite portion, your guests can stop right at one or indulge in a few. To each their own.

Cheesecake Tartlets

Recipe adapted from Crazy for Crust

INGREDIENTS

  • Digestive Biscuit Crumbs – 1 ¼ cup
  • Melted Butter – 5 tbsp
  • Brown sugar, packed – 3 tbsp
  • Cream cheese – 8 ounces, room temperature
  • Sour cream –  ¼ cup, room temperature
  • Egg –  1, room temperature
  • Sugar – ¼ cup
  • Vanilla extract – 1 tsp

Toppings

  • Nutella
  • Popcorn
  • Salted Caramel
  • Fresh berries

METHOD

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  • Line cupcake tin with liners.
  • Stir biscuit crumbs, melted butter and brown sugar together.
  • Put the crust mixture into the liners and press down firmly.
  • In a bowl or stand mixer, beat the cream cheese till it becomes light and fluffy.
  • Add the sour cream and beat well.
  • Beat the egg, sugar and vanilla extract well till it’s smooth and almost lump-free.
  • Spoon the cheesecake mixture into each liner.
  • If using Nutella, add a dollop directly into the batter and swirl it using a toothpick.
  • Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until they just begin to brown at the edges.
  • Cool completely and then refrigerate them for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  • Serve as is or get creative and top to your delight.
  • You could top them with popcorn with salted caramel spooned on top.

Have a good food day.