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paneer (indian cheese)

In challenge on September 30, 2009 at 2:14 am

paneer is essentially indian cottage cheese. with a mild flavor and feta-like texture, it’s most commonly found in saag paneer, that tasty creamed spinach dish that is a menu staple at most indian restaurants.

picture stolen from sunset.com

picture of saag paneer stolen from sunset.com

after a recent night out for indian food, i decided i wanted to take on the challenge of making saag paneer, since it may be my favorite indian dish. after a little research, i realized that the easiest first step would be to make the paneer alone, so i decided to start there.

not to mention the fact that i’m a cheesaholic AND there are many other things you can do with paneer besides saag-it. and did i mention that it’s EASY?! imagine making cheese… at home… in less than 30 minutes! (okay, not exactly true. but you only have to do actual work for less than 30 minutes.)

first, line a strainer with several layers of cheesecloth (surprisingly available at my soviet safeway. “soviet” because of how disguising and barren the place is. if they have cheesecloth, so does your grocery store).

paneercheesecloth

paneerdrainingsetup

when you’re ready to begin, bring milk to a boil in a large pot (see notes below for details if you want to try the recipe. ignore them if you just like my pretty pictures).

paneerpre

this was an interesting experience for me because you’re usually not supposed to bring milk to a boil, so i didn’t know what to expect. let me enlighten you. boiling milk VERY QUICKLY foams, bubbles up and explodes out of the pot. i recommend using a much larger pot than you think you’ll need and having pot holders and a trivet ready – the moment to see your milk bubbling and starting to behave badly, whisk it off the burner to the trivet!

right away, add your acid (see note) and stir gently for about 5 minutes. this causes the milk to curdle which is usually a bad thing, but not when you’re making cheese.

paneercurdle

it looks nasty. bear with me.

after about 5 minutes, pour your curds and whey (yes, little miss muffet, that is what you just made) into the cheesecloth-line strainer and let it drain.

and drain

paneerdrain

and drain. getting rid of the water makes hard cheese!

the various recipes i was using mentioned that at this point, the whey (the liquid running off) should be almost clear. when i checked the bowl, it was not.

paneerwhey

so i added a little more vinegar, and sure enough, more curds came out.

they went into the strainer, too.

paneerdrained

once it looks like the whey is all drained, you can fold up the cheesecloth and squeeze even more out. some recipes suggested tying the cheesecloth in a tight knot, but i had a little trouble with that.

paneerknot

at this point you can start pressing the cheese. while it’s still in the cheesecloth and still knotted, start stacking heavy things on top. i did this first in the strainer, then moved to a cutting board. now is the time to shape the cheese if you want, i didn’t.

paneerpress1

paneerpress

(see it under there??!)

after the cheese has pressed for 2-3 hours, it’s ready to be unwrapped…

paneerdone

and enjoyed!

i snacked on it raw and added it to salads. it’s delicate milky flavor would also be delicious with some toasted nuts and a drizzle of honey. here, with chopped (seeded!) tomatoes and red pepper, drizzled with olive oil.

paneersalad

notes–

milk note: works best with whole milk, i’ve read, but if you’re really against that, go with 2%

milk quantity note: every recipe i found used slightly different proportions of milk to acid. i used about a litre of milk, which is a little more than half a half-gallon. i would have used the whole half gallon, but my pot wasn’t big enough!

acid note: you can use vinger, lemon juice, lime juice (apparently the most traditional) or citric acid. i used white vinegar. don’t worry, it doesn’t affect the flavor.

acid quantity note: again, every recipe suggested a different amount, but i used roughly two tablespoons if you count the second round. don’t be afraid to do the second round, as i did, if you need to.

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  1. You. are. amazing. It seriously makes my chickenpotpie look like child’s play! But I lurve that!

  2. i want to see your chicken pot pie! i love chicken pot pie! send, please! with pics!

  3. I love that you just featured paneer! hooray for indian food!

  4. Ugh! I totes left my camera somewhere in Western PA

  5. Love the food fashion photo from Sunset. Though I did get nervous thinking The Professor was going all Martha Stewart on us with the out of focus bits.

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