Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Paneer" Tikka Masala

I just got back from a wonderful trip to Asheville, NC, where I ate a lot of vegan food (especially amazing at THIS PLACE), sampled some badass local IPAs, climbed a few mountains, and hung out with the coolest 60-somethings in the world.  I'm savoring the campfire smell on my sweater and jacket, and I hope it doesn't go away too soon.

But to catch up.  In keeping with the British-Indian-fusion theme, I made this dish, which was like a breath of fresh (and spicy) air.  I've really been digging this blog I recently found!  The mixture is quite a bit like that of the Asian Vegan Kitchen cookbook.

Using tofu for paneer and coconut milk for milk/yogurt was a breeze!  I've never had this dish in its dairytastic form, but the combination of textures and flavors here was pretty damn near perfect.  Toasty, tangy, richly nutty, pungent, all at once.  Pressing the tofu and frying it made it nearly impossible to differentiate from paneer... and even though the recipe made a lot of sauce in relation to the tofu, it was so delicious that I was happy to just eat that with rice when I ran out of tofu.  A serving size of 4-6 seems super optimistic.  For one package of tofu, I'd say 2-3 servings, with a generous helping of sauce.

I served this with my old favorite, stir-fried cabbage with South Indian spices...

Now, I like spicy food, but I was a little freaked out by the instructions to use four dry chilies and 1 TB cayenne.  I halved each of these amounts, and it was still medium-high hot.  When in doubt, lowball it and add more later.  On the topic of spices, also note that the recipe calls for two premixed spice blends: tandoori spice powder (recipe follows) and garam masala.
Other substitutions were of convenience: I used 1 TB tomato paste instead of a tomato, and for the TB dried fenugreek leaves, I used 1/2 tsp ground fenugreek.  Actually, this dish still had a really strong fennel/fenugreek flavor, so you might even want to use less. 

Tofu "Paneer" Tikka Masala

1 lb extra firm tofu, pressed and cut into cubes
2 TB tandoori spice powder (see below for recipe)
1/4 c lite coconut milk (I only use lite because it's what Trader Joe's carries; I'm sure full fat would be great)
canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 TB tomato paste
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 piece of ginger, peeled minced
handful of cilantro leaves
2 dry red chilies, soaked in hot water with some of the water reserved
4 TB canola oil
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground fennel
1/4-1 tsp cayenne
2 TB tomato paste
300 ml light coconut milk
100 ml water (or, however much water it takes to finish the can of coconut milk and get up to 400 ml)
1/2 tsp ground fenugreek (or less--see headnote)
salt to taste
juice of 1/2-1 1/2 lemons, to taste

1. Mix together tandoori powder and 1/4 c coconut milk; add tofu and stir until they're totally coated; marinate for around 30 minutes.
2. Combine the onion, 1 TB tomato paste, garlic, ginger, cilantro, and chilies in a food processor and process (adding reserved chili water as necessary) until it's a coarse paste.
3. In a large sauce pan or saucier, heat the oil to a high heat and fry the marinated tofu till slightly crispy.  Remove from pan and drain.
4. Separately to make the gravy, heat oil and fry onion paste for about 5 minutes till fragrant.  Add dry coriander, fennel, and cayenne, stir well.
5. Add tomato paste, remaining coconut milk, and water, stir well, close the lid and let it cook for 5-10 minutes. When gravy starts to simmer add fenugreek, garam masala, and salt to taste.
6. Turn off heat, mix tofu with gravy, and add lemon juice to taste.  Serves about 3.


In adapting a recipe for tandoori masala powder, I toasted and ground as many whole spices as seemed feasible... surely it can only make things more flavorful?  I also omitted mace and substituted a LOT of paprika in place of food coloring.

Tandoori Masala Powder
(adapted from indianfoodforever)

1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground ginger 
1 tsp cloves, toasted and ground
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1.5 TB cumin seeds, toasted and ground
2 TB coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1 tsp fenugreek, toasted and ground
1 tsp ground cinnamon 
 1 tsp black peppercorns, toasted and ground
1 tsp cardamom seeds, toasted and ground
1 TB paprika

With the exception of the non-toasted ingredients, toast each ingredient separately, taking care not to burn them.  Set aside to cool, then grind and combine with remaining ingredients.  Store leftovers in an airtight container.  Makes about 1/4 c.


janet @ the taste space said...

Looks great! Rob made tempeh tikka masala which was delicious but it had heavy cream. I wonder what I could sub for that... coconut cream? Or just more coconut milk? Anyways this looks great! :)

Btw, this was Rob's recipe:

janet @ the taste space said...

oh nuts, there's yogurt in there, too.. boo!

Ami's Vegetarian said...

Thanks for acknowledging and posting link to my recipe. It's interesting read your view, coz we are quiet used to eating spicy food from childhood, so my recipe is actually very mild for us. Tofu looks very yummy!

Julia said...

Hi Janet! I used coconut milk for both yogurt and full fat milk, so I think you'd be fine using it as a substitute. If you wanted it richer, you could do the trick where you refrigerate the can of coconut milk and then scoop the cream off the top when you open the can... yum, coconut cream...