Paneer Tikka Masala

Recently, I came across a spice called mace. It’s called javentri (or it’s phonetic equivalent) in hindi. I know this because I bought the powder at an Indian store. It smells sort of similar to nutmeg but is still unique. Actually nutmeg and mace come from the same tree and the same nut. Nutmeg comes from the seed inside and mace comes from the outer shell of the same seed.

I was originally trying to make a chicken tikka masala recipe, but had an idea to try the same marinade with paneer (or Indian cheese). It came out really flavorful with the incredible spice mix. I served it with mixed salad greens to make it a more full meal.

I recommend using a mortar and pestle to grind the spices – the recipe will come out even better! The spices and paneer can be purchased at a local Indian store. Paneer can also be made at home from cow’s milk. I also do not recommend using the pre-made ginger and garlic paste that can be purchased at the Indian stores – for this recipe it is better to use fresh ginger and real cloves of garlic. The paneer comes out best when marinated 1 day in advance. Serves 8 people as a side dish.

Paneer Tikka Masala Ingredients

  • 1 lb package of paneer, chopped into 1 inch x 1/2 inch rectangular cubes (see recipe below for making fresh paneer)
  • 1 bag of mixed greens, washed and patted dry
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt, low-fat or regular
  • 4 teaspoons ginger, finely minced
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric (haldi in hindi)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander  seeds (dhania in hindi),  freshly ground
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera in hindi), freshly ground
  • 1 teaspoon mace powder (jhaventri in hindi)
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1/4 teaspoon red chili powder (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns, freshly ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons canola oil

In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, ginger, garlic and all the spices. Add the paneer and mix until evenly coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refridgerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a tray or a jelly roll pan with aluminium foil. Spray the aluminium foil evenly with canola oil. Pull the paneer out from the fridge and spread evenly across foil-lined pan along with the marinade. Place the pan on a middle rack in the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the paneer is sizzling and the marinade has cooked down. Then switch the oven to broil mode – broil on high and move the paneer to the top rack. You may need to add 1-2 tablespoons of canola oil if the paneer is too dry, or alternatively, you can spray a little canola oil on the paneer using an oil spray mister or pump. Broil the paneer for about 2-5 minutes or until the paneer has turned a nice golden brown at the corners. You can adjust the broil time to your liking. When the paneer is nicely roasted, remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool.

While still warm, mix the paneer with the salad greens and serve.

To make fresh paneer:

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon whole milk
  • up to 1-2 cups lemon juice or white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • cheese cloth

To make fresh paneer, fill a deep saucepan with 1 gallon whole milk and place on stove. Turn stove on to hi while stirring milk so it does not burn at the bottom of the pan. Milk comes to a boil fairly quickly and unexpectedly, so don’t leave it for even a minute. When the milk is about to boil, it wil start rising in the pan. At this point, turn off the stove and add 1/2 cup of the lemon juice or vinegar. Stir the lemon juice or vinegar in. The acidity of the vinegar or lemon juice causes the milk to split – i.e. form cheese. If the milk does not split, add in another 1/2 cup of lemon juice and stir again. As soon as the milk starts to split, stop adding the lemon juice or vinegar and remove from heat. Pour the contents of the pan over a cheese cloth, to allow the cheese to separate from the water. Then tightly wrap the cheese in the cheese cloth such that you can form a knot at the top and hang the cheese cloth from one of the kitchen overhead cabinet handles for a day. After a day, the water should be drained out of the cheese cloth. Remove the cheese. The cheese is fresh and can be frozen sealed in plastic or used fresh.

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