Paneer Tikka Masala
Masala is a glorious cream-tomato-spice gravy based on Northern Indian cuisine. (Though it’s actually guessed to have been invented in the UK.)
Tikka simply is spiced chunks or bites.
Paneer is a fresh (unaged) cheese, also called chhena. The fun thing about paneer is that, unlike other cheeses, it doesn’t melt. So it’s always chunky for you to sink your teeth into. My friend’s kids call paneer “squeaky cheese” because it can sometimes make a little noise when you bite into it!
Put it all together and you have spiced chunks of squeaky cheese in an amazing gravy. YUM!
Paneer tikka masala is a delightfully flowery and satisfying vegetarian dish. You can substitute chicken for the paneer if you wish. But paneer is so deliciously fresh and filling, and is easier on the tummy after surgery. This recipe purees nicely for those who are still in the puree stages of recovery. And it’s a gentle, soft food for any time and any stomach!
For the chunks:
- 1/2 pound of paneer (try your local co-op or Asian market)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon red chili powder
- 1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 tablespoon yogurt
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
For the gravy:
- 1 large onion, finely minced
- 2 to 3 tablespoons butter or oil
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, crushed into paste
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed into paste
- 2 medium-sized fresh tomatoes, diced, or about 1 cup tomato puree
- ¼ teaspoon red chili powder (double that if you love heat)
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ¼ teaspoon clove powder
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 1 cup yogurt, whisked until smooth
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon kasuri methi or dried fenugreek leaves
- 1/4 cup cream at room temperature
For the chunks:
- Slice the paneer into rectangles about 1/8 inch by 1 inch in size.
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix all of the remaining chunks ingredients.
- Toss the sliced paneer in the mixture, cover it, and let the it marinate for at least an hour (overnight it best) in the fridge.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Spread the paneer chunks along the bottom of an oiled baking pan (a brownie pan or pastry sheet with a lip is fine). Save any extra marinade.
- Bake for 5 minutes, turn the chunks in the pan, and bake for 5 more minutes. Set aside.
For the gravy:
- In a large chef’s pan or skillet, saute the onions in the oil over medium heat until they are soft and golden brown.
- Add the ginger and garlic pastes and saute for about 30 seconds.
- Add the tomatoes and the powdered spices and saute for 3 more minutes.
- Reduce heat to low and continue stirring as the mixture forms a paste. When you see oil seeping from the paste toward the edges of the pan, you know it’s ready. This is about 10-13 minutes.
- Add the yogurt, salt, and any leftover marinade.
- Simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the paneer chunks to the gravy and continue simmering for 5 minutes.
- Add the kasuri methi or dried fenugreek leaves, stir, and remove from heat.
- Stir in the cream and serve.
If you’re going to puree the dish, let it cool first. Puree then reheat your portion.