In the beginning of this year lets start with a recipe which is very special to vegetarians - The Paneer Tikka. Paneer tikka is an Indian dish made from cubes of paneer marinated in spiced yoghurt based marinade and is roasted in tandoor (clay oven). This dish serves like an all-in-one alternate for all the meat dishes like chicken tikka and other meat tikka. Paneer tikka is a very popular dish in the Indian subcontinent and in countries with Indian diaspora.
Home-made paneer is the best. It is easy and quick to prepare and you really will taste the difference between the one you purchase and the one you make a home. But if you have no other option but to buy it, then soak it in warm water for 15-20 minutes to soften it up.Paneer is literally a two ingredient convenient cheese which you can easily make at home, you just need some full fat milk and souring agent. Paneer is made without rennet, by curdling hot milk with souring agent like lemon, lime juice, vinegar or citric acid. After the milk is curdled it is strained in butter muslin or cheese cloth and the curd is collected and then pressed to form a mass and the whey is collected for other uses. It is an unsalted cheese with a very mild and bland taste, historically made from buffalo milk, though a blend of buffalo and cow milk is also common now a days. Paneer is also called chenna in Orissa and Bengal. This cheese is widely consumed in North India, Afghanistan, Nepal and Bangladesh and its mildness is a perfect for stronger flavours which it absorbs easily. Paneer is not always cubed and fried before use. It can be eaten fresh without cooking, or crumbled, shaped, moulded and often seasoned and flavoured with cumin and mint. A good quality paneer should be firm yet soft and should not crumble when cubed. The quality of paneer is determined by its smooth and soft texture and the amount of fats in it. There are some versions like malai paneer which are softer and creamier than the regular ones.
One common mistake that people make while they cook with paneer as an ingredient is that they overcook it and make it chewy. Paneer just needs to be simmered or cooked for a short duration only. I am also amazed by the popularity of paneer not only in India but all over the world, especially among the vegetarian population.
You get paneer in almost all the international hypermarkets and grocery stores. Even international fast food chains like Pizza hut, Dominos, Subway, Mc Donald’s have incorporated this ingredient as a part of their vegetarian menu offerings. You can make paneer tikka masala by using the below recipe to make paneer tikka and then served it in chunky tomato, onion sauce to make an entree dish. There are several other variations of paneer tikka like Kashmiri paneer tikka which is stuffed with chopped almonds, Yellow chili paneer tikka, Ajwain paneer tikka (caraway spiced tikka), Hariyali paneer tikka (spinach and cilantro marinated).
Yellow chilli paneer tikka
Bell peppers 1 nos.
Red onion 1 nos.
Mustard oil 2tbsp
Ginger garlic paste 1tbsp
Hung yoghurt 1/2 cup
Yellow chilli powder 2tsp
Coriander powder 1tbsp
Kasoori methi 1tbsp
Salt to taste
Unsalted butter 2tbsp
Fresh cilantro to garnish
Chat masala to season
Add yoghurt to a fine sieve and leave it overnight in refrigerator to remove excess water
Cut the paneer into 1 inch cube and 1 cm thick and keep aside
Cut bell pepper, onion ad tomato into 1 inch dices and keep aside
In a separate bowl combine hung thick yoghurt, and add yellow chilli, ginger garlic paste, coriander powder, kasoori methi, turmeric powder, salt
Whisk well to combine all the ingredients an make a smooth marinade
Marinate the cut paneer and other vegetables and leave in refrigerator for 30 minutes
Skewer the cottage cheese and vegetables on a skewer and keep aside
Preheat the oven at 400 degree Fahrenheit and place the skewers with a drip tray in oven
Roast till you have light brown colour on paneer and vegetables
When almost done remove and baste with clarified unsalted butter and return to oven for 2-4 minutes
Remove from skewer and serve hot garnished with cilantro sprig and dust with chat masala, drizzle remaining clarified butter on top.
Note: Make sure the paneer is not crumbly otherwise it will fall apart. You can substitute yellow chilli powder with Kashmiri chilli powder to make spicy paneer tikka. To make hung curd instantly add yoghurt to muslin cloth and hang for 30 minutes to remove excess water. You can also use greek yoghurt or sour cream to substitute yoghurt.
* Chef Tarun Kapoor, Culinary Mastermind, USA. He may be contacted at [email protected]
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