Butter chicken is a classic curry and a favourite with many. This slow cooker butter chicken is a bit healthier than the takeaway version but no less delicious. Tomato, garlic, ginger and spices marry beautifully in the delicious gravy. The succulent chicken thighs all but fall apart after several hours in the slow cooker and taste divine with the rich sauce.
I have a new baby – in my garden that is. I’m very excited. As a passionate food lover and amateur gardener, I like to grow the things we use most often, particularly herbs. One of the more unusual things we use regularly is fresh curry leaves. They add such a wonderful and authentic flavour to any number of Indian inspired dishes, especially this delicious slow cooker butter chicken.
I’m regularly buying fresh curry leaves from our local Indian speciality retailer. I’ve been hankering after a curry tree for the garden for the longest time. Problem is, because they are a tropical plant native to India and Sri-Lanka, they’re not commonly available in New Zealand. Each time I visit a plant shop I’m on the lookout, never with any luck.
But during a random searching session on a local auction website, I was excited to find this little guy advertised for sale. He wasn’t cheap as far as plants go. In fact at just 10cm tall he was damned expensive per centimetre! But I just had to have him. I’ve been told he’s a very sensitive fellow and will require a lot of care. Its going to be touch and go. Extra care has never been a strength of mine when it comes to the garden. We’ll just have to see!
Obviously my new friend is still just a baby and not ready for me to use his leaves yet. For this slow cooker butter chicken I used leaves I bought from the local shops. This isn’t your normal butter chicken. But it’s a bit of a healthier version, using only a small amount of coconut cream. Left all day to mellow in the slow cooker, the beautiful tomato gravy and gentle spices are spot on. You’d never know it wasn’t the real thing.
I love the flavour the curry leaves bring to this slow cooker butter chicken. But if you can’t source them, this will still be a lovely dish. Their flavour is so unique there is no real substitute so you can just leave them out. Or you could try adding a bay leaf and a bit of extra turmeric (about 1/2 tsp more) for the slow cooking, then stirring through some fresh coriander right before serving.
As a side note, if you do buy fresh curry leaves, there are usually so many in the packet it’s hard to know what to do with them. The lovely lady at my local shop suggested laying them out and drying them in the sun. They will then store for a number of weeks. I have a stash drying as I type. She also told me you can strip the stems and freeze them, though the leaves will discolour slightly when freezing.
- 6 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp oil
- 2 tbsp butter or ghee
- 1 brown onion, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 3 stems fresh curry leaves
- 1 red chilli
- 1 tbsp garam masala
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 400g can crushed tomatoes
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 165ml coconut cream
- 1 tsp golden syrup
- ½ concentrated chicken stock cube
- Heat the oil in a large fry pan over a medium heat.
- Season the chicken thighs well on both sides. Add to the pan and cook on both sides until golden brown, around 4-5 minute per side.
- Remove from the pan and add to the bowl of a slow cooker.
- Add the butter or ghee to the pan and when melted, add the diced onion. Cook over a medium heat for 5-6 minutes until soft and just starting to colour.
- Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low. Add the curry leaves, chilli and spices to the pan and cook, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes until fragrant.
- Pour on the tomatoes, tomato puree and coconut cream.
- Add the golden syrup and concentrated chicken stock cube. Stir to dissolve.
- Carefully pour the sauce onto the chicken in the slow cooker. Stir gently to coat the chicken in the sauce.
- Cook on low for 5-6 hours, until the chicken is cooked through and tender.
- Serve garnished with fresh coriander, and steamed white rice.