Paneer tikka masala

Being in between jobs has been interesting. It’s sort of feels like a summer break as if I were still a student, but at the same time I know I have this huge life step looming ahead of me. So in the meantime, I’ve been trying to immerse myself in things that I didn’t have time to do before — catching up with old friends, kicking back and actually watching something on TV, yoga, outdoorsy activities, traveling the west coast, and of course, cooking.

It’s crazy how much you can get done in a day when you’re unemployed. I’ve been feeling productive, yet sort of non-productive (since I’m currently not working), at the same time. But I guess it’s a nice break before I’m off to Germany.

I had a pretty open-schedule, slow day this past Thursday. So I decided to tackle a more heavy-duty culinary challenge, because usually I’ll only have 1-2 hours to allot to food experiments a week.

I don’t venture off into different cuisines often, so that’s something I’ve been trying to work on. And because I’m moving soon, I want to take a stab at foods I know will be a little harder to find on the other side of the Atlantic. If you know me, you know I love Indian food – well, I love chicken tikka masala and naan, especially. I didn’t feel like eating chicken though, so I made paneer tikka masala. Which I’ve now concluded I like more than the chicken-version.

Made some roti to go with it too, which is pretty simple to whip up. You can find the recipe here.

Ingredients
28 oz can whole tomatoes
10 oz (about 300g) paneer
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 cup plain yogurt, whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 cup tomato paste
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 tbsp ginger, minced
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp butter
4 tsp turmeric
2 tsp cumin, ground
2 tsp coriander, ground
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1. Cube the paneer cheese into about 1-inch cubes.

Paneer tikka masala

2. Combine the spices in a small bowl – ginger, turmeric, garam masala, coriander, paprika, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and cumin.

3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt and lemon juice with half of the combined spices. Add in the paneer cubes, toss to coat evenly. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Paneer tikka masala

Paneer tikka masala

Paneer tikka masala

4. In the meantime, heat the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir until all the garlic begins to turn golden brown and aromatic. Then, add in the tomato paste and diced onions. Keep stirring for about 5 minutes, until the onion has softened.

5. Add in the remaining half of the combined spices, and stir continuously for another 5 minutes.

6. Add the can of whole tomatoes (juice included) into the pot. Use whatever you were stirring with earlier to sort of crush the tomatoes as you combine everything together. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Paneer tikka masala

7. Then, add the cream and cilantro. Continue to simmer for another 20-30 minutes.

Paneer tikka masala

8. After the paneer has been marinated for at least an hour (you can prep this a day ahead), preheat the oven to 400°F. Lay the paneer in an even layer on a baking sheet lined with foil, and bake for 30 minutes, until the tops of the cheese are browned and the yogurt marinade is dried up into crust-like appearance. *Hint: For best results, flip the paneer cubes over 15 minutes in for even browning.

9. When the paneer is done baking, add it into the tikka masala and simmer for another 10 minutes.

10. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with cilantro. Serve with basmati rice, naan, roti, or whatever you like!

If needed, add salt to taste (but I think it’s salty enough as is.) For those with a sweet palate, another option would be to add a little bit of coconut milk, to your taste preference.

Paneer tikka masala

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