Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Paneer Tikka Masala

cumin seeds
veg oil
tomato paste
onion (optional)
ginger (optional)
tikka masala powder
turmeric (optional)
sugar (optional)
half and half
paneer squares
start off with a bowl-like pan on medium-high heat. throw in a tablespoon of veg oil. once the oil is hot, add 1/2 tablespoon of cumin seeds (NOT cumin powder). it will snap, crackle, and/or pop. don't let it sit for too long, or else the cumin seeds will burn. change from medium-high to medium heat.
add half a small can of tomato paste and a little under a tablespoon of finely-chopped garlic. i tried using diced tomatoes once and tomato puree once, but they're both too juicy and don't come out well. as for garlic, i usually use a glass jar of pre-chopped soaked garlic, but i'm sure it'll be even better with fresh garlic.
once mixed, my mom likes to add one finely-chopped onion. i don't, since i think it takes away from the smooth texture that i prefer in the dish. if you choose to add the onion, mix it in well with the tomato paste once added before you proceed. my mom also adds freshly-shredded ginger to give it an indian kick. i'm usually too lazy for the onion and ginger, and it still comes out well.
stir in the "tikka masala" powder. i use two tablespoons, since i love love love this stuff. you can play around, but i'd say use anywhere from 1 to 2 tablespoons to ensure that the resulting curry really does taste like tikka masala. also, here's where you can get creative with other spices you have around. i usually add a teaspoon or two of turmeric & sugar. the turmeric gives is a more yellow/orange color as opposed to pink/red. the sugar makes it a bit more sweet, which is what the dish is known for compared to other curries.
at this point, the dish has already been on medium heat for 5-10 minutes without any liquid: enter half and half. start by reducing the heat to low-medium. then, add in the half and half in small amounts (2 tablespoons at a time) and mixing it in well before adding more. i've used milk instead of half and half, however it doesnt mix well enough, and results in a really thin sauce. i also tried sour cream and cream cheese mixed with milk (desperate times when i haven't had half and half around), and it's not all that bad. the key is to mix slowly. you'll know you've added enough when the curry of curry-consistency (i don't really know how to explain). also, taste frequently to be sure. you'll know it's too much half and half if the curry tastes more like milk than curry. if that's the case, throw in more tomato paste and adjust until you're happy.
once you get the right consistency, which should take no more than 5 minutes of adding and mixing, throw in the frozen paneer squares. you can either buy a big block of paneer and chop them yourself, or buy pre-chopped. stir in the paneer squared until they are all coated in curry, then cover and let sit for 10 minutes on low-medium heat, stirring occasionally. you'll know it's done when the cheese squares are soft based on poking with your spoon. hehe.
i usually enjoy this curry with either plain naan or garlic naan. i usually buy naan from the freezer section at the indian grocery store.

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