In hindi, ‘Tikka’ typically means a morsel of food (meat/cheese or vegetable) which charred to crispy on intense heat and served as an appetizer.The spices vary from preparation to preparation,it could me meat or chicken, paneer, soy or fruit chunks but that strong smoky taste and aroma of the burnt spices over fire is a irrepraceable.The concept of sizzling fatty meat chunks over charcoal fires is popular across the country, particularly in the north indian parts during the to extreme winter season when the flames spin around a cozy atmosphere apt for eating and meeting in a commonplace.
You walk out of the home and the streets are dotted with numerous eateries, smelling of coal and decorated with hanging metal skewers, presenting options of all sorts to please your taste buds. These are the days when you do not care much about home cooked food because the essence of the food is far superior there. Sitting on dilapidated metal benches or around plastic chairs and hand-woven cots neatly arranged around the bonfire,under the cold starry sky, with air smelling of smoke and spices, loud conversations, juicy tikka on the plate, hot chutneys on the side – an experience unmatched to the culinary creations of the best gourmet restaurants around.I miss it.
I found some amazing looking, scarlet red Fresno peppers at Whole foods the other day and could not think of anything but the spicy paste that my mom used to make with them.Ok I will not lie, I also did think of the stuffed chili pickle that she makes but lets rest that for some other day. The stone ground, coarse, hot paste, studded with chili seeds was not called ‘piri-piri’ but it was essentially on the same lines.We would eat greasy homemade potato chips tossed in it, so addictive!Sometimes drumsticks were tossed around and deep fried later for a crunchy hand food or else it was more of a laal (red) chutney along side meals.
For the uninitiated, ‘Piri Piri’ is an african bird’s eye chili and is used for making an extremely hot sauce after combining it with citrus peel, onion, garlic, lemon juice,paprika and few herbs. I made a batch of Piri Piri and as I write this, it’s been siting in my refrigerator for over three days and getting better, and is being lately used for all sorts of things in my cooking. It makes a lot of sense when added to grilled chicken or seafood, or to gravy bases and salad dressings, it comes in so handy when you are looking for instant flavors – talk garlic, talk herbs, talk heat, talk yum! Hopefully, I will be able to share a couple of more recipes of using it with you.
I have used paneer in my recipe but you could use tofu or halloumi cheese for that matter. These tikka are grilled are taste best when served immediately. And they are super hot. These plump chilies are a game! Add any kind of vegetables as you want to that marinade- zucchini, button mushrooms, bell peppers. Wrap up the grilled paneer in a roti with green chuntney or serve as a side with rice.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
Piri Piri Sauce (Makes about 1 cup)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 large fresh Fresno peppers(or use any hot pepper,see notes)
- 1 small red bell pepper, seeds removed and diced
- 1 shallot, diced
- 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon kashmiri chili powder (or paprika)
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (3-4 stalks)
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup water
- 5 garlic gloves
- 1 .5 teaspoon fresh lime juice
- 1/3 cup olive oil (or as needed during blending)
For the Paneer Tikka
- 6 oz paneer (~200 gms) (homemade or store bought, cut into batons or 2″ by 2″ slabs)
- 1/2 cup piri piri sauce (recipe below, adjust quantity to desired heat level )
- 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
- scant pinch of sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 3-4 tablespoon oil for cooking
- sliced onions, lime wedges, chaat masala, cilantro for serving
- Piri Piri is an extremely hot sauce. I usually de seed and de vein half the quantity of Fresno peppers to reduce the heat level.You could reduce the quantity in marinade too.
- If you do not get use any red colored peppers, just ensure that they are hot.
Piri Piri Sauce
In a sauce pan, heat up the 2 tbsp oil. Add all of the ingredients except the garlic, lime juice, water & olive oil(needed for blending) & stir for a minute or so. Add the water and cook covered over medium heat for 5-6 minutes until the pepper skins are soft. Remove from heat, and allow to cool to room temperature. When the mixture has cooled, put into a blender, add the garlic cloves, lime juice and blend drizzling the olive oil to a smooth blend.Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer. Pour into a clean glass container and cover with a lid. Let sit for at least a couple of days before using.
For the Paneer Tikka
Marinate the paneer in piri piri sauce, garam masala, salt to taste and sugar. Add the oil and combine so that the paneer pieces. Skewer the paneer if you want. Let sit for 30 minutes, refrigerated.
Heat up your grill pan or outdoor grill and grill the marinated paneer for 1-2 minutes on both sides. Paneer does not need much cooking so this should be fast. Brush liberally with oil while you grill. Take off the grill as soon as you get grill marks and sprinkle with chaat masala (optional)
Serve immediately with green chutney, onion slices, cilantro & lime wedges.
Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!