I am just about to make some paneer, or ‘panneer’ depending upon where you look, and this is the way to do it (note to self – avoid ‘whey’ jokes). If you have not done this before it is so easy and ‘simple’ to make that the benefits of making your own as opposed to purchasing it become clear. The step by step guide is below. Enjoy.
I have done this several times in the past and, as it is fresh spinach season around here (actually, frozen is better) I thought of doing a saag paneer (easy to do). However, we found a really good recipe on one of our favourite group of cooking blogs. Trust me on this one, the recipe results far outweigh wading through the Asia-ish (Indian English) and the ‘an award for the awards sake’dthat goes with these. The results are A+++ and we even bought an Aebleskiver just for one of the recipes on one of thesites. Now that pan is a dream once it is ‘seasoned’ and is wonderful for making all sorts of pancake and Yorkshire Pud type things both savoury and sweet. Just ask someone Danish and their eyes will mist over as they recall their favourite aebleskiver memory.
The ingredients and process for making paneer could not be simpler yet the variants of this are many – either add stuff into the milk/paneer at mixing time or marinade the paneer afterward. I intend to two variants using the recipe for the Paneer Tikka Pizza recipe). Yes, you read that correctly, Paneer Tikka Pizza. Having tried several of the recipes from this site and through the links to other blogs I have nothing but praise for the skills, common sense, and practical knowledge and advice these bloggers have with their mix of both traditional and fusion Indian recipes. Lots of respect ladies.
If you are unsure about how this will work out then, as a first time test, this simple recipe will give enough for one person or for two if using in a starter Indian dish:
1 liter full fat milk
Juice of one med/large lemon
Clean tea towel or cheesecloth (latter pref. if you have it).
A couple of same size plastic containers (flat sandwich boxes) so one can be placed inside the other for pressing.
However, for my recipe I will be using 3 litres of milk which is sufficient for a main dish for two or more – about 500g (just over 1 lb) of paneer being about what you will get. Some will go on the pizza but I am certain some will ‘accidentally’ be lost from the recipe as a snack item.
Paneer – About 500g from 3 liters
3-4 litres full fat milk
2 Tablespoons of lemon juice – one large lemon or two medium – note FRESH lemons are used for the acidity level. You might not get the same acidity from a brand name lemon ‘juice’ – plus you can add a slice to your favourite drink as you work.
Also, note that I am making two variants – one plain and the other with 1 t of cumin seed and 1 t of ground methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
1. In a heavy pan, bring the milk almost to a boil. When it has almost reached a boil, it will look very foamy and quickly rise in the pan. Before this happens remove it from the heat to prevent it boiling over.
Add the lemon juice and stir until small curds separate from the whey, about 2-3 minutes or so. For the scientifically minded there is a ‘perfect’ temperature at which you should add the lemon juice and for this a cooking thermometer is ideal. As I do not have one and rely on my experience of doing this previously with no failures… yet.
2. Let the mix sit for at least 10 minutes so curds can develop, then strain into a colander lined with 2 layers of cheesecloth or a clean thick tea towel as shown in the pictures below. Cover and leave for about an hour or so to drain. When cool enough to handle, tie up opposite ends of the cloth and squeeze out remaining liquid. the more you squeeze, the firmer and drier the cheese.
There’s a way to it… I use a tea-towel to absorb more of the whey than if I simply used two pieces of cheesecloth. Using this method you get a much drier and firmer cheese which is what I am aiming for.
3. Place paneer, still in the cloth, on a plate. Flatten to 1/2″ thick and top with another plate. Rest something heavy on top (recipe books, full beer bottles etc) and let sit for 20 minutes or longer. Longer means more liquid is squeezed out. NOTE: I ‘cheat’ here for this recipe in order to make a drier cheese by swapping the tea-towel for a dry one. This means more whey is absorbed in the fresh cloth.
4. Pour off any liquid that remains. At this point I normally press the cheese into a sandwich box or none metal container and rest another of the same size on top (I stand jars or similar inside the upper one for weight) to continue the pressing process while I refrigerate it overnight. I divided my recipe into two pieces (not necessarily half – my wife is vegetarian and I am not). I keep one plain and the other I add the teaspoon of cumin seeds and the teaspoon of methi (dried fenugreek leaves). You can substitute other herbs as per your taste requirements – basil, chili, garlic, chives, sun dried tomato etc.
Use immediately by cutting into 1/2″ cubes and frying gently in oil, turning to brown each side. For my pizza recipe I will grill/broil, or pan sear the paneer before marinading in a masala mix. Plain paneer is delicious in salads and there are many recipes to be found on the interwebtubenets.
That is it. However, the whey (the pale cloudy liquid that runs off) is great as a base for sauces, in porridge etc. Check on the interwebtubenets. You can store this in a closed jar in the refrigerator for up to six months or freeze it without losing the bacterial benefits it contains.
A whey to make a urologist proud…
As a bonus, if you happen to have some milk that has just gone ‘off’ then you can use this in with the milk instead of the lemon juice (Greek/full fat yogurt is a good one too) and then nothing goes to waste. You can add herbs to the paneer when it is first put in the cloth or marinade in chili/curry sauce etc. What I intend to do before putting it on the pizza… masala, yeast recipe, and how to make the pizza dough to follow…
And of course, it goes well with spinach… fresh or frozen. Too many whey jokes…