Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Butter Chicken - Vegan stylez.

I almost never miss meat. I miss the convenience factor because all fast food is meat centric. Some of my favorite cuisines include Indian and Thai, both of which are pretty easy to take the meat out of, so I'm fortunate that way. One thing I've never seen a veg version of, though, is butter chicken. I always, and I mean ALWAYS, ordered butter chicken from our local Indian haunt (which has sadly closed its doors. Heart breaking). Why can't you just make that sauce and put it on vegetables, darn it?

Oh, wait, you totally can. No one does, but I'm nothing if not a pioneer. Okay, I'm not a pioneer, I'm just a gal craving a comfort food from ages past.

I adapted this from the lovely book 1000 Indian Recipes, by Neelam Batra. For all you veg*ns out there, it also has clearly marked all vegan recipes which is awesome, of which there are many.

There are a couple of different steps involved, but I promise it will be worth it in the end. This first go-round, I decided to straight up sub vegan things for the dairy; next time around I will probably change it up a bit and make the cream sauce from cashews. I'd love to find vegan ghee, and I know it exists, but for the amount I'll use it I don't think it will be worth the search, so I will likely stick with Earth Balance next time as well. I'm actually really confused as to why this is even called Butter Chicken, since the amount of butter is so negligible (2tbsp? Seriously?).

Step 1: Tandoori Tofu

1 lb extra firm tofu, pressed
juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

Cut your tofu into grillable squares. For me, that's 8 pieces. For you, that might be different. Put it into a container with the salt and the lime juice, shake it all up so it's coated. Marinate it for somewhere around 2 hours. The tofu will suck up most of the lime juice, which is cool. It'll have a yummy zing when you bite into it.

1 tbsp grated ginger
3 cloves crushed garlic
1/3 c soy yogurt
2 tbsp soy creamer
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp turmeric

Mix all these guys together; toss it in the container with the limey tofu and shake it up so everything is coated. For chicken, the book recommends marinating for a minimum of 8 hours. I didn't have that kind of time so mine marinated for around 4 or 5. If you have the fore thought to go longer, by all means do so.

When you're tired of marinating it, preheat your BBQ and toss the pieces on until they have lovely char marks on each side. That's roughly a few minutes / side. You could bake it or broil it if you want, just bake or broil it however you normally do tofu.

Tear or cut it up into bite size pieces to prepare it for the 'butter' sauce!

The "Butter" Part

2 tbsp Earth Balance
1 1" stick cinnamon
2 bay leaves
2 black cardamom pods, crushed
5 - 7 green cardamom pods, crushed
10 cloves
4 cloves garlic, chopped
8 slices of ginger (about the size of a quarter)
1 - 3 green chiles ie serrano (I used 2, and I used red finger peppers because green / serranos were not available. Mine turned out much more spicy than average butter chicken, so beware, especially if you are a spice wuss!)
5 large tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 1/2 c water
1 tsp salt
1/2 to 1 c soy creamer

Melt your Earth Balance over medium heat and saute the cinnamon stick through to the peppers until fragrant and peppers are starting to brown a little, 2 or 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, paprika, nutmeg and water. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to med-low, and let simmer 20 - 25 minutes or until reduced to about half.

Let cool. Pass through a food mill or a fine mesh strainer. I used the strainer and mashed everything to heck with the back of a wooden spoon. The mill will result in a thicker consistency at this point, and probably would have avoided my thin sauce problem that I ended up with (fixed by adding a tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with a tablespoon of water, later).

Return to the pan, add salt and your tandoori tofu and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the soy creamer and let cook for another 5 minutes. If your sauce seems thin now is the time to add a little cornstarch mixed with water. You want the sauce to coat the tofu, not run off it.

Extra Fat Flavour

2 tbsp peanut oil
1 - 3 serrano or other chiles, sliced
1" ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks

Heat the oil, turn it off and toss in the ginger and pepper, swirling. Mix this into your butter sauce when it's all done, to finish.

And in the word of Gordon Ramsay, Vegan Butter Chicken, DONE.

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