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Ever since my Vit D levels drastically plunged, the amount of intake of milk and milk products that I have been having has reached gluttonous level (FYI low levels Vit D result in low absorption of calcium). The supplements aren’t very effective and I have been left with no choice but to take a calcium rich diet. As such, natural sources are the best means to achieve a healthy body. I usually resort to avoiding milk in its rudimentary form coz seriously there is a point to which one can guzzle it. Instead, along with milk I juggle yogurt, buttermilk, low fat milk puddings and of course my favourite cottage cheese in my daily diet. I am just waiting for the monsoon to recede so I can get my daily dose of sunlight, elevate the levels of my Vit D levels and get rid of these annoying body and joint aches (I feel like sixty years old!!)

Just as I prefer variety in my daily food, I also prefer to have my favourite ingredients and foods cooked in a variety of ways. This helps get rid of boredom and also leads to some brain storming regarding the recipes and playing around with ingredients. Achaari Paneer Tikka is by no means an invention that happened in my kitchen but nevertheless I had never given it a try in my kitchen before. I am noticing that increasingly, I feel like having less and less of curries and more n more of lightly cooked, mildly spiced, less greasy or fried food and also that, I am developing this biasness for grilled food (oven grilled that is…I avoid charring my food since it develops carcinogenic properties).

So, grilled cottage cheese marinated in those wonderful spices was just another way of bringing variety to the table. Throw in some veggies for extra goodness and texture and what wonderful appetiser/ starter/ side dish you have there! For our Sunday lunch I served them rolled inside flatbread followed by Saffron Rice Pudding with a siesta thereafter and life seemed perfect

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Before I proceed to the recipe, just a little bit of gyan for those who are not familiar with the word Achaar or Achar.  Achaar is the Hindi word for pickle. North Indians, especially and essentially, make use of five spices in making their pickles. These spices are cumin seeds, fennel seeds, nigella seeds, mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds (check here for more details on these spices). This recipe makes use of both, pickle and these five spices, hence the name Achaari or pickle-y. Now that we have settled the question of what is Achaari, the next question that might be troubling you could be what is Tikka? Tikka refers to marinated and grilled small pieces of meat, fish, poultry, cheese (any cheese that can withstand high temp when grilled) or vegetables. Grab the recipe

350 grams Cottage Cheese

1 Red Bell Pepper

1 Yellow Bell Pepper

1 tbsp approx. Panch-phoran*

2 tsp (+/-) Stuffed Red Chili Pickle Masala/Gravy (You can use masala of any pickle of your choice)

½ tsp Coriander Powder

½ tsp Chili Powder (adjust according to the heat of the pickle gravy that you are using)

½ tsp Turmeric Powder

1 tbsp pickle Oil (I used from the jar of the red chili pickle but usually it is mustard oil that is used for this recipe)

¼ C Hung Yogurt (Dahi, with water drained from it)

1 tsp Garlic paste

Salt to taste

Skewers

To serve:

Lemon wedges

Pickled Onion (I do that by sprinkling the onions with some rock salt (kala namak) and a dash of lime juice. Allow it to sit for 15-20 minutes)

Green Chutney

You can use Yogurt and cucumbers too, to serve. But for my family pickled onions and chutney suffices.

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Dry roast the panch phoran in a small pan or skillet and remove it from heat once it starts to pop up and become aromatic. Cool and grind to a fine powder. Keep aside

Cube the cheese in 1½ inch size. Soak the skewers in water so that they do not burn when grilled.

In the bowl in which you intend to marinate the cheese, gently whip the yogurt and add garlic paste, pickle oil, salt, turmeric powder, chili powder, coriander powder, red chili pickle masala and the ground panch phoran to it. Add the cheese to the marinade, coat each piece well. Cover and allow it to marinate in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, add the diced veggies to the marinated cheese and coat them well with the marinade. Allow the veggies and cheese to marinate for another 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven at 220 degrees and start threading the vegetables and paneer onto the skewer (remove any excess marinade). Brush with oil before popping them on the hot grill in the oven. Grill them till one side begins to turn brown and then turn over and grill the other side as well. (I had heated the top and the bottom elements of the oven and placed a drip tray lined with foil to catch the drips) Once done, gently remove the skewers from the oven and serve with chutney and onion or with a flatbread.

For the Flatbread:

1C Whole Wheat flour + extra for rolling the flatbread

½ C All Purpose Flour (Maida)

1tbsp Semolina

½ tsp Salt (adjust to taste)

A pinch pf Carrom Seeds (optional)

1 tsp Ghee

¾ C Water, approximately (for kneading)

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Mix whole wheat flour, APF, semolina, salt and carom seeds. Add the ghee and rub it well in the flours. Gradually add water and start making the dough. Knead it for 5 – 6 minutes. Keep it covered for half an hour.

 Divide the dough in 6 equal portions. One by one roll them in flour. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough in 7 inch sized discs. Cook them on a hot (not smoking) skillet. Gently place the flatbread on the skillet. Once the color of the flatbread beings to change, flip and cook the other side as well. Turn it over again and apply a little oil (half a teaspoon should be enough) and fry it. Allow the flatbread to become golden brown and crisp (you can apply oil on both sides of the flat bread to make both sides crisp) and remove from skillet. Serve hot with the tikka.

*Panchphoran is an Indian style 5-spice mix. Here the ratio of ingredients is ½ tsp each cumin seeds, mustard seeds and fennel seeds and ¼ tsp each of nigella seeds and fenugreek seeds.

Note: Adding Pickle curry is actually optional. But I recommend it since it gives the tikkas a unique piquant taste.

Note: Feel free to omit APF and use whole wheat flour or vice versa. (more of APF leads to more crispier flatbreads but we prefer using whole wheat flour for its health benefits)

You may like to check this recipe:

Zaafrani Murg Tikka (Saffron Chicken Tikka)

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