Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Confessions of a Foodie - Paneer Tikka

As I confessed earlier, I absolutely love the tandoor. Though it's not something lower-middle class families like mine have in their homes, we do like craving about the tandoori stuff al lot. More importantly when one has been living in a cultural melting pot like the country's capital - Delhi. More than often, you will be amazed to find so many different cuisines available in Delhi that there are chances you might get confused which ones to bite into. I guess Delhi gets its character because of, maybe, being the country's capital, and because of the history and the mass migration and resettlement of people that has a great influence on where people live. You can find colonies predominantly settled down by people having one cultural influence. Like, the Old Delhi and Sadar Bazaar area are predominantly occupied by Muslim population. So, if you love Non-Vegetarian food, you  will be suggested to give a visit to some of the widely popular restaurants and outlets like Karim's near Jama Masjid. Then, we have Tilak Nagar, Subhash Nagar and Rajouri Garden, nearly adjoining areas where migrants from Punjab were resettled in the past. These areas too have quite a vibrant taste when it comes to food, tandoori and non vegetarian stuff too. Then we have a Bengali population concentrated in areas like Chittaranjan Park. You can try going there for exotic fish recipes, rosogolla, sandesh, etc. Areas like the trans-Yamuna Delhi has a major concentration of people from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Back to reality. So, This time I decided to spend my sunday in a good way. How? Well, on saturday itself, I decided to cook. This time, it was something with cottage cheese (Paneer). While I have been cooking Vegetable and paneer rolls, a fastfood quite liked by students in places like Mukherjee Nagar (North Campus), Satya Niketan (South Campus), Munirka and the other places adjoining the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, because of the heavy concentration of coaching institutes for IIT-JEE, AIPMT and a lot of other competitive exams. Since I didn't want to repeat making paneer rolls, and no vegetable rolls, since it's hard (and expensive) to find vegetables during summers. I have tried making soya chaaps, but have miserably failed to create the kind of results that would get me praises for cooking it. So, paneer tikka it was. What I needed was a tandoor, and I knew I wouldn't get one. Cooking tikkas on the lpg stove was a bad idea as it would have lacked the taste. So, it was to be done on wood or coal fire. I used a small makeshift arrangement which my mother occasionally uses to prepare chapatis sometimes, and littis at other times.

Now I needed to find a recipe. I went over the internet, found the recipe, and tried to replicate. I missed adding a number of things that were suggested in the recipe. Hung curd was not available. So, I used the curd as it is. forgot to add ghee to the batter. And a number of other things as well. But I created the batter to coat the cubes of paneer, onions and capsicums. Now I needed the skewers to roast the stuff over the fire. I had none. I couldn't find iron or aluninium wire pieces too, and killing clothes hanger for this purpose didn't seem feasible. So, I made skewers out of some wood sticks. I knew the wood will burn if exposed to fire, but had no other choice. It took me around two hours in doing preparations, and another 2 hours to roast the half kilogram of paneer, another half a kilogram of capsicum and some onions.

Since I hadn't decided to put it up here, I didn't click the pictures while preparing the things o be roasted. Only while I started roasting these things that I decided to take the pictures, so, I will be sharing only these pictures. And, yes, the recipe too.

Paneer Tikka

Paneer Tikka

Ingredients (for 4 persons)

Ofcourse Paneer (Cottage Cheese) - 500 grams
Capsicum (Green) - 3-4 medium (approx 300-400 grams)
Onions - 250 grams
Tomatoes, 250 grams (if you want to have tomatoes too)

For Batter

Curd - 400-500 grams (preferably hung in a muslin cloth to drain out the water)
Spices -
    Turmeric Powder - 14 teaspoon.
    Coriander Powder - 12 teaspoon.
    Chilli Powder - As per taste.
    Garam Masala - 16 teaspoon.
    Salt - To Taste.
    Carom Seeds (Ajwain) roasted and ground - 12 teaspoon.
    Garlic cloves - 3 medium.
    Ginger - 1 inch piece, cut into small pieces.
Ghee (Clarified Butter) - 1 table spoon

For Chutney

Curd - 100 grams
Garlic cloves - 2 smalll to medium
Green chillies - 2-3 (or as per taste)
Mint leaves - Approx 4-5 stems
Salt - To taste

For Serving, Onions, finely cut in long pieces, lemons, lots of them, deseeded and chat masala, to add the tasty tinge.
Skewers for roasting (Fingers are not long enough :P).

Preparation - Chutney

Mix the curd, garlic cloves, mint leaves, green chillies and salt in a food processor. Your chutney is ready.

Preparation - Batter

First, in a bowl, take the hung curd and mix it well. Add the spices, turmeric powder, coriander powder, chilli powder, garam masala, salt and roasted carom seeds. Add paste of garlic and ginger. and thoroughly mix all the ingredients into a smooth batter with a uniform golden coloured texture. You can also use a blender or a food processor to mix the stuff.

Prepartion - Marination

Once your batter is ready, cut the cottage cheese into cubes of around 1 inch, cut the capsicums too into cubes of ~1 inch, and the onions too are to be cut into 4 pieces and the layers are to be separated. If you are adding tomaties, do cut the tomatoes too, 8 pieces for each tomato, and remove the seeds. Once all this is ready, add all these things into the bowl with the batter and add the ghee and mix all the things well. Once done, put all this in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours for marination. It is important that the cottage cheese takes in the flavours of spices and salt for a while. It will taste good once roasted.

Paneer Tikka
The bowl with all the things, marinated, ready to be rosted over.

Paneer Tikka
Getting it all ready to be roasted

Once you have marinated all the things for 2-3 hours, take the bowl out of the refrigerator and carefully arrange the pieces of paneer, capsicums, onions and tomatoes piercing through the center with the skewers. The picture above can help you with this arrangement. Though metal skewers are preferred, if you can't find them, you can sacrifice a few clothes hangers to easily make a few skewers out of each hanger, or make your own skewers with some wooden sticks, but you have to make sure that there are no fine shavings in the wood or these might get mixed with your food. If you fon't have the big tandoor, you can cook over electric tandoor or LPG tandoor or even over the open flame of your regular gas stove. But no Induction cooktops or Air Fryers, please. Paneer Tikkas are yet to evolve enough to be cooked over these modern cooking appliances. Hair dryers can do the job, I guess. I used a wood fired earthen stove for the purpose. Had got some steel mesh lying around in my home, so used it to help in roasting the stuff over the fire. If you are using an earthen stove (Angithi) or even a tandoor, you can use it with coal as well. The roasting is to be done once the flames are out. The burning red coal pr wood will provide enough heat to properly roast the paneer cubes and other vegetables. One you are cooking. make sure that you have proper arrangement to save your hands as since you are working with open fire, the temperatures can rise quite a lot, and you are supposed to turn around the swewers again and again so that the things can be cooked properly.

Paneer Tikka
Roasting over the earthen stove. I am using the steel mesh to help me do it easily.
Paneer Tikka
Roasting over the earthen stove. I am using the steel mesh to help me do it easily.
Paneer Tikka
Roasting over the earthen stove. I am using the steel mesh to help me do it easily.

Once it gets cooked, you will get a good enough idea looking at the colour of the paneer and other veggies. Even it it's not cooked that well, I guess nothing is harmful even if you eat it half cooked. The only concern is that you might not like the taste of uncooked spices, turmeric, garam masala and coriander powder. Cook over properly. by rolling the skewers over and over. Each skewer might take around 7-8 minutes to cook, depending on the amount of fire. Once cooked, you can remove the skewer from the fire and remove the cubes from the skewer into a plate to be served hot with the finely cut onions topped with the curd and mint chutney and chat masala sprinkled over it all.

Paneer Tikka
It's eating time. No talking while eating.

1 comment:

  1. Uffff, the paneer tikkas are looking fabulous.. I'm literally drooling here like a dog :D