Paneer Tikka Masala

Paneer Tikka Masala 1

I’ve been contemplating quite seriously over the last few months to become vegan. I know it is very tough and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be successful doing it too, but my mind keeps pushing me hard. The more I get to read about the unhealthy facts of animal based food and the importance of sticking to a plant based diet, this thought keeps getting reinforced.

Having been a vegeterian all my life, dairy is the only animal based food that is included in my diet. Now this may sound like it’s not a big deal at all to give it up and become vegan . That’s exactly how my inital reaction was as well. But, I’m getting to realize that it is easier said than done.

Paneer Tikka Masala 3

I’ve not been a big fan of milk right from my childhood and I thought “How cool? One item knocked off the list already!”, but wait a minute, what about “Milk Chocolates and Ice Creams” 😦 , that is not easy. Well, after some thought, my brain wins over my heart and I say to myself, staying away from these may not really be all that tough. These are anyways treats and you do not indulge in them quite often.

Slowly the thought process shifts towards “CHEESE!”. Oh man, this is going to be a tough one. Who’ll say no to ooey, gooey and cheesy anything? But you know what, I learned about the usage of animal rennet in the production of cheese very recently. This started to bother me and now cheese is actually almost on its way out. I’m yet to give it up fully though, but I can see myself there soon. I’m slowly extending this to Paneer (Indian cottage cheese) also, despite the fact that this does not use any animal rennet.

Paneer Tikka Masala 2

Here comes the most difficult part and these are the ones that make me think that I can never ever be vegan. Any guesses on what they could be? Yep, Yogurt and Ghee (clarified butter), they are. Ghee is very sparingly used in my cooking and I can try avoiding it to quite an extent. But desserts like Sweet Pongal (Sarkarai Pongal), Badam Burfi, Puran Poli etc. are no good without Ghee. These of course are prepared during special festive occasions only, but to me, the festivity isn’t complete in the absence of Ghee. So, now you know where my mind block is :).

When I say yogurt, I’m not thinking of the Dannons, Yoplaits or the Chobanis. I’m thinking (and drooling) our very own ‘Thachu Mammu (Plain Yogurt Rice)’. This is something that I really cannot live without. I’m sure every South Indian vegetarian will give a big nod and subscribe to this blindly.  Globalization has influenced food habits of people in every part of the world quite extensively, still there are families that do not finish their lunches/dinners without thachu mammu even today.  It is so simple, comforting, refreshing and yummilicious.

I think I’ve been exposing  my weakness for food way too much here. Let’s take a pause from drooling and get back to the more important stuff, health. It is pretty evident that I’m not going to turn into a vegan overnight, however can I take effort to at least get closer to being an ideal one in the months or years to come?  Most certainly, yes. I’m already in the process of watching my dairy eating frequency and working towards reducing that. Let’s see how far I can get with this and how soon!

Meanwhile, enjoy this lip smacking recipe for ‘Paneer Tikka Masala’ ?????.  Occasional indulgence after all is still okay right? I’m kidding, this is more for the kids that love paneer and of course some of you too. Not everything about this blog is about/for me 🙂 . Happy cooking!

Bon Appetit!

Recipe

Prep Time : 10 mins

Cook Time:  20 mins

Serves : 3-4

Ingredients

For the Tikka

10-12 cubes paneer (1.5×1.5×0.5 inches)

1 medium green pepper

1 medium yellow onion

1 teaspoon garam (or tandoori) masala

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 tablespoon lemon juice

oil to spray

salt

For the sauce

1 cup chopped yellow onions

1 cup chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon kasuri methi

1/4 teaspoon red chili powder

1/2 teaspoon coriander powder

1 teaspoon garam (or kitchen king) masala

1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup light cream

2 tablespoon oil (divided)

cilantro (for garnish)

salt

Preparation

Tikka

Cut green pepper and yellow onions proportional to the size of paneer cubes. Toss paneer and veggies with the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl. Spray oil and broil (high) for 7-9 minutes, or until you see nice black marks/patches on them. Turn the tray and toss the veggies once or twice for even roasting. If you do not have a broiler, use your grill/grill pan/saute pan and cook the paneer and veggies on medium to high heat, tossing them every half a minute.

This is a short cut method of making Paneer Tikka. You can follow the traditional method also as in this recipe. I find the short cut method to be good enough for this recipe.

Sauce

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a nonstick sauce pan. Add onions and saute until they are cooked. Now, add tomatoes and cook till they become soft and mushy. Remove from heat, cool and transfer to a blender. Add tomato paste, chili powder, coriander powder, cardamom powder, salt, sugar and garam masala (or kitchen king) and blend it into a smooth paste.

Put the sauce pan back on the stove and heat the remaining oil. Add kasuri methi and saute it for a few seconds. Kasuri methi tends to get burnt quickly, so avoid over cooking it. Add the ground masala paste to the pan and cook under medium heat until you see the oil separate out, about 10 mins. Keep stirring in between to avoid thecurry getting stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Turn down heat, add half a cup of water and the cream. Gently whisk until the cream and water combine well with the curry. Add more water as required to get the desired consistency of the curry. Add in the tikkas, mix in gently and cook until the paneer  becomes soft.  Turn off heat.

Sprinkle chopped cilantro on top and serve warm with roti or rice.

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