September 26, 2013

Mini Paneer Tikka Skewers

After my brief trip to New Delhi a couple of weeks ago, I was re-inspired to make another Indian recipe, since it's been a while since I've cooked Indian food for myself!

I know Indian cuisine has a reputation for being overly complicated and difficult to cook, but as long as you have a few key spices, you can make simplified versions of classic Indian dishes, like these miniature bites inspired by paneer tikka!

Paneer tikka is a vegetarian alternative to the popular dish of chicken tikka, and is basically just cubes of paneer cheese marinated in a creamy spiced sauce and grilled on a skewer with vegetables like onion and peppers.

For my version, I kept things pretty simple by making an easy marinade for the paneer out of yogurt and spices and cooking everything on the stovetop, since I don't have an authentic tandoor oven!

Once you've browned the paneer and cooked the pepper and onion, you just have to assemble one piece of each item and stick a toothpick through them to make these cute miniature skewer bites!

While these may not be perfectly authentic, I think they're a fun idea to serve as an appetizer at a party if you're looking for something new and different to bring. I brought these to a party last week and they all got eaten up, even though they were cold by the time I served them. They aren't too spicy so they're a good option to serve a crowd of people who have different levels of spice tolerance, although you could serve them with a bowl of spicy cilantro chutney for people who want an extra flavour kick!

Mini Paneer Tikka Skewers
Adapted from The Spice Tailor and Sanjeev Kapoor

1 (350g) package paneer cheese
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger or 1 tsp ground ginger (I used ground)
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (the Indian spice, not the Mexican one)
1/4 tsp turmeric
Dash of salt (to taste)
1 tbsp chickpea flour (gram flour)
1 red or green pepper
1 medium red onion
1-2 tbsp olive oil
chaat masala (optional, if you have some)

Slice the paneer in half horizontally so that you get two bricks the same size as the original. Slice each brick into equal sized cubes (about 12 pieces per brick).

In a bowl or blender, mix the yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, spices, and chickpea flour until smooth. Pour some of the mixture into a shallow baking dish or a large ziplock bag. Add the paneer cubes, then pour on the rest of the liquid mixture. Let the paneer marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Slice the pepper and onion into about 1” square pieces (you want approximately equal sized vegetables, and they should be about the same size as your paneer cubes).

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Remove the paneer cubes from the marinade and add them to the pan. Let cook for about 2-3 minutes, then flip over and cook the other side, until all sides are lightly browned. Remove paneer cubes from pan and let sit.

Meanwhile, toss the pepper and onion pieces in the leftover marinade while the paneer is cooking. Once the paneer is done, add another tbsp of oil to the pan (or spray with cooking spray) and add the vegetables. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the peppers and onions are softened.

To assemble skewers, place one piece of pepper and one piece of onion on top of a paneer cube and skewer with a toothpick. Repeat until all the vegetables and paneer are used up. Sprinkle assembled skewers with a bit of chaat masala spice.

Serve warm or at room temperature. You can pour a bit of the leftover marinade over the skewers, or you can eat them dipped in a chutney (I would recommend a spicy green Indian chutney).

Makes about 24 mini skewers.

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