Coconut Lagoon's butter chicken

Chef Joe Thottungal provides a south Indian take on this classic north Indian gluten-free comfort food

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With what is hopefully the last remnants of winter still present in many Canadian cities, our quest for quality comfort food is still very much intact. And while we are unable to visit places like Coconut Lagoon as much as we’d like, we can recreate some of our favourite dishes of theirs at home, thanks to the Coconut Lagoon cookbook: Recipes from a South Indian Kitchen

After spending roughly four years explaining to guests that Coconut Lagoon is a south Indian restaurant and butter chicken is a north Indian dish, chef Joe Thottungal and his culinary team finally gave in and created what has now become one of the Ottawa restaurant’s signature offerings.

Coconut Lagoon is currently offering a temporarily limited menu for take-out and delivery

Ginger-garlic paste

¼ cup ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
10 cloves garlic

Add ginger, garlic and 2 tablespoons of water and process until smooth, wiping down the sides of the food processor as required.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Butter chicken

2 cups raw cashew nuts
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tbsp plain yogurt
½ tsp red chili powder
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp salt, plus extra to taste
1 tsp coconut oil
¼ cup unsalted butter
2 small onions, chopped
1 ½ tsp ginger garlic paste
1 ½ tsp ground coriander
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 ½ tsp sugar
1 ½ tsp dried fenugreek leaves
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp chaat masala
3 cups milk
chopped cilantro, for garnish

In a saucepan, combine cashews and 4 cups water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, until nuts have softened. Strain and set aside to cool. Transfer to a food processor or blender and purée until smooth.

In a large bowl, combine chicken, yogurt, chili powder, turmeric, salt, and oil and mix well until chicken pieces are fully coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place chicken on prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, until par-cooked.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium.

Add ginger-garlic paste and cook for another 3 minutes. Stir in coriander, cooking for 1 more minute.

Add tomatoes and tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in 2 Tbsp cashew paste, sugar, fenugreek leaves, cumin, and chaat masala and cook for 1 minute. (Leftover cashew paste can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.)

Add chicken and milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 8 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through but still juicy and tender. Season with salt to taste.

Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice.

Serves 4-6