Introduction: Restaurant Style Smoked Paneer Tikka (without Tandoor/BBQ)
Paneer tikka is a popular North Indian starter or snack that can be made at home very easily. I am sharing two methods: in the oven and on stove top.
If you are not familiar with this: Paneer is cottage cheese and paneer tikka is marinated paneer cubes and veggie pieces are grilled in tandoor (clay oven). So basically this is called tandoori paneer tikka. But at home we do not have tandoor, so we will be making it without tanddor and you will not have to compromise the taste and texture. You can grill or barbeque the tikkas or you can use grill pan. But I have made in the oven and then smoked it later on gas stove.
Whenever we (hubby and I) go to the North Indian restaurants, we always order paneer tikka as we both love and enjoy eating it. But first time I made it at home, it was an year ago. It tasted really good exactly like the restaurant one. After that I have made it 2-3 times and everytime we enjoyed it.
This is dry paneer tikka recipe. There is another variation is paneer tikka masala – dry paneer tikka is simmered in creamy gravy (will share the recipe later).
The marinade for paneer tikka is made from hung curd and many different spices which makes it so flavorful and yummy. Marination time is at least 2 hours but I recommend more that 2 hours or overnight, actually more the better. I kept it for about 6-7 hours in the fridge. More the marination time, flavors will get chance to mingle. You can use homemade paneer, here I have used store bought (I was short on time).
Addition of veggie is as per your choice, I have used green bell peppers, onions and tomatoes. You can skip any or use other like red yellow bell pepper, broccoli, mushroom. But I would recommend using onions and green pepper. This will add some crunchy and fresh flavors with soft paneer.
To get the restaurant style paneer tikka color, I have not added any artificial color. Instead I have used kashmiri red chili powder. You can always add more till you get nice red color because Kashmiri chili powder is not spicy compare to regular chili powder. So you can add a teaspoon or so more to get more red color.
Step 1: Initial Prep..
1. Preparing hung curd..
Take yogurt in muslin cloth or handkerchief, put it in the strainer and keep a bowl or jug under it to collect excess water. Keep this in the fridge for about an hour and let all the water drain out and you will be left with thick, hung curd or yogurt in the cloth. 1 cup of yogurt will give ½ cup of thick yogurt.
2. preparing veggies..
Dice veggies into 1 inch pieces and cube the paneer. Make sure that size of veggie and paneer pieces are same.
Step 2: Preparing Marinade..
3. making paneer tikka spice mix..- MOST IMPORTANT STEP
for this, spices required are..
Chickpea flour(besan)- 2 tbsp
Red chili powder - 1 teaspoon or more ,( for the red color use kashmiri chili powder)
Salt - to taste
Mint leaves pwd(1 tsp) or fresh mint leaves(2 tsp)
Carom seeds(ajwain)- 1tsp
mustard seeds(rai)- 1 tsp
Chaat masala - 1 teaspoon
Aamchur powder (dried mango powder) - 1 teaspoon
coriander leaves- 1-2 tsp 0r more
Ginger paste - 1 teaspoon
Garlic paste - 1 teaspoon
mustard oil- 2 tbsp( for grinding and intense flavour)
1. for mint powder I take out leaves and let the leaves dry under the shade or spread in microwave plate and miicrowave it for 2-3 mins giving good mix after each minute and letting it cool and just crush between palms, sieve it and store in an airtight container for later use.
2. Mustard oil is recommended for its intense and unique flavour,, gives a great taste but if unavailable, any other oil could be used as well but remember to increase the amount of mustard seeds (say, double).
Add all the ingredients to a blender jar and add 2 tbsp mustard oil and grind to a smooth paste.
Now add hung curd to it and mix well to get tikka marinade.
Add veggies and paneer pieces and mix gently with hands so paneer pieces dont break, cover and let the marinated veggies rest for 6-7 hrs in the refrigerator.
Step 3: Final Prep..
1. Arranging veggies in skewers..
If you are using wooden skewers like me then submerge in the water for 10-15 minutes before using. At the time of using, wipe them using towel or paper napkin. If using metal skewers, no need to soak. I used metal ones here.
Arrange the veggies and paneer on the skewers.. order does not matter, but keep some distance approx 0.5 cm between each veggie or paneer piece for even cooking and also marinade wont taste raw as well.
A.. using oven..
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degree F or 180 degree C and bake them for at least 10 minutes. Important to brush generous amount of oil as paneer tends to get dry and Do not over cook paneer otherwise it will get tough and rubbery.
B.. using tawa(skillet)..
Heat a non-stick tawa on medium heat. Once hot place the skewer on the tawa, shallow fry them.. turn it and cook all the sides till it is golden brown (each side for about 2-3 minutes).
Note: If u need to do this for a party,, keep it ready till this stage,, smoking should be done at the time of serving.
for a char-grilled effect you need to use either a tandoor/ barbecue or u can just roast it on the flame of a stove top oven for same smokey effect till u get to see nice black charred spots on the surface.
If skewers not available,, you can use toothpick or just simply keep on aluminium foil for initial baking and smoking them by placing on perforated/ metal rack.
Step 4: Serving..
remove tikkas from skewers(optional,, or if they are metal ones),, serve with sprinkle of some chaat masala and lemon juice. Additionally you can serve onion rings and green chutney!