Just before my husband, Erik, and I started dating, he was privileged to have spent several months living in Southern India teaching a Swamiji conversational English through experiencing day to day life together. This Swamiji is a religious leader who truly set aside all worldly pursuits devoting himself completely to highest spiritual realization and service to all. In India specifically, he was often viewed as an all-powerful, a healer, preacher and doctor to name a few. My middle-America raised husband was immersed into the culture living in the compound eating meals together, meditating and praying together. He traveled with the Swami and often times participated in festivals and ceremonies. As you can imagine, this experience was truly rich and transformative for him physically, mentally and spiritual. (We often argue he could write a book!) It continues to shape him and our family even today and we are ever so grateful!
This post, however, is not about the experience – rather the culinary impacts to our family. Indian food or Indian flavored food conjures wonderful memories for Erik and has had a common place in our household sense before we were married. When food allergies were introduced – we could no longer visit our favorite restaurants and our recipes had to be revamped. My boys especially love Butter Chicken, often times called Chicken Masala. It’s a broiled chicken cooked in a tomato, butter sauce with cashews and raisins… so good! This recipe is a dairy, gluten, garlic, soy, egg free version intended to feed a crowd or provide leftovers for lunches. You can easily add or subtract vegetables or even replace chicken with lentils and chickpeas to make vegetarian.
2lbs chicken thighs (breast meat, rotisserie chicken meat removed or 1 can chickpeas with 1 cup of red lentils for vegetarian alternative)
2 Tbls peanut oil
1 onion finley chopped
5 Tbls vegan butter (we like Earth Balance. You can find it at most grocery stores)
5 Tbls lemon juice
2 Tbls fresh grated ginger or 1 tsp dried ginger
3.5 tsp Gram Masala
1 tsp chipotle powder
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp oregano
4 tsp cumin
3 tsp ground coriander
¼ – ½ tsp cayenne pepper (to taste)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
3 bay leaf
1 head organic cauliflower, chopped (sweet potatoes, broccoli, squash work just as well!)
2 cans coconut milk (we prefer the full-fat version)
2 cans tomato sauce + 1 can of water
1.5 cup cashews
1.5 cup raisins
Cut chicken into 1 – 2inch pieces.
Heat oil in large sauce pan over med/high heat. Add chicken and onion and sauté until onions are soft & translucent and meet is browned on outside. (If using rotisserie chicken or vegetarian alternative, sauté onions alone and add protein with tomato sauce) . Add cauliflower, butter, lemon juice, ginger, gram masala, chipotle, oregano, cumin, coriander, cayenne, salt, pepper and bay leaf. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.
Add tomato sauce (rinse each can ½ can of water and add to sauce), cook for 5 minutes. Add coconut milk, cook for 3 minutes longer stirring constantly.
Reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes. Add cashews and raisins and stir often. Remove from heat and serve over basmati rice (recipe below) and top with fresh cilantro.
Note: I often times leave the cashews and raisins out and add to top of dish as its served to appease those who don’t like the texture/taste.
2 Basmati Rice
1 cup quinoa (I like the colored quinoa… adds texture and protein!)
2 Tbls vegan butter (we like Earth Balance. You can find it at most grocery stores)
½ cup frozen peas
1 tsp salt
Cook 2 cups of basmati rice according to package directions
When cooking is complete, remove from heat and add butter, frozen peas and salt. Let sit for 3-5 minutes then stir.