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Author Notes: One of my favorite paneer dishes is the dry , cripsy, spicy paneer tikka. I have been trying to recreate this at home for nearly 3 years. I tried different recipes for the marinade, different tricks in the oven, but could not find a hack that I liked. The result was either dry or too wet or burnt.
So I stuck to other preparations. One day I had leftover tikka masala sauce and so I thought of using it as a marinade. And it came out really well. It was then that it struck me that the secret ingredient ( at least for me ) is the cream !! It keeps the marinating paneer moist but not wet and crisps the outer shell of the paneer ( similar to scones ).
I have tried marinating the paneer with this marinade for different times . It works with as short a time as 2hrs and as long as 3-4 days. The ideal marination time, I would say is 12-18 hrs for big chunks. If you have less time, slice the paneer thin.
The list of ingredients for the marinade is a bit long but it can be made quickly and trust me each bite will be perfectly spicy, tangy and mildly sweet.
Now for the cooking part, the tandoor oven is obviously the best way to go but is not a feasible option for most of us. This recipe of mine can be made on the stove or in the oven. Use a nonstick pan (or a grill pan) on the stove and the paneer and masalas will crisp up perfectly. You can prep it the night before and grill the slices the next day. Easy for a weeknight. Pair it with some chutney and yogurt. —Kris
- 1 pound paneer
- oil for grilling
- Coriander chutney (for serving)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala ( home-made or store bought)
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper ( or any other chilli powder). Omit or add just a pinch or two if you prefer less heat.
- 1 teaspoon coriander cumin powder( optional if you are adding the cumin seeds)
- 1/4 teaspoon amchur, dried mango powder( optional. Adds a sweet tangy taste )
- juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste diluted with 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- freshly ground pepper (according to taste. I added 5-6 grinds)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt ( adjust to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger paste
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic paste
- Slice the paneer into rectangles around 2/3cm thick ( or triangles :) ) . Make sure the pieces are evenly cut. You can also try cubes but you will then have to turn it on each side to cook . With the thin slices, you can just turn it once .
- Prepare the marinade. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.
- Toss the paneer pieces in the marinade. I usually dip and turn it a few pieces at a time to ensure all the pieces are evenly coated with the marinade.
- Cover and store in the fridge for at least 2 hrs and ideally overnight.
- Cooking Option 1 : STOVETOP : Heat a non stick pan on the stove on medium heat. Spray or add oil to coat the pan. Once the oil has heated up add the pieces to the pan in one layer , working on a batch at a time. Once the bottom side is cooked, flip it over and cook the other side. You can grill it to your preferred level of crispyness .
- Cooking Option 2: OVEN: Preheat the over to 350 . Line a baking tray with foil and grease the foil with some oil. Add the paneer pieces in a single line leaving a little space between them. Bake for 10-12 minutes and flip . You will need to bake the other side for less time , around 8-9 minutes. Then you can broil it for 2 minutes to get the crispy slightly charred top. Keep your eye on the paneer when it is in the broiler. You really dont want to burn it . Also adjust oven temperature and cooking time according to your oven.