Butter chicken has helped me at every stage of my life – and has always united my family

I grew up eating this comforting, warming dish and it remains just as important to me today

I remember my first taste of butter chicken. I must have been about 10 years old. My dad’s cousins used to marinate a whole chicken from their farm in yoghurt, spices, ginger, garlic and chilli, before cooking it over an open fire: not everyone owned a tandoor.

Everything they used was from their own land: deliciously sweet and tangy tomatoes, homemade yoghurt, white makhan (a cultured butter). It was such an experience – and such a beautiful dish – that throughout the long train journey home after visiting them, I would hassle my mum to make it for us back home. Those delicate spices, though, and the smoky flavour from cooking over an open fire, are impossible for me to replicate, even now.

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