Just in time for your weekend party, these little babies will blow your mind and guests!! No party or special occasion in India is ever complete without a paneer dish in its repertoire for vegetarians. These grilled cheese cubes make for a wonderful starter / finger food, classic yet in a modern avatar, they are bound to be a winner. The mint chutney seeps beautifully into the paneer and the yoghurt marinade adds another layer of complexity to the creamy cheese. As you bite into the succulent paneer, you can taste the acidity of the lemon juice and chaat masala cutting through the milky cheese which lifts it to another level. The last time I made these for a dinner party, they just flew off the table and were a big hit with vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.
Keeping the cubes to an inch in dimension serves two reasons. One, any larger chunks and they will become difficult to work with especially if you are using fresh paneer and secondly, they are much prettier and easier to serve. I would recommend using fresh paneer for this dish – but this is usually difficult to find in Europe and USA in which case, by all means use the frozen variety. Just make sure you thaw it completely and use a tea cloth to absorb any excess liquid before following the recipe.
If there are any left over, transfer into an airtight container and they will be good for a couple of days in the refrigerator. Just warm it in the microwave for a minute to revive them to their former glory. These would make for the most delicious wraps with salad leaves, topped with the mint chutney, fresh tomatoes and your favourite sauce.
- Paneer – 300 grams
- Cherry tomatoes – Red and Yellow, 8-10 each
- Oil for basting
- Thick yoghurt – 1 cup
- Ground cumin – 1 teaspoon
- Ground red chili – 1 teaspoon
- Ginger garlic paste – 1 teaspoon
- Ground turmeric -1/4 teaspoon
- Salt to season
- Fresh coriander and mint – 1 small bunch each
- Green chillies – 2, small
- Fresh ginger – 1 inch piece
- Yoghurt – 1 tablespoon
- Salt to season
- Chaat masala – 1 teaspoon ( optional)
- Lemon wedges
- Toothpicks / Bamboo skewers
First prepare the mint chutney by roughly chopping the coriander, mint leaves, chillies, ginger, salt and place in a blender along with the yoghurt and grind till smooth. For the marinade, whisk together the yoghurt, dry ground spices, ginger garlic paste and salt in a large bowl till light and creamy without any lumps. Cut the paneer into 1-inch cubes and carefully make an incision horizontally to about half way such that the paneer does not split. With a butter knife, slide in a quarter teaspoon of mint chutney in to the slits. You don’t want to stuff too much of the chutney as that will make the paneer quite mushy and difficult to handle. Place these individually in a large plate, not piling them on top of another. Now using a pastry brush, evenly coat the cheese cubes with the marinade on all sides and leave it in the fridge for at least 15-20 minutes. You can prepare up to this stage and refrigerate till you are ready to grill them just before serving. The longer you marinate the better but I wouldn’t recommend doing it for more than a couple of hours as the paneer will begin to break and be difficult to work with. Heat a ribbed griddle pan on a medium flame, brushed liberally with oil until it is fairly hot but not smoking. Carefully place the paneer cubes, not more than 4-5 at one time on the pan, press lightly and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, until they turn golden brown and have taken on the lovely grill marks. To assemble, take a toothpick and skewer in through the middle of the cubes, followed by the cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle chaat masala and serve with lemon wedges. Notes:
- You can substitute paneer with other cheeses like halloumi which are firm, yet absorb flavours;
- I learnt this the hard way: do not be tempted to turn the cubes too early, as they will get stuck to the pan. As they cook, you will note that the paneer slowly come off, and that is the right time to turn it over using a wide grip;
- Make sure you remove any burnt bits and brush the griddle pan with oil between batches;
- Keep the flame on a medium heat through out and adjust to avoid burning;
- If you don’t want to use a griddle pan, you can skewer the cubes into bamboo sticks and place under a hot grill for 7-8 minutes, turning it over once in between;
- You will generally find chaat masala in Indian grocery stores in the spice aisle.