Butter chicken lasagne? Interesting, you might say...but this is a perfect fusion in my opinion. The spicy butter chicken sauce lends itself very well to being thickened and turned into a bechamel, add in some ricotta and spinach and layer it with noodles and the tandoori chicken and you have a perfect marriage.
Other than marinating the chicken the day before, this lasagne is no more work than making a regular lasagne, be it beef, chicken or vegetable. The amount of flavour that the spices deliver just raises it to another level.
I decided to make this as a way to use up some of the plain Greek yoghurt and the half container of ricotta cheese that were in the fridge. I used a small piece of soft goat cheese and about 1/2 cup of grated mozzarella as well.
Marinate the chicken the day before you are going to cook it. Place 12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs in a dish, together with:
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plain Greek yoghurt
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoon tandoori masala
Add this to the chicken thighs and mix to coat all of the chicken. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Heat a deep pan, add a bit of olive oil, and sear both sides of the chicken.
Cover, turn the heat to low and allow the chicken to simmer until it is completely cooked.
Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside until it is cool. Reserve the liquid that is in the pan for the sauce.
In a clean pan, on medium high heat, wilt:
4 large handfuls of washed fresh spinach leaves
Add a bit of water if needed, to prevent the spinach from sticking to the pan.
Place the wilted spinach into a strainer to cool, and to remove some of the excess liquid.
To make the sauce, melt:
1/4 cup butter
1 small onion, finely diced.
Cook until the onion is soft.
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
Cook, stirring, until you smell the garlic and ginger. This should only take a few seconds.
Add the spices:
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes.
1/3 cup flour
Cook, stirring, until you have a smooth paste. Cook for another couple of minutes.
Add to the reserved chicken cooking liquid:
1/4 cup tomato paste
Whisk to combine.
Add enough milk to bring the liquid to a total of:
2 1/4 cups
While whisking, gradually add the liquid to the pan, allowing it to come to a boil when all the liquid has been added.
Boil for a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat.
Taste and add salt and pepper if needed
Cook 12 lasagne noodles, drain and cool under cold running water. Drain and set aside. I usually cook the noodles while I am making the sauce.
In a bowl, combine:
1/2 the sauce
1 cup ricotta cheese
the wilted spinach, excess liquid squeezed out and then chopped
In another bowl, combine:
8 of the cooked chicken thighs, chopped
1/2 the sauce
Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Start assembling the lasagne by pouring a thin layer of whipping cream onto the bottom of a 9" X 13" ovenproof dish, just enough to coat the bottom and prevent the bottom layer of noodles from sticking.
Place 3 noodles on top of the whipping cream.
Spread half of the cheese mixture evenly over the noodles.
Place another layer of 3 noodles.
Evenly spread half of the chicken mixture over the noodles.
Repeat these two steps with the remaining noodles, sauce and chicken.
Crumble goat cheese and sprinkle mozzarella over the top of the lasagne.
Bake until hot in the centre, bubbling and golden on top. This should take about 45 minutes.
Allow the lasagne to rest for 5 - 10 minutes before cutting and serving.
- If you do not have fenugreek seeds, omit them. They can be found at most small, ethnic stores.
- I make my garam masala and tandoori masala from a recipe I have. If you do not want to go to the trouble of buying all the spices, both are readily available in larger grocery stores, or again, in ethnic stores.
- If you have leftover cooked chicken or turkey, you can chop it up and add it to the sauce instead of the tandoori chicken. This is a quick and easy way to make the dish; there will be a bit less depth of flavour, but it's still delicious.
- I froze the 4 chicken thighs that did not get used...I can use them as pizza toppings or wrap fillings another time.
- The tanginess of the goat cheese is a good complement to the richness of the sauce and spices. I have used feta cheese when I have no goat cheese. You can also choose to use all mozzarella if you like.
- The chicken can be grilled instead of cooked in a pan. You will not have the liquid to use in the sauce; use all milk or part milk and part chicken stock.
- Frozen spinach can be used, defrost it and squeeze out the excess liquid. If left it will dilute the sauce and make it too runny during cooking.
- I use lasagne noodles that require cooking before using. I use the time it takes for the water to come to a boil and the noodles to cook as my sauce and filling prep time. If you choose to use the ready-to-use noodles that do not require pre-cooking, you will need a runnier sauce, as these noodles tend to absorb liquid during cooking.
- The sauce can be made without as much flour, or with no flour and using whipping cream instead of milk to make just a butter chicken sauce. Add the chicken thighs into the sauce and serve over rice.
- The lasagne can be made in stages over a couple of days...chicken, sauce and fillings made as you have the time and then assembled and baked. It can also be assembled up to 2 days ahead and kept well wrapped in the refrigerator. Assembled lasagne can also be frozen, well wrapped, until needed. You can bake it from frozen, or defrost it before baking.