Indian Inspired Baked & Healthy Cheese Kebabs with Parmigiano Reggiano


A bustling narrow lane deep in the heart of Old Delhi;
Hundreds of years old, yet lived in and used every day;
A rapidly falling dusk and thousands of lights adding glitter;
A cacophony of sounds, cars honking, juke box playing, radios blaring;
Hawkers squeezed in at every nook & crany with their carts parked everywhere;
Clothes, utensils, glass bangles, ittar, fresh vegetables & fruits, sweets being sold;
Smells of fresh jasmine garlands merging with the incense & spreading a sweet enchanment;
Sheek kebabs jostling with roomali rotis to grab the customers' attention;
The smell of freshly fried shami kebabs lingering in the air;
Cauldrons of meat & daals shimmering over open fire;
The paan wallah busy working his magic with beetle leaves

When I lived in New Delhi many years ago, whenever we craved kebabs we used to visit Old Delhi. Kebabs which originated in the Middle East and essentially means pieces of meat grilled or roasted or grilled, was brought to India by the Mughals. Of course then India did it's own magic and spices got mixed into the medley and humble pieces of meat reached a whole new level. Kebabs are no longer restricted to meats, there are a whole range of vegetarian and cheese ones as well. 
Back to Old Delhi, come evening the bustling lanes of the old city would light up with thousands of hawkers briskly trading. Smells of freshly prepared food would waft in the air and make you feel dizzy with hunger. Various shops were famed for different varieties of kebabs. Like the guy behind the Moti cinema hall makes the juiciest, melt in your mouth shammi kebabs, but his sheek kebabs were nothing to write home about. For those you have to jostle your way 20 minutes down the road and visit Ahmed's food cart. His sheek kebabs and roomali rotis are to die for. 
Old Delhi is not the only city in India famed for it's kebabs, there are other cities like Lucknow which is known for it's Galouti kebabs, the obscure town of Kakori in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh is famous for it's kakori kebabs. Cities like Kolkata, Mumbai, Hyderabad also have a bustling kebab culture. Though fancy restaurants serve kebabs, the real fun is to try the kebabs from the street hawkers. Freshly prepared right before your eyes, served without any fuss or presentation, these kebabs are sold cheap and can compete hands down with the food served by the world's most famous chefs.
Now in London when we crave kebabs I mostly make them at home or visit our favourite Pakistani eatery. Recently I was approached by the Parmigiano Reggiano guys to create a traditional recipe of another region/country with Parmigiano as the main ingredient. The first thing I thought of are kebabs. We  traditionally use paneer/chaana {Indian home made cheese} to make a whole range of kebabs and koftas. I roped in my mother who is visiting me currently and together we created this recipe.
It is a very simple recipe, takes about half an hour if you have the cottage cheese ready and is guaranteed to wow your guests.

Ingredients:
[Produces roughly 20 kebabs, depending on the size of  the balls}
1. 250 grams of cottage cheese, weighed after all moisture is drained {I make cottage cheese/chaana at home, you can use store bought ones but make sure to drain all the moisture}
2. 150 grams of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
3. 2 table spoons of corn starch
4. 3/4th tea spoon of baking soda
5. 1 table spoon of fine bread crumbs
6. Salt & paprika to taste
7. 2 table spoons of oil, I used sunflower oil
8. 1 cup of bread crumbs spread on a plate to roll the kebabs

How to make the kebabs:
1. Preheat your oven at 190 C
2. If you are making the cottage cheese at home, leave it to drain for 3 to 4 hours. Similarly for store bought ones, leave the cheese on a sieve to drain. If any moisture remains, the kebabs will break
3. Mix everything together and knead with hand for a couple of minutes or more, till the moisture is smooth like a dough
4. Taste the mixture and adjust seasoning
5. Form little balls and press lightly to give it a slightly flat shape.
6. Roll them in bread crumb, making sure all the surface area is covered with crumbs
6. Spread baking paper on a baking tray and place the balls slightly apart, leaving room for the balls to spread. {I did mine in two batches.}
7. Bake for about 20 minutes, keep checking, remove when golden brown. from around 10 minutes your kitchen  will be filled with a gorgeous aroma of Parmigiano cheese
8. Rest for 5 minutes and serve with tomato ketchup
9. The kebabs have steam inside, so warn your guests to bite carefully, otherwise they may burn their mouths.

This was a big hit with my family. Everyone loved these cheese kebabs with hot masala tea. Best bit is these taste as good when cold. Usually am not a fan of cold food, but these kebabs were tasting great, the cheese flavour was more pronounced. So it makes a great picnic food as well.

Chef's Notes: The aim of this recipe was to let Parmigiano cheese be the main flavour. So we purposely did not add any herb or spices. You can add roasted and lightly crushed cumin or coriander seeds, roasted nuts, raisins, chopped herbs like coriander or dill, finely sliced green chillies. It's an open recipe. Enjoy and do let me know, if you try this how it went.


 My pasta recipe with Parmigiano is here.

2 comments :

  1. Delicious is all i can say, and also that you took me to the lanes of Chandni Chowk

    ReplyDelete
  2. Your photographs are yummilicious good. Gotta try these, cheese = sinful, but baked makes it healthy ;D

    ReplyDelete

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