Have you ever eaten paneer? Paneer is a simple, fresh cheese that tastes wonderful. If you like Indian food, you will have eaten it. No, it's not spicy at all, just plain cheese, kind of like farmer cheese only much much better! I first saw a recipe for it many many years ago in the NY Times Sunday magazine section, and was totally intrigued. I've made it on and off, but haven't done it in over 10 years.
The other day, I had a yen for it, and made it again. Wow, it's every bit as good as I remember.
Here's what you need:
1/2 gal. milk. I use 2% because I like the richer taste, but have used skim and 1% also, and it's just fine. If we weren't watching our cholesterol, I'd make it using whole milk or even half and half.
1/4 cup white vinegar or fresh lemon juice. This is your souring agent. The paneer will not taste like vinegar at all.
Line a colander with good paper towels or a few layers of cheesecloth. You want to be able to drain the paneer without losing the curds. Set the colander either into the sink or on top of a bowl.
Bring milk to a boil in a large pot. It helps in clean-up time to spray the pot with cooking spray or even brushing the bottom and sides with canola oil. Watch it carefully when it looks like it's going to boil. It happens very quickly and believe me, you don't want to clean that mess up.
When it comes to a boil, turn off heat and pour in the vinegar or lemon juice. Almost immediately lovely white curds will appear, and the liquid left will become a pale greenish color. That's the whey, as in curds and whey.
Gently scoop the curds using a large slotted spoon, or one of the large Chinese mesh spoons into the colander. You'll see the bit of liquid draining away, and what you have left is pure paneer. You can top it with a couple of paper towels and then put a heavy weight on it to help it drain. You can also dump the entire thing into your colander, but then it takes forever and ever to drain. Trust me, the slotted spoon is your friend.
Try to shape the paneer into a block. When it's pretty much drained (You may have to change the paper towels or cheese cloth a couple of times), cut it up into little pieces, put into a plastic bag and refrigerate it. You can also freeze it. There, you have a protein-rich, tasty addition to any recipe you make.
Paneer fun: 1. I tend to nibble on the curds as they get scooped. They're mighty hot but cool quickly and they are beyond wonderful. Warning: this stuff is addictive! You can easily eat half of it at this point. the curds practically melt in your mouth. No, it doesn't taste sour. In fact it has a slightly sweet taste.
2. Try using a cup of plain yogurt as your souring agent. It will take a lot longer to drain, but you'll get the best paneer going, and lots more of it since yogurt is a milk product. If it's taking too long to form into curds, add a tablespoon or so of vinegar.
3. You can season the milk as it is heating up. So, let's say you want to use it in an Italian recipe, season the milk with herbs that would live with tomato sauce. The paneer will be subtle, but tasty.
4 When it's done and you've cut it up, pat very dry, and fry it. It will form a lovely crust. You can refrigerate it or freeze it also in this form.
5. It doesn't melt into your sauces; it stays whole, which is a nice addition.
6. Give it to a fussy eating kid. Don't tell the kid that it's paneer. Make up a name like milk squares or such. It's protein and calcium rich and you want to fool that fussy eater into trying it.
All this verbiage for a mindlessly simple recipe. Do try it, and if you have any variations, let me know, and I'll post them.
Knitting chat: Who's going to Sock Summit? Not me, obviously. After all the hoopla about it, I am so curious as to how it goes. There has been a bit of chat on the Ravelry forums about organizing a Lace Summit. Boy would I love to go to that one. Not that anything is in process; people are just starting to noodle around with the idea.
Henya - I made some today. Flavored the milk with garlic and rosemary, and I added it to a sauce I made. mmmm. so tasty!
itsJUSTme-wendy - I don't know. I've never made cottage cheese and I don't much like it. This has a sweetness to it, not powerfully sweet, just a hint of it. You can use tofu instead, but tofu to me has very little taste, whereas paneer is very tasty.