Paneer Tikka Masala (Cottage Cheese in Tikka Gravy Base)

Paneer Tikka Masala
Paneer Tikka Masala

The West since time immemorial, has been fascinated with the East for its rich culture, traditions and of course the spices in the food. I feel the true taste, feel and richness of Pan Indian food is seldom represented out of India.

I hate it when Australia and the West terms Indian Food as “Curry”. Curry is just a gravy base which forms the base of a certain percentage of Indian dishes. Indian food uses almost all the methods of cooking known to man be it – boiling, steaming, frying, stir frying, roasting and grilling amongst others. It is like calling all Italian Food – Pasta or calling Chinese food- Noodles. 

What is served in a majority of Indian restaurants is not really the food Indians eat at home on an everyday basis. I hunger for authentic regional Indian food but there are not many restaurants in Melbourne that cater to regional cuisine. I urge restaurateurs and investors to research the market and incorporate their individuality and authenticity of the cuisine along with catering to popular demand.

In Melbourne there are a few restaurants like Gujju’s which cater to the cuisine from the western region/ state of Gujarat and there are a few restaurants that cater to the Southern Indian Cuisine. Predominantly when you head to an Indian restaurant a majority of the dishes would represent the Northern Indian Cuisine. Unfortunately there have been so many new restaurants mushrooming in Melbourne’s Northern suburbs and hardly 10% of those would serve you authentic tasting food. There have been times when we actually could not even finish the food we ordered as the quality and the taste of the food was just ‘Disgusting’.

Even Menulog and Zomato cannot be trusted a 100% as most of the reviews have either been written by the owners or the family members or friends of the restaurant owners to help publicize the same. Alas the only mantra is Try and Try till you Succeed. 

I would recommend ‘ Masala Craft’ located in Thornbury as one of my most favourite Indian restaurants in Melbourne’s North. The food has always been of a good standard, the quantity is perfect and the taste never disappoints. The best dishes to try are their- Paneer Butter Masala, Indo-Chinese fare and the Kombadi Curry. They have a good section for chaat or street food as well.

Paneer Tikka Masala
Paneer Tikka Masala

Have you been lucky in your quest for the perfect Indian meal outside of India? It is to avoid such disappointment a few years back, I decided to start cooking restaurant style meals at home on weekends. This meant I had control of the oil, and fats I was adding to the meal and also could control the spice levels and most definitely the taste without the disappointment.

So today I am going to feature a recipe for one of Australia’s favourite Indian restaurant style curry base – The Tikka Masala. It can be made with Chicken or Paneer (Indian Cottage Cheese). Here is Mumbai to Melbourne’s recipe for Paneer Tikka Masala. 

I have not added any additional cream however feel free to do so if you like. The thick yoghurt used gives the dish the creamy taste without the additional calories.

Paneer Tikka Masala
Paneer Tikka Masala

Ingredients for the Tikka Gravy Base:

  • 1/2 can-Diced tomato / puree of 3 tomatoes
  • 1- Onion- Finely Chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste (Optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon- Sugar
  • 2 tablespoon- Oil
  • 1 pinch – Asafoetida
  • 2.5 teaspoon- Cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon- Coriander powder
  • 1.5 teaspoon- Red Chilli Powder
  • 1 pinch- Nutmeg Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon- Cardamon Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon- Ginger Paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon- Garlic Paste
  • 2 drops – Red food colour (Optional)
  • 1 teaspoon- Kasoori Methi / Dried Fenugreek Leaves
  • A Few Sprigs- Coriander Leaves- finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon- Garam Masala (Optional)
  • 2-Cloves
  • 5-6- Whole coriander seeds
  • 1- Black Cardamon
  • Salt to taste

Other Ingredients:

  • 300 gms – Paneer
  • 150 gms- Red Capsicum / Green Capsicum
  • 2 tablespoon- thick yoghurt/ hung curd
  • 1/2 teaspoon – Ginger Paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon- Garlic Paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon – Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon- Oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon- Kasoori Methi
  • Salt to taste

The Method of Preparation

  • Take a bowl and add ginger and garlic paste, hung curd/ thick yoghurt, 1 teaspoon oil, salt to taste, sugar, kasoori methi and mix well for about a minute till it looks smooth and creamy.
  • Chop the Paneer and Capsicum into cube shapes. Add them to this mixture and toss to coat completely.
  • Cover with a cling-film and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour. If you have time on hand you could make this marinade the night before and let the Paneer and Capsicum marinate overnight.
  • Next you could either thread the Paneer and Capsicum on skewers and grill them in the oven at 180 Degrees C. You could also spray some olive oil spray on top to prevent it from drying while grilling.
  • Or you can add this marinated Paneer and Capsicum in an Oven Proof dish and let it grill for 180 Degrees C for about 15 -20 minutes.
  • These are your Paneer Tikkas ready. These are also eaten by themselves as an entree or a snack.
Paneer Tikka Masala
Paneer Tikka Masala

Concept, Recipe and Styling- Sharvari P Mehan
Photography- Ankit Mehan

  • To make the Gravy base for the Tikka Masala you need to take a wok and add the 2 tablespoon of oil and keep it at medium flame.
  • Once heated add the asafoetida, cloves, black cardamon and the coriander seeds. Mix well till they are fragrant. Next add the finely chopped onion and mix well. Cook till it starts to brown a bit which would take about 2-4 minutes. Next add the diced tomato and the tomato paste. Stir well and let it cook for the next 5-7 minutes till it starts leaving oil from the sides. Then add the ginger and garlic paste and cook till the raw smell goes away.
  • Add the cumin powder, coriander powder, red chilli powder, kasoori methi , garam masala, nutmeg and cardamon powder and sugar. Mix well for about a minute. By this time your kitchen will be permeating with fragrant spices. Add salt to taste.
  • Now you could add the red food colouring. I have not added any food colour the diced tomato gives it a beautiful red colour naturally. This is your Tikka Masala Gravy base ready. 
Paneer Tikka Masala
Paneer Tikka Masala
  • Now add the grilled Paneer and Capsicum to the Tikka Masala Gravy base and mix well. Add coriander leaves and let it heat through for a minute. One can add a tablespoon of cream at this stage. However there is absolutely no need for any cream the yoghurt marinated paneer gives the dish the needed creaminess without the calories.
  • Your restaurant style Paneer Tikka Masala is now ready. Serve with Tandoori Roti or Naan and Onion Salad.
Paneer Tikka Masala
Paneer Tikka Masala

This can be made with Chicken or Fish Fillets as well. Just follow the same recipe to grill the protein of your choice before adding it to the Gravy Base. You can increase or decrease the spice quotient as per your spice preferences.

Love to hear your feedback about today’s recipe as well as your favourite Indian restaurant in Melbourne/ Australia/ India/ US or UK/Other Countries where you live and why you like the food they serve.

Have a fabulous food filled week ahead.

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