Tandoori Paneer Tikka

Tandoori Paneer Tikka

Paneer Tikka is a popular Indian dish of spiced marinated chunks of paneer grilled in a tandoor or BBQ.

‘Tikka’ means anything that is marinated and then baked or grilled at high temperature. Paneer Tikka is spicy, juicy, and slightly smoky. Paneer is an integral part of everyday food for most North Indians, especially vegetarians.

Being a vegetarian whenever I go out for an Indian meal, I always order a paneer dish. Paneer tikka has to be one of my favourite starters. Paneer tikka is one of those street foods gems which is served everywhere from street vendors to Michelin star restaurants.

It is served alongside lime wedges, onion salad and mint and coriander chutney. The beauty of simple ingredients, very few spices and fiery cooking method ensures this dish is world famous for its leopard-spotted char and smoky flavours. If I have any leftover paneer tikka (rarely) I make paneer tikka masala, which is paneer tikka in a spicy gravy.

The process is simple, you marinate the paneer with spices and yogurt, let it sit for a bit so that the flavours mix well together and then grill the paneer. There are lots of different types of readymade spices available to make Paneer Tikka but I always find them too overpowering and somehow it gives a powdery flavour to the tikka’s. Hence, I always make my own spice using the simple ingredients at home and the result is delicious.

What makes this dish special is the marinade. Usually, everyone marinades the paneer tikka once. However, I always marinate it twice. It makes a huge difference in making the paneer soft and flavoursome.

Ingredients

First Marinade
200 gm diced paneer (1-inch pieces)
2-3 teaspoons ginger garlic paste

Second Marinade
1 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chilli powder
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon dry fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder (haldi)
1 teaspoon roasted cumin seeds powder (jeera powder)
1 teaspoon oil
½ teaspoon grated garlic (optional)
1 teaspoon carom seeds (ajwain, optional)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds (sauf, optional)

For Skewers
½ cup diced peppers (1 inch- optional)
½ cup onions (1inch- optional)
BBQ skewers

To serve
mint Chutney
1 teaspoon chaat masala
Lime wedges

Directions

Step-1

Line a strainer with a muslin cloth or a double layered kitchen towel. Place the strainer on a bowl and pour the yogurt into it.  Keep this in the fridge or a cool place for 1-2 hours and let all the water drain out. You will be left with thick, hung yogurt in the cloth. 1 cup of yogurt will give ½ cup of thick yogurt. Empty the thick hung yogurt in a bowl.

Step-2

Coat the paneer pieces in ginger garlic paste and leave it aside for 15-20 minutes.

Step-3

Mix all the ingredients under marinade 2 with the hung yogurt.

Step-4

Add the marinated paneer, onions and peppers and gently mix gently to coat the paneer and vegetables. Cover and set aside for at least 3-4 hours or overnight.

Step-5

Skewer the paneer cubes alternating with onions, peppers. This should make about 4-5 skewers.
You can either roast them on a BBQ or in an oven.
BBQ– Heat the BBQ and cook the skewers turning them over to cook from all sides.
Grill– Preheat the grill to 220 C/200 Fan /Gas mark 7. Place the skewers on a roasting pan lined with parchment paper and grill for 15 minutes, turning once halfway.
To Serve– Sprinkle chaat masala and serve immediately with onion salad, lime and green chutney.

Tips & Variations

  1. Make sure the paneer you are using is firm and not crumbly.
  2. If substituting Kashmiri Chilli Powder with red chilli powder, the colour may be slightly different, but the flavour will be same.
  3. You can use Greek yogurt if you are short of time to make hung yogurt.
  4. You can use mustard oil, vegetable oil or olive oil for the marinate.
  5. Marinate the paneer, peppers and onions for a minimum of 3-4 hours to give the ingredients time to get acquainted. If you have time, you can pop the marinated paneer in the fridge the night before. Be sure to keep it covered in the fridge. The longer the paneer is marinated, the better flavours get infused into the paneer hence this recipe needs a bit of planning.
  6. If the paneer you have bought looks hard (sometimes the paneer bought outside India can be like hard cheese) then boil the paneer in boiling water to soften it up for 2-3 minutes before the first marinade.
  7. If you are using wooden/bamboo skewers, then soak them in water preferably overnight or for at least 2-3 hours. This will stop them burning during the cooking process.
  8. If you have marinated the paneer overnight in fridge then bring it to room temperature before you skewer or else the paneer will break.
  9. Most restaurants add red food colour to their marinade for the iconic and eye-popping crimson colour. I prefer not to use food colouring but if you want the iconic red colour then you can add a pinch of food colouring in the marinade.
  10. Sometimes I add some fresh turmeric while doing the first marinade and that helps in not only softening the paneer but also gives a mellow yellow colour to the paneer.
  11. Taste the marinade before adding the paneer to adjust the seasoning. The marinade should taste slightly spicy when tasted on its own. Paneer and vegetables will bring the heat down when mixed with marinate.
  12. You can brush the paneer cubes with some oil while cooking to avoid them from becoming dry.
  13. Do not overcook the paneer as they then become rubbery, dry and hard. The paneer should be soft, well-cooked but also succulent.
  14. You can make vegan version of this dish by using tofu, seitan, or tempeh in place of paneer and use plain vegan yogurt.

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