In my book, anything served on a stick is a winner. It seals the deal if what’s on the stick is smothered in a charred tandoori paste, restaurant style.
Here’s my take on a British-‘Indian’ dish. It’s loaded with homemade tandoori spices, garlic, lemon, ground almonds and coconut cream. The best thing about it is that it’s 100% vegan. That’s got to get me extra brownie points, right?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know it’s not an ‘authentic Indian recipe’ and have heard far too many times, ‘Ask any Indian what tikka masala is and they won’t know.’ To this I say, ‘Whatevs’. For me, this started out as a guilty pleasure dish I’ve grown to love and adapt to my own tastes, incorporating my love for tandoori dishes. I’ve gotten over it and I promise once you’ve tried it yourself, you will too!
I’ve been obsessed with tofu puffs for as long as I can remember. I like to think of them as sailboats for any sauce or spice you add. They soak in flavours like there’s no tomorrow and you don’t have to marinate them for hours. A lot of the time, we make our weeknight stir fries in a matter of minutes and thanks to these spongy little fellas, they’re filling and seriously flavoursome. In this recipe, tofu puffs the perfect carriers for my homemade tandoori paste and creamy vegan tikka masala sauce. If you like a mild curry that still packs a punch in terms of being aromatic, this one’s for you.
As compromised as I feel for not owning my own tandoor (I keep telling myself it will happen one day), this works just as well in the oven. Whack the temperature up as high as it goes and cook your skewers for about 8-10 minutes or until slightly charred. It’s also worth noting that while it’s not exactly authentic to add tomato puree to a tandoori masala paste, I do because I don’t like adding red food colouring. It’s tandoori paste, not red velvet cake. However, if you don’t like tomatoes, go ahead and add some red food colouring. This is your dish.
If you can’t get tofu puffs (I get mine from our local Chinese supermarket), try this with cooked cauliflower florets, baby potatoes, paneer, mushrooms, idli pieces or anything else that will hold its own on a skewer. If you still want to use tofu but can’t get the puffed kind, try using firm tofu, weighted and pressed for a few hours to remove excess water, cubed and lightly pan-fried. I’m afraid that medium or silken tofu won’t cut it on the kebab skewer for this recipe.
Also, an FYI that I used metal kebab skewers – they get really hot so be careful if you’re using them too. If you can only get wooden skewers, soak them in cold water overnight to ensure they don’t burn in the oven.
Serve with flaky paratha, rice and lime wedges. It’s also delicious with garlic and coriander naan.
300g tofu puffs
Fresh coriander, chopped, to garnish
Lime or lemon wedges, to garnish
Paratha or naan, to serve
Rice, to serve
For the homemade tandoori paste:
1 tsp whole coriander seeds
8 black peppercorns
2 dried red chillies (or fresh if you like)
2 inch stick cinnamon
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 star anise
Seeds of 4 green cardamom pods
1 black cardamom (optional)
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp concentrated tomato puree
2 tbsp coconut cream
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
For the sauce:
1 tbsp oil
4 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
1 tbsp grated ginger
3 red chillies, chopped (or to taste)
1 tbsp concentrated tomato puree
2 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp garam masala
2 tbsp ground almonds
2 tsp ground green cardamom seeds
2 tsp ground fennel seeds
400ml coconut milk
1 tsp kasoori methi (optional)
2 tbsp light brown sugar
Salt, to taste
1. To make the tandoori paste, heat a dry frying pan until hot. Add all the spices apart from the coconut cream, lemon juice, salt and concentrated tomato puree. Toast until aromatic, a couple of minutes but don’t leave it unattended because it can burn very easily.
2. Place all the spices in a high-powered blender or coffee grinder. I use my NutriBullet. Once ground to a fine powder, stir in the lemon juice, coconut cream, tomato puree and salt.
3. Add the tofu puffs to the paste and give them a good mix, taking care not to break the tofu pieces up. Set aside while you make the vegan tikka masala sauce.
4. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
5. To make the vegan tikka masala sauce, heat the oil in a medium, non-stick pan. Add the garlic, ginger and chillies. Sauté for a few moments before adding the concentrated tomato puree. Cook for 5 minutes on a medium heat, stirring all the time. Add the passata, followed by the rest of the ingredients. Give it a good whisk, cover and cook on a low heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring often.
6. Lightly grease a non-stick oven tray. Skewer the tofu pieces onto your kebab sticks. Arrange on the baking tray and pop into the oven for 8-10 minutes, turning them halfway to ensure even browning. Remove from the oven.
7. Serve immediately, bringing the kebabs and sauce to the table, letting everyone mix their own sauce and tofu pieces for a bit of fun and drama. Garnish with chopped coriander, lime or lemon wedges and extra coconut cream. Serve with jalebi paratha or garlic and coriander naan and rice.