Munich [along with the entire federal state of Bavaria in Germany] went into serious lockdown a little after mid-March, and rules began to be eased a little last week. I left India two months ago, and have been living with my parents since — my original plan had been to take a month-long break to travel.
For the first one or two weeks of the lockdown, I cooked everything I had missed about German cooking. It was largely Bavarain cuisine and all very ingredient-focussed, from the vegetable varieties to the different cuts of meat, and the beef.
But the other day, I was feeling nostalgic for Indian foods like chole bhature and butter chicken or murgh makhani. So I made some butter chicken [and live-streamed it on Instagram]. I have already got a few responses from my followers who tried out the recipe.
The main vegetable market in Munich is somewhat like a sabzi mandi in Delhi: produce is brought here and dispatched to every place nearby. The only difference is that we get a wider, global variety of vegetables here; from Spanish tomatoes to asparagus from France, and even kumquats. So every morning, after a cup of coffee, I walk to the local vegetable market nearby to check what has been brought fresh and what is in season.
I plan my cooking based on what I see and buy here, and not vice versa. For example, I made a summer salad with strawberries and some rhubarb that I soaked in gin and sugar, since rhubarbs are a bit more sour this time of year. Pumpkins are also in season, so I made some pumpkin soup. As are white garlic and walnuts, which we use to make pestos and chutneys.
I also made babi panggang, which is an Indonesian fried pork dish that is my father’s favourite. And then, we have made shepherd’s pie, a Bavarian pork roast, and skrei [Norwegian cod]. We also made some homemade pasta — about five times the usual amount — and used it over a few days.
My family loves cooking, and each meal is spent discussing and planning the next. About twice a week, my mom and I cook together. She is very competent in the kitchen, and sometimes she surprises us with a Thai curry, or a spaghetti aglio e Olio pepperoncino. Everything she makes is very fragrant and spicy.
Butter chicken (serves 4); by chef Christiaan Stoop
Ingredients for the first marination (20 minutes): 900 gm chicken breast (boneless); 10 ml lemon juice; 4 gm red chilli powder; 5 gm Salt
Ingredients for the second marination (12 hours): 200 gm hung yoghurt (curd); 5 gm dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi); 20 ml neutral oil (grapeseed oil or sunflower oil); 20 gm ginger and garlic paste; 5gm garam masala powder
Ingredients for the tomato based gravy: 20ml oil (neutral flavour); 1 onion (chopped); 5 ripe tomatoes (chopped); 20g ginger and garlic paste; 2 pieces fresh green chillies; 30 gm cashew nuts (soaked in water for one hour); 5 gm red chilli powder; 10 gm garam masala powder; 150 ml tomato puree; 200 ml chicken stock; 80 gm butter; 80 ml cream; 5 gm dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi); salt; pepper
Method for marination: Cut the chicken in rough chunks. First marinate chicken with lemon juice, chilli powder and salt for 20 minutes. Next, marinate again with the hung yoghurt, dried fenugreek leaves, garam masala, oil and ginger and garlic paste. Cover and rest the marinated chicken inside the refrigerator for at least 12 hours. The longer the better.
Grill the chicken in a grilling pan. Do this with oil and in batches. You do not want to fry all the chicken meat at the same time. Fry on the highest flame so you get a nice brown colour on the chicken Ensure that the meat is cooked through and that is tender. Let the chicken chunks cool down. Set aside.
To make the butter chicken: Once everything above is done, heat a wide pan with butter and oil. Add the chopped onions and tomatoes. Fry until it gets slightly coloured. Now add your garam masala powder, ginger and garlic paste, chillies, red chilli powder and cashew nuts. Fry this till it turns fragrant. Now pour your chicken stock and tomato purée into the pan. Add salt and taste. Let this simmer for minimum 15 minutes. Let this cool down for 5 minutes and blend this mixture in a food processor or hand blender while adding your butter and cream. Once the gravy is smooth, strain it through a fine sieve. Bring the mix again into a pot and bring to a boil for three minutes. Taste and season again.
Add the chicken and simmer for another three minutes. The chicken should become hot and soft. Taste, season and finish it off by adding cream and cold butter. Garnish the butter chicken with extra fenugreek leaves and extra cream. Serve this along with rice, naan or as shown in the picture with my favourite bread, a paratha.
In this series, some of India’s popular chefs and restaurateurs will be sharing their lockdown cooking habits and recipes with us.