Sunday, April 3, 2011

Yes! Paneer!

    Family visiting is always good motivation to try something that you've been meaning to try. My sister was up this weekend and was pursuing an Indian cookbook (1,000 Indian Recipes) I had out for Mother's Day planning. She came  across the paneer recipe and we reached the conclusion that it would be easy, so we tried it out. Usually when I make these sorts of conclusions I end up being desperately wrong, but this time it actually was really easy! Today for lunch we had Saag (well, some spinach and mostly chard) Paneer with cardamom and cinnamon served over rice. It was heavenly and I am gutted that there isn't any of it leftover.

    The cheese was basically just... cottage cheese pressed into a block. Last night it was very soft, but after sitting in the fridge until lunchtime today it firmed up quite a bit, creating a really nice, firm, chewy texture. It was even easier than I suspected at the outset. Considering the fact that there isn't an Indian market close at hand (as in, closest one is an hour away), this is an encouraging success!

Paneer Cheese (taken from 1,000 Indian Recipes by Neelam Batra)
makes about 8 oz

1/2 gallon milk (non-fat will not work)
souring agent, 2 c plain yogurt, any kind, whisked until smooth, or 1/4 c lemon juice, or a mixture of both
1 piece fine muslin or 4 layers cheesecloth

    1. Place milk in large, heavy saucepan. Bring almost to a boil over high heat while stirring gently. Right before the milk begins to boil (when the first bubbles begin to form) mix in the souring agent and continue to stir until the milk curdles and separates into curds and whey, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat.
    2. Drape muslin or cheesecloth over large pan and pour curdled milk into it.

    3. With the curds inside the cloth, pick it up and tie the ends of the cloth around the kitchen faucet to drain for another 3-5 minutes. (Place a bowl underneath if you wish to save the whey.)
    4. Remove from faucet and tie the cloth snugly around the cheese, then place the cheese between two plates (with the twisted cloth edges placed to one side, out of the way). Place a pan full of water or some other weight on top of the plates to allow the cheese to drain further, 10-12 minutes. Do this close to the sink or in a pan, since it can get messy.
    5. Remove the pan, unwrap the cheese and cut into blocks. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days or freeze up to 4 months.
    Now it's just a matter of figuring out what to do with all that whey!

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