9 March 2009

Tasting India with "Indian Paneer Tikka" for A Culinary Trip

Indian Paneer Tikka

Joan of Foodalogue, is helping to promote hunger awareness through her event, A Culinary Tour Around the World. Joan has been travelling virtually wherever her imagination has taken her these past few weeks. Her journey ends in April. If you haven't already, why not join Joan on her culinary tour around the world!!!!! How about meeting her in any one of her itinerary stops and presenting your interpretation of the cuisine from that destination. Who wouldn't enjoy taking a journey around the world even if it is from the comfort of your favourite armchair??

This week we travel to INDIA!!!

India is a very diverse country with variety of distinct regional cuisines. Sometimes when we think about Indian food we tend to have a narrow definition about it's cuisine that basically boils down to some kind of a vegetable stew with a side of curry. Indian food is as diverse as the many ethnic and cultural groups in this large country. Tradition, ethnicity, geographic location, religion or individual preference defines a typical meal or Thali (a large plate with small bowls dishes) in India. It's cuisine is a blend of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian elements. In the arid areas of Rajasthan and Gujarat (where I am visiting on my arm chair tour with Joan), a great variety of dals and preserves (achars) are used to substitute the lack of fresh vegetables and fruits.

Whenever I think of spices, often Indian cooking comes to my mind. Indian cooking is well known for its creative use of spices. Using more than ten different spices while cooking a recipe is not considered an excessive use of spice. A typical Indian dish uses a different kind of spice to add the flavor of the food. A result should always be subtle aroma and flavor to food rather than an assault to your senses. It just works!!!

Dear Diary,

My first time in an Indian home kitchen, I peered into the uruli, which is about a foot and a half wide and 6 inches deep. The urili is the ultimate pot for cooking large quantities of curries and stir fries. Though I already had a familiarity with Indian cuisine I had come here to explore the cuisine and the culture more deeply...to try an demystify the diversity of spices and regional dishes. I knew the spices needed time to blend and mellow in my dish, so I drifted over to the door and into the garden. By now I could easily identify curry-leaf and cinnamon trees, as well as nutmeg, vanilla and bitter gourd. Piper nigrim vines, with their "spikes,"or clusters, of green peppercorns, are trained up almost every vertical surface."

I embarked on my virtual passage to India, on a journey to discover the superb cuisine and incredible cultural wonders of one of the world's most intriguing civilizations. I spent 13 virtual days in the Rajasthan region of India with Peggy Markel. With 17 years of first hand experience in some of the world's richest culinary traditions, Peggy Markel has become known as a "food guide extraordinaire". You can read this PDF file from Food & Wine Magazine with beautiful photos and recipes such as Cilantro-Flecked Corn Fritters with Chile Mint Sauce and Stuffed Flounder with Frizzled Mint and Ginger to get a true sense of this culinary adventure in India with Peggy.

Unlike Peggy and our group, most travelers go to Rajasthan not for the food but the architecture. The state is famous for palaces and forts that were once home to maharajas, India’s great kings. We stayed as a group in four such properties. We spent one night in a village in the desert, sleeping in a round thatched hut in a farmyard surrounded by cows, goats and camels. "The space was vast and the utter silence of the desert was among the loudest sounds I've ever heard." By far my favourite was our stay with a family in a small village. We learned about food everywhere we went and "the wine flowed like the river Ganges."

Rajasthan is home to some of the country's most spectacular scenery, impressive sites and hospitable people. We discovered the contrasts of Delhi from the winding alleys and overflowing markets of the old city to the cities and villages of Rajasthan. We explored windswept deserts, maharajas’ palaces and hilltop forts. We also experienced the wonder of the Taj Mahal and took time out for some wildlife spotting in Ranthambhore National Park.

Dear Diary,

I saw northern India, including Rajasthan, through the eyes of a local, as our Indian guides gave us a first-hand insight into the exotic and colourful tapestry that makes up his or her amazing homeland. I discovered wildlife, wandered around historic cities and visited magnificent Mughal tombs and palaces which imparted to me the magnificence of these valuable natural and historical gems and the importance of their being preserved and protected, so that they can be enjoyed and appreciated by future generations. Driving through Rajasthani desert country, we passed large concentrations of camels, cows, bulls, goats and sheep herded by mustachioed men in massive turbans of shocking pink or blazing yellow or chartreuse, all dyed with what must be the same stuff they use to color jelly beans; and women with wide swaying ankle-length skirts, and long scarves or odhnis, all in the most colorful combinations. India is a throbbing, vibrant place, full of color, and not only pink-ocher either. When you get up close to the shops under the shaded arcades of the bazaars, you see that they are packed with hand-dyed cloth of every color of the rainbow ...hot reds, pinks, maroons, oranges and yellows predominate, but blues and purples aren't left out either. And a lot of it is meant for men's turbans which use as much as eight yards that are wrapped around the head and look like beautiful and showy large baskets or pillows.

India is a photographers dream!!!"

Another option would be to travel throughout India with Responsible Travel whom I mentioned in my last post on Ethiopia. This tourism business was Highly Commended in our 2007 Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards - the largest awards of their kind in the world, and organised by http://www.responsibletravel.com/ in association with The Times, World Travel Market and Geographical Magazine, of the Royal Geographical Society. Since 2004, the Awards has recognised individuals, companies and organisations in travel making a big commitment to the culture and economies of local communities and helping to conserve biodiversity. Their trips look amazing, so, maybe next time!!

Dear Diary,
"On my last day in India, I threaded my way through the heady confines of Bazaar Road, where tea, cashews, and spices were being uploaded from trucks and wooden-wheeled pushcarts. I had travelled halfway around the world to learn about the rich, complex cuisine of India. I wish my daughter could have shared this experience and sojourn through India with me... although she would have had to practice eating with her right hand in deference to the local custom because she is left-handed."

Joan has linked her virtual journey with our Social Network BloggerAid . Hopefully this trip to India has increased your hunger and thirst for knowledge of a different culture you may never have the good fortune to know. It makes us realize how lucky we are and perhaps are motivated to participate in the fight against hunger via BloggerAid or the World Food Programme . I'd like to personally thank Joan for this exciting journey around the world so far for some much needed soul searching. Thank for being just such a darn good hostess!!! She has reached the halfway point in our world travels. Where is she off to next? Her journey will take us to Mongolia, the Philippines, Peru, and ending in the deep South of the United States.

For this event I chose to make a dish I had tried at a local restaurant here in town. When in doubt I asked my Adopted Blogger N33ma at Recipe Swap...for her suggestions on making paneer. I had originally wanted to make this dish for Ben of What's Cooking over at his forum, but, time got away from me. You know how that goes. I wanted my dish to reflect the colours of India so I included both red and green peppers and topped it with some pea shoot greens. I served it with some brown basmati rice.

On to the recipe that I brought to our virtual feast. First I needed to make the Paneer. It is an unaged, acid-set, non-melting farmers cheese made by curdling heated milk with lemon juice or other acidic ingredient.

**Home-Made Paneer**
(enough for two helpings )

1 litre full fat milk (homogenized)
4 T white vinegar (or lemon juice)

In a heavy based pan, bring the milk up to a boil slowly.

As soon as the milk begins to boil, add the vinegar, reduce the heat and stir slowly.

At this point the curds and whey will seperate making the milk look green-ish grey with lumpy white bits. Perfect.

Line a colander with a tea-towel and pour the mixture into it. Leave for 20 minutes to let the whey drain off.

Squeeze out as much moisture as possible and shape the cheese into a patty. Tie the cloth with an elastic band around it. Place the cheese parcel on a board with another board on top of it and weigh this latter board down with tins to squeeze out more moisture.

After another 20 minutes your paneer will be ready. Unwrap and eat immediately or store for up to 24 hours in an airtight container wrapped in the same damp tea-towel.

Then on to the dish.....

**Indian Paneer Tikka**

1 Large block of Paneer
1 onion
1 green pepper
A few Mushrooms
Finely chopped Coriander leaves


1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon garlic paste
1 teaspoon ginger Paste
2 teaspoon tandoori powder
1 teaspoon cumin (jeera) powder
2 teaspoons chaat powder
Salt to taste
Red chili Powder to taste

Cut Paneer into long 1/2" thick cubes. Cut all vegetables into cubes.

Mix all ingredients for marinade and set aside.

Add some of the marinade to the vegetables.

Brush the marinade onto the paneer and refrigerate for 3 hours.

Heat oil in a wok or frypan and fry marinated paneer till fully done. Set aside. Fry other vegetables.

On a platter arrange fried vegetables and then paneer. Garnish with coriander and lemon slices

Serve tandoori paneer tikka hot with hari chutney.

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison.
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  1. That is one beautiful dish!

  2. That's cool! Glad you enjoyed the Indian food. The cuisine around the world sounds like lots of fun!

  3. I'm loving the dish...and the photo!!! Great post.

  4. Val, another wonderful story for our arm-chair travelers. Also a very nice dish for the round-up. Good for you for 'making' the paneer. I took the easy way out and purchased it. Thanks for continuing the journey with me!

  5. The dish looks delicious and very festive with all the color! And nothing beats a fresh, home-made paneer--yum!

  6. Wow, that looks and sounds fantastic! Indian food is so great!



  7. Oh my gosh, this is a great post! I'd love to visit India for both the architecture and the food. The recipe for paneer is the same that I use for homemade ricotta! This tikka recipe is wonderful! Total YUM!

  8. What a great post Val and such an enjoyable read. A great dish for this wonderful event!

    Rosie x

  9. Great story and the dish looks delicious!

  10. I wish I could have a taste! Great dish and photo!

  11. What a fantastic post Val! I still have to try Indian cuisine... any leftovers for me?

  12. Another super-educational post. Great recipe too. I've never attempted homemade paneer.

  13. paneer is the indian version of a type of mizithra, our local version of ricotta - i remember my mum making this kind of cheese

    and what a delicious healthy looking dish you made

  14. I made paneer a while ago and would love to try it again, because I forgot to compress it. I like what you have done with the cheese, mmm!

  15. Thanks for sharing your virtual travels to India! The dish sounds quite flavorful and delicious.

  16. I haven't cooked with Paneer yet. Sounds like a dish I would enjoy. Thanks for sharing. :)

  17. Wonderful posting.
    The food looks and sounds amazing.

  18. Paneer and Roti have been in my list of things to do for a long time. Thanks for the lovely virtual trip to India and the lovely dish with paneer.

  19. Paneer is just great and I'm so impressed that you made your own! I've cooked with paneer but sadly never tried to make my own... So good for you, Val!

  20. I can't keep up with you, kafta, carrot cake and OMG paneer! I really love Indian food and paneer was one of the first cheeses I ever made . . . loved it. Your dish here looks grand.

  21. Wow Val - Im more than impressed with this one. You certainly did a thorough job and the entries are terrific. Love the post.

  22. Wow Val you finally made the paneer...good job!

  23. One of my favorite dishes! Mushrooms are a great addition. Would you believe I've never made my own paneer, though it's probably my favorite cheese?

  24. i also like indian curry tikka very much.


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