In one of my earlier posts on making Paneer, I waxed eloquent on how much I love this versatile Indian cheese. It is one of my favorite ingredients; I love Paneer almost as much as I love prawns & I do love my prawns.
And it is a definite god-send when I have vegetarian guests over. It tastes divine and can seriously make you consider giving up meat!
In fact, I have had many occasions where meat lovers have happily partaken of a pure vegetarian meal, as long as there was at least one paneer dish on the menu.
Paneer is a common ingredient in various regional cuisines in India. For instance, in Kashmir, it is known as Chaman and in Bengal, it is known as Chhana.
But somehow, when you mention Paneer, the state of Punjab come to mind with its fertile fields of wheat and yellow mustard flowers, the sanjha chulahs (communal tandoor ovens) and the roadside dhabas, serving tandoori roti, dal makhani, lassi and of course Paneer Tikka.
Punjabi cuisine is what has made paneer famous and though paneer has found its way into almost every regional Indian cuisine (Paneer Chettinad, anyone?), my favorite paneer recipes will always be Punjabi.
Such as the aforementioned Paneer Tikka…
Hearty morsels of Paneer marinated in a delicious mix of Yoghurt and spices and then flash-grilled in a tandoor.
Of course most of us home-cooks have no access to a tandoor, but this dish tastes equally good grilled over charcoal, in an oven or even on a skillet.
One bite of this Paneer Tikka will transport you to a roadside dhaba, a shack (not really as derelict as it sounds, some of them even have air-conditioning) on the highway that specializes in doling out the most flavourful classic curries like butter chicken, maa ki daal, tikkas, all served with liberal dollops of homemade butter and washed down with tall glasses of cool sweet Lassi or spicy Chaas. Yum!
Here’s the recipe:
Prep time: 15 minutes
Marination time: At least 1 hour
Cooking time: 5 – 7 minutes
500 grams Paneer, cut into bite-sized cubes
1/4 cup Greek Yogurt
2 teaspoon fresh Ginger-Garlic paste
1/2 teaspoon Red Chilli Powder (or less as per the level of hotness desired)
1 teaspoon Tandoori Masala (available in Indian stores)
1 large pinch Kasoori Methi (dried Fenugreek Leaves, available in Indian stores)
1 tablespoon Chickpea Flour (Besan)
1/4 teaspoon Ajwain (Carom Seeds)
Salt, as per taste
Dry roast the chickpea flour in a saucepan till fragrant. Cool.
Coarsely powder the Ajwain.
Take the yogurt in a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients, including the chickpea flour and ajwain, but except the paneer, to it. Mix till well blended.
Then add the paneer pieces and coat them well with the marinade.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, the longer the better (up to 24 hours).
When ready to cook, thread the paneer onto skewers.
Grill the paneer over a hot grill / coal grill / gas grill or even in an oven till the paneer is a bit browned on the outside. This should take approximately 5-7 minutes.
You can also pan-fry the paneer pieces on a skillet with 1/2 teaspoon oil.
Serve the Paneer tikka with some sliced tomatoes, onions & a squeeze of lime. Enjoy!