Achari comes from the word “Achaar” which means pickle in Hindi. Tikka is any kind of boneless meat or vegetables baked or roasted on skewers. Pickles in India are a serious business involving lots of spices, lots of oil & lots of solar energy. Achari is a method of using the pickling spices to make curries. The spice mix is pungent and resonant with bold flavors from fenugreek (methi dana), mustard (raai) & nigella(kalonji) seeds.These spices are not hot, rather they are pungent, quite bitter and have a very strong aroma.In pickles, they ferment over a period of time & give a tangy taste. In curries, they lend a really unique & piquant taste. Achaari preparations don’t taste like normal curries, the taste is acquired & unusual, but at the same time can be very very addictive. Having said that, this should not stop you from trying these skewers coz they are different and really delish. Give these tikkas a chance – trust me it will take you straight to India.You just need to stock up on few spices which last forever from indian stores.
Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
- 400 gms /14 oz paneer ( Indian cheese, pierced with a fork,cut into 1” cubes)
- 1 medium orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 10-12 grape tomatoes, whole
- 1 medium red onion,diced
- Oil for brushing
- Lemon Wedges, Cilantro for garnish
- 10-12 bamboo skewers
- Paneer is easily available in Indian stores under different brands.
- Paneer can be replaced by extra firm Tofu or Halloumi /Any cheese which can withstand grilling or roasting without melting.
- You can use any vegetables of choice here – zucchini,mushrooms work great. Just ensure that the cooking times of vegetable dont vary much.
- Dice the vegetables smaller/thinner than paneer, coz it takes less time to cook than veggies.
- For the Non vegetarian Version– Use boneless & cubed lamb, mutton, beef, chicken(dark portions) or shrimp.
For the Marinade:-
- 1/2 tsp each of cumin, fennel, coriander & brown mustard (raai) seeds
- 1/4 tsp each of nigella & fenugreek seeds
- 4-5 dry red chillies or red pepper flakes (adjust to tolerance)
- 2 fat garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tbsp grated ginger
- 3 tbsp plain, thick greek yogurt, slightly sour
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 tsp mustard oil (preferable for better taste, can be substituted with canola/olive/corn oil)
- Salt to taste
- If using bamboo/wooden skewers soak them in water for atleast 2-3 hours.
- Soak the cubed paneer in enough warm water seasoned with salt for about 15 minutes.Once soaked, drain and pat dry with a paper towel.
- In a small sauce pan, on high heat, lightly dry roast all the seeds under the “For the Marinade”.Roast for about 20 seconds or till you smell the aroma.Remove into a small bowl and let cool.
- Next, in the same pan, roast the whole red chillies for about 20 seconds.
- Tip the cooled, roasted spices along with red chillies into mortar or coffee grinder. Grind to a smooth powder to get a achari spice mix.
- In a bowl (big enough to hold the marinade & ingredients), combine the yogurt, achari spice mix, ginger, garlic,oil,lemon juice & salt.Whisk well to mix.
- Combine the paneer with the achari marinade,toss gently, cover the bowl with a cling film and set to marinate for 30 minutes,refrigerated.
- Add the vegetables to the marinade 5 minutes before ready to cook the skewers. This is important to keep the moisture of vegetables intact.
- Once marinated, thread the marinated paneer & vegetables on soaked bamboo skewers. Brush with oil on all sides.
- Cooking the Tikka :- I grilled the skewers on high for 4 minutes each side. You can cook them in my broiler till the paneer edges started to turn brown.About 10-12 minutes.You will need to flip them sideways to cook on all sides. Alternatively you can cook them in a skillet/griddle (about 8-10 minutes)
- Serve warm with green coriander-mint chutney and flatbreads or rice.
- If using red meat or chicken for making this recipe, marinate the meat overnight or atleast 6 hours to get better flavors.