You can buy ready-made paneer at a well-stocked grocery store, but it is easy and fun to make at home. The cheese is dense and crumbly. It’s typically cut into cubes and served fresh with a sprinkle of finishing salt, a few grinds of black pepper and a drizzle of plain or flavored olive oils.
Alternatively, the cubes are fried in hot oil for a couple minutes until lightly golden and added to curries and vegetable dishes like Palak Paneer. The cheese is equally delicious tucked into a sandwich or wrap. Finally, the cheese is also used in various desserts. From appetizers to desserts, the uses for paneer are practically endless. The cheese will keep nicely in the refrigerator for about a week and also freezes well. Defrost completely before using.
Most recipes call for whole milk, but the rumor is (according to some recipes) that 2% milk is a suitable substitute. The curds for the cheese are created by adding an acidic component once the milk begins to boil. The acid can be lemon juice or vinegar or another milk product such as yogurt or buttermilk.
Traditionally paneer is made without salt, but we prefer to add sea salt for a subtle flavor boost. You can also add flavor and visual appeal by adding a mix of dried herbs to the milk such as mint, crushed coriander and cumin seeds.
1 gallon organic whole milk
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, or 1 quart buttermilk, or 4 cups fresh plain yogurt
1-1/2 tsps sea salt
cheese cloth or impeccably clean muslin cloth
1. Bring milk to a boil over medium to medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to avoid scorching. Stir constantly once the milk is hot. When the milk boils, stir in the fresh lemon juice (or buttermilk, or yogurt). Keeping the milk on the heat, stir continuously and gently to help the milk curdle. Once the mixture has coagulated, the curds will be floating in the whey. Remove from the heat. Let sit for about 10 minutes.
2. Line colander with muslin or two layers of cheesecloth and place in the sink. Pour curds and whey through colander. If you like, you can run some water through the curds. Let the whey drain. When cool enough to handle, bring up the sides of the cheesecloth, twist, tie and place bundle into smaller strainer to let drain for about 30 minutes (place weight on top to further increase drainage.)
3. Transfer the bundle to a rimmed plate. Place another plate on top of the cheese with weight to flatten the cheese for another 30 minutes. Remove top plate and weight. Refrigerate.
4. When ready to use, remove cloth and proceed with final preparation. Paneer is wonderful cut into bite-sized pieces, fried and added to curries and vegetable dishes or eaten plain.
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