Day 10 – Homemade Paneer
Paneer is an Indian cheese with a soft, slightly rubbery texture similar to Halloumi, but without the salty punch that Halloumi often delivers. Paneer is also a staple of indian vegetarian cuisine. It is stable at high temperatures, holding it’s shape without melting, so it is a great option to stand in for chicken or other meats.
I’ve seen the “make your own paneer” section over and over in the front of Indian cook books, but never tried it myself, put off by the thought that making cheese must be difficult. What a rube! This takes only two ingredients and is super simple. This recipe was from Cooking With Kurma.
You will need milk and a lemon. That’s it. Seriously. I halved the recipe to 2L full cream milk and 3 Tbs lemon juice (about half a medium lemon). I’m glad I did, because my biggest stockpot was barely big enough.
Put the milk into a large, heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil (be careful, milk goes from “just boiling” to “nuclear” fast).
Remove from the heat and gently stir through the lemon juice. Continue to stir gently and you will see the cottage cheesy curds separating from the watery, greenish yellow tinted whey.
My curds and whey didn’t separate completely on the first try, curds formed but the whey remained quite milky. The recipe suggested putting the pot back on the heat briefly, but I tried adding an extra Tbs lemon juice and this worked really well. At this stage, the curds are not the most appetising thing you’ve ever seen. They look a bit more like something that would come out of your mouth than something you would put in, but stick with it.
Line a colander with a double layer of muslin or cheesecloth – I used a single layer of old (clean) sheet, because that was what I had in the house. I mean, seriously, who has cheesecloth handy? Scoop the bigger curds into the colander using a ladle and then pour the rest of the curds and whey mixture over the top. Allow to drain briefly. Gather up the ends of the cloth into a bundle and run the bundle under lukewarm water for a minute or so. Squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the curds and place on a slanted chopping board under a heavy weight, to press out as much of the whey as possible. The recipe suggests about 30 mins, but I still had liquid coming out at 30 mins, so I put a clean teatowel under the bundle and re-pressed it for another 10-15 mins.
The finished paneer had the right colour and texture, but only time will tell if it tastes right.There were some beige flecks from where the milk had scalded against the sides of the pan. I’m not sure how to avoid this, but I doubt it will affect the taste. The recipe suggests leaving the paneer in the fridge overnight before using it, so stay tuned for some paneer recipes this week!