When I host guests at home and want easy starters or I want to laze around while the food gets cooked, paneer tikkas surely are amidst the top choices on my list. A base marination of yogurt, besan (chickpea flour) and simple spices can be customized to make different kinds of tikkas. And, you just need a big bowl, a baking tray or grill pan and skewers to do this!
You can easily make this vegan by using tofu instead of paneer.
If you don't know what a tikka is, they are small marinated chunks of vegetables or meat. Although traditionally tikkas are made in a tandoor (clay oven), you can make them at home on a grill pan or oven. I promise they taste equally brilliant and are mouthwatering. They can be had as a meal on their own or served along with salads or even eaten as starters prior to a bigger meal. Personally, I like to have them as one big meal with some side salad. They are quite filling, and I am usually done with two rounds of tikkas! And so, they are perfect for those cheat days too if you are on a diet.
The history of tandoor is as old as the Indus Valley Civilization. Although, it hadn't arrived in India until after the partition in 1947. Tandoor has an important role in the story of sanjha-chulha (common oven) or community kitchen popularized by the Sikhs in India.
How can I create a tandoor effect to foods cooked at home?
Tandoor is a clay oven where different constituents of the oven cater to different effects on the food being cooked in it. The pit produces a baking effect, heat from the charcoal produces grilling, and hot clay walls are same as a griddle. To make tikkas at home, we need one of these aspects of the tandoor:
And, it's easily achievable on a grill pan and/or an oven.
What is the important part in making paneer tikka?
The most important, which also the sole of the panner tikka is the marination. The nicer the marination, the better will be the taste.
Yogurt is the key in your marination as it allows the spices to permeate into the raw paneer/vegetable/meat.
Using a sharp tasting oil, such as mustard oil imparts a high note to the paneer tikka. If you don't have access to mustard oil, try using extra virgin oil. You can also add half teaspoon yellow mustard powder to a neutral oil to generate a similar effect as mustard oil.
Once marinated, let the paneer rest for at least 20 minutes if not more.
250-300 grams paneer cut into cubes
2-3 medium bell peppers cut into cubes
1 medium red onion cut into quarters
1 medium firm tomato (red or green) cut into quarters
1/2 cup yogurt (use vegan yogurt to make this dish vegan)
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp kasoori methi
1 tsp roughly crushed ajwain (carom seeds)
1 tbsp mustard oil or extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp roasted besan (chickpea flour)
1 tbsp degi mirch (red chili powder) or paprika
A pinch of turmeric
Salt to taste
1 tsp lime juice if the yogurt is not sour
Marinate the veggies and paneer
In a bowl, add the yogurt, ginger garlic paste, 1/2 tsp kasoori methi and 1/2 tbsp oil, and mix well.
Next add crushed carom seeds, salt, roasted chickpea flour, turmeric and red chili powder, and mix again. You can add a few drops of lime juice if the yogurt is not sour.
Add the paneer and veggies into this marination mixture and coat them well. Skewer the vegetables and paneer and let it rest for at least 20 minutes.
Grill or bake the paneer:
If using a grill pan:
Heat 1/2 tbsp oil on the pan and place the skewers on it.
Roast the paneer and veggies by turning them over once in a while to get a char on most sides.
Remove from the pan and place on the serving platter.
If using an oven:
Preheat the oven to 430 degrees F.
Place an aluminium foil on a baking dish or tray or keep a cooling rack on an oven safe pan, and set aside.
Brush the paneer and veggies with 1/2 tbsp oil.
Place the skewers on the baking tray and bake for 15 minutes, turning once after every 5 minutes to cook all sides of the cubes.
After 15 minutes, switch on the broiler and broil the veggies and the paneer for 2-3 minutes to get a char on their surfaces.
Remove carefully and place on your serving platter.
Squeeze some lime on top and garnish with remaining kasoori methi. It's best enjoyed with delectable chutneys and side salads!