The Dabble

-food with a side of life-

My First Time…Making Indian Paneer Cheese

Whoa, it’s sunny out there but I don’t dare let it fool me because I see on my temp gadget that it’s -8. Trickery, I want no part of your tomfoolery, weather! I have no intentions of leaving the apartment today. I’m still not feeling well but I could be worse.

Greg is at the other location for work, putting his new booth design to the test, I believe. I’m so proud of him-he’s been quite busy and on fire with ideas about how to improve the quality and speed of their designs (which many are his new designs). He will be passing through town before heading, over an hour away, back to the “normal” location. That means that he will get to have lunch with me-nothing exciting though…we are almost out of food and he’ll have to settle for a sandwich. I don’t know, maybe we could go out but it would need to be fast. I know he will be anxious to get back to work and pass on/improve the newly gathered info.

Not going to hide it, I hope this amounts to a raise. Let me put it this way: the man dreams about programming routers, dust collection mechanisms and other work-related issues on top of his 45 to 50 hour work week (not including some part of the weekend sketching or writing up new ideas).

I mentioned earlier this week that I made my first batch of paneer cheese (an unaged, soft Indian cheese, similar to cottage/ricotta but most of the moisture is pressed out, leaving a crumbly texture). Often the main attraction, as I see it, in dishes like saag paneer with spinach, mutter, matar or mattar paneer that includes peas, butter paneer in a creamy, rich curry and more.

Since this cheese doesn’t melt, you can easily caramelize it by frying, which is my chosen method (with a little butter and salt sprinkled over the top-even though it’s not supposed to have salt). I fell in love, mistaking it for tofu, when my parent’s came to visit last fall. I crave this and like to use it in place of meat. I’ve been saying for some time how I was going to make it myself after hearing how easy it is to do.

I wouldn’t say it was easy, it might have been not as aggravating had the recipe I followed had more instruction and if it had told me the amount I would produce would be a very small portion, I would’ve doubled it. For instance, it said to bring the milk to a boil which takes quite a bit of time if you do not want to burn the bottom with a horribly un-even heated pot and it didn’t stress the importance of squeezing out the liquid until you’re blue in the face or your cheese will turn out very crumbly and packing it together to fry it will be necessary. Be sure you have an hour to do this right. I would recommend doubling or even tripling this recipe so that you don’t feel as if you’ve wasted time in the end.

I found this “how to” through another website, thought it to be authentic and went for it. To be fair, this recipe was the same one that I’d come across on several websites. They started with the same 2 ingredients: whole milk and lemon juice. Just a heads up for anyone expecting the same flavor as that from a restaurant: be prepared for disappointment. I don’t know if it was me or if I should just buy it from now on at a specialty store but I was left, after quite some time, with an “ehh” reaction and as I said above, a rather small portion. I don’t know how it’s prepared at Kurry Kabab but they have no worries about losing my patronage when it comes to paneer. I will try this again and see if I have the same reaction. I still think it’s worth a try though. Perhaps you could add it to these recipes: butter paneer from Big Sri’s food, muttar paneer from An Edible Symphony and saag paneer from Tyler Florence. Again, it’s great fried in a small amount of oil with a tiny amount of butter (and a pinch of salt) over medium/low heat until each side is golden brown.

Caramelized Indian Paneer Cheese
Caramelized Indian Paneer Cheese

Paneer (Indian cheese)
Makes less than a cup (I would double or triple this for more than 2 people)

½ gallon whole milk
2 tbsp lemon juice (I would use fresh)

In a heavy pot, bring milk to a very very very slow boil (or the bottom will burn and you will have a horrible start), stirring constantly. When it comes to a boil, keep watch that it doesn’t bubble and boil over (and it will if left unattended), remove from the heat and add the lemon juice. Stir until the curds start to separate from the whey, a few minutes. Cover and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes, until large curds form. Pour into a cheesecloth lined colander and when cool enough to handle, squeeze out the remaining liquid. Do this part well-really try to get as much liquid out as possible.

Place the paneer, covered with the cheesecloth, on a plate and top with another plate to flatten the cheese to ½ inch thick. You will need to weigh the plate down. Let sit for 20 minutes or until firm enough to cut without it falling apart (may be longer than 20 minutes). Pour any remaining liquid off and refrigerate, eat immediately or fry it in a small amount of oil and butter (maybe a pinch of salt) over medium/low heat, turning on each side until golden brown.

9 thoughts on “My First Time…Making Indian Paneer Cheese

  1. That looks really nice. I’ve made cheese at home before, but not Paneer. I always really like it when we visit our favorite authentic Indian restaurant back home. I am bookmarking this.

  2. Delighted to find your blog by way of Slashfood. The photo of your Paneer is what caught my eye — I love making Indian food at home and you’ve made me anxious to try this. I’m now following you on Twitter and adding you to my faves list on my blog. Looking forward to seeing and hearing more from you!

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