The New Gastronome
Freaky Paneer Tikka
Freaky Pairings Episode VI: The Bollywood Grilled Cheese that Travels North
by Tania Gonsalves, Sara Emilia Nässén
by Tania Gonsalves, Sara Emilia Nässén
Paneer tikka, an Indian appetizer dish, autochthonous to the northern states of India, is prepared by marinating chunks of paneer in yoghurt with carefully selected spices.
For those of you, who are not aware of what paneer is, it is a cottage cheese originated in India. Paneer is a substitute ingredient to this dish, which is predominantly cooked with Chicken, known then as chicken tikka. Paneer or chicken tikka can be eaten in two forms: as gravy and as an appetizer. Here we focus on paneer tikka as an appetizer, a perfect party finger food, that pairs well with lighter ales and lagers, such as Cirrus Cloudy Lager, as well as with aromatic wines like Riesling, dry Moscato and some brut sparkling wines.
Cirrus Cloudy Lager is a modern-style unfiltered lager from Brutal Brewery in Sweden that is complex yet easy-to-drink. Made with organic barley malt and hops of the varieties Palisade, Cascade and Hallertau, the beer is dry-hopped, meaning that hops are added to the beer after boiling – imparting aroma and flavour but not too much bitterness. The flavour profile is bready with hints of straw, orange, grapefruit, honey, caramel and spices. The balanced bitterness makes it very suitable with the Paneer Tikka dish, not enhancing the Indian spices of the dish excessively. The hoppiness of the beer contrasts the acidity of the yoghurt sauce and cleanses the palate, making it a match made in heaven.
3 tablespoons Mustard Oil
1 teaspoon Garlic Paste
1 teaspoon Ginger Paste
1/2 cup thick Curds (or Greek Yogurt)
2 teaspoons Kashmiri red chilli powder (or Paprika)
1 tablespoon Coriander Powder for consistency in the marinade.
1 teaspoon Chaat masala powder (available at the Indian stores)
1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala Powder
1 teaspoon Kasuri Methi, crushed
Salt to taste
Roughly 2 cups of marinated Paneer (Indian Cottage Cheese) cut into 1 or 1.5-inch cubes
1 medium-sized onion, cubed
1 cup bell peppers, deseeded and cubed
1 large tomato, deseeded and cut into cubes (optional)
chopped Coriander or Cilantro, Lime wedges and lime juice for garnishing.
1- Incorporate all the ingredients mentioned under marinade into a bowl and stir well until mixture is smooth, trying to avoid lumps caused due to powdered spices. Add the Paneer cubes. Make sure the paneer is well coated with all of the flavours from the marinade. Cover and set aside for a minimum of 30 minutes or in the refrigerator overnight.
2- In case you prefer using the oven, pre-heat it to 220 degrees C for 10 minutes. Place a cooling rack over the roasting tray and set aside. If you prefer using the grilling pan, let it heat well on a medium flame until smoke appears. Make sure the baking tray and/or the grilling pan is well greased.
3- While the oven or pan start heating, you can start preparing the skewers by alternatively adding paneer cubes, onions, tomatoes and peppers or in any sequence you prefer. With the number of ingredients mentioned, you can prepare 4 large skewers or 6 to 7 medium-sized skewers.
4- For the ones using the ovens, place the skewers on the cooling rack and bake for 15 minutes, turning over after 7 minutes. After the first 15 minutes, broil them for another 2 to 3 minutes (or using only the upper heating plates of the oven) till the paneer has slightly charred on its surface.
5- For those of you who find it a little challenging with the oven, grilling pans are much easier to control. It takes 12 to 15 minutes in total to get ready and can be turned every 3 to 4 minutes or until charred on each side.
6- Be careful with removing the skewers out of the oven/grilling pan, as, paneer tends to get softer after cooking.
7- Garnish with chopped coriander/parsley/cilantro and squeeze some lime juice.
Some additional notes: make sure the Paneer you use is firm and not crumbly. If substituting Kashmiri Chilli Powder with paprika, the colour may be different although the flavour profiles will be similar. I made use of Greek yoghurt (5% fat) available in any supermarket. If you find it a little difficult to get your hands on one, you could make use of any curd you like, simply by hanging them in a muslin cloth for half an hour to drain out excess liquid. (Whisk well to avoid lumps later). Feeling sceptical about mustard oil? No problem, you could use olive oil or ghee.
Photos: Aarón Gómez Figueroa