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.
3 cups chopped green mango [from 2 large mangoes,raw & sour]
1 tbsp mustard/sesame oil
1/2 tsp Nigella seeds[kalaunji]
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds [methi dana]
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp roasted cumin seeds powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp red chilli flakes [adjust to taste]
1 tsp black salt/kala namak [substitute with normal salt/adjust to taste]
6 tbsp of jaggery
If using a jaggery slab, with the help of a sharp knife cut it into small pieces.Set aside.
In a heavy bottomed pot, heat the oil on medium heat.If using mustard oil- heat it to smoking point to do away the raw smell.
Once heated, add the Nigella, fenugreek, cumin & fennel seeds to the pot.Wait till they crackle & you smell the aroma.About 30 seconds.
Next add the turmeric powder and red chilli flakes to the pot.Cook for another 30 seconds.TIP:Whenever adding turmeric powder to hot oil, keep a watch because it burns easily.
Add the chopped green mangoes to the pot and stir on medium heat to combine well with the other ingredients.Stir for about 2-3 minutes on medium heat.
Next, cover the pot with a lid, reduce the heat to low and let the mangoes cook till they are 90% cooked but not mushy.About 15-20 minutes.Again note that this cooking time will depend on how thick you have cut the mangoes.
Add the jaggery to the pot next and combine gently with mangoes.You will see that as the jaggery will cook, it will release water.Do not worry.Everything is as per plan.
Cover the pot again and cook on low heat for another 7-10 minutes until the jaggery has completely melted and mangoes are cooked thoroughly. At this point add the black salt and roasted cumin powder and stir well.
Remove from heat.If you want, you can crush the cooked mangoes slightly using a masher.
As the chuntey will cool, it will become more and more thick so don’t worry if you feel that its is watery when hot.
Once the chutney has cooled, transfer to dry, air tight jars and keep refrigerated for up to 5 days.
1.5 lb of [bone-in ]mutton, cut into medium pieces [or lamb or beef]
1.5 cups of buttermilk [slightly sour]
3 fat garlic cloves, grated
2″ shoot of ginger,grated
1 tsp nutmeg, grated
Salt to taste
Whole Spices :
2 cups onions , thinly sliced
10-12 whole dry red chillies
1 tbsp whole black peppercorn
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 nos black cardamoms, cracked open
3 bay leaves
1″ shoot of cinnamon
1 twig mace
4 tbsp cooking oil [I use mustard, you can use olive/canola]
2-3 cups warm water
How I did it:
Wash and pat dry the mutton pieces.
In a ziplock plastic bag, pour in the buttermilk, grated nutmeg,grated garlic & ginger along with salt.Give it a shake to combine well.
Next, tip in the mutton pieces into the bag and give it a shake again to make sure that the buttermilk covers all the pieces.Lay the bag flat in a big square tray and let marinate overnight or at least 3-4 hours.
Making the Stew :
[Method 1 : Cooking in an Open pot [with lid]/Dutch oven]
Heat the oil in a pot/dutch oven to a smoking point on medium heat.TIP: When using mustard oil, you need to heat it up till the point it starts smoking to ensure the raw smell is gone.For 4 tbsp oil, atleast good 8-10 minutes.If using olive/canola, the heating time will be way less.
Once heated,reduce the heat to low and wait for 5 minutes to lower the temp a bit so that spices don’t burn.Add all the whole spices except dry red chillies to the oil and cook until the spices emit their aroma..around 3 minutes.
Next add the onions, raise the heat to medium and cook the onions stirring constantly untill they become translucent to light brown.
Add the dry red chillies then.
Strain the mutton pieces from the buttermilk mixture, retain the marinade.
Add the mutton pieces to the pot and on high heat, cook the mutton pieces for 10-12 minutes until all sides of the meat have browned.
Next, add the marinade & 2 cups of warm water to the pot, check the salt and cover the pot/dutch oven.
Let the water come to a boil on high heat and then reduce the heat to as low as possible.
Let the meat simmer in the pot/dutch oven for good 4-6 hours periodically checking to make sure the liquid doesn’t dissipate, and adding warm water if needed.
The stew is considered finished when the meat is very tender, just about to fall apart from the bones and the flavor of the gravy is intense. Adjust the salt again if needed.
Garnish with chopped cilantro & serve with warm khamiri rotis [yeasted flatbreads] and onions.
[Method 2: Using a pressure pan/cooker]
The time taken by this popular Indian method is very less and the taste is slightly different and less intense. The cooking steps remain the same except that you need to cook the meat as per your pressure cooker.To give a rough estimate, the meat will take at least 25-30 minutes with 6-7 whistles on a low heat to become tender.