Paneer is an Indian cottage cheese which is rich in protein. It's a component of some mouthwatering Indian dishes such as paneer pasanda (a white gravy dish), palak paneer (paneer with spinach), paneer biryaani (paneer with rice), mater paneer (paneer with peas), paneer tikka masala (a barbecue dish), paneer bhurji (grated paneer with vegetables) and many more.
Paneer is also known as Chhena in Bengal, where you get some delicious sweet dishes made with paneer-like rasgulla or rashogulla (balls of paneer in a sweet sauce, called chashni) and ras malai (flat, round paneer in a sweet creamy sauce), amongst others.
For 8oz (150g) of paneer, you will need:
- 2 pints (1 litre) full cream dairy milk1
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) lemon juice
Gently warm the milk over a medium flame. As soon as it starts to boil, add the lemon juice and stir well. The curd will separate from the whey in about five-seven minutes - the curd is the lumpy white mass, the whey is the yellow/greenish liquid. Once the curd has completely separated, drain off the whey, retaining the curd, using a strainer, sieve or cheesecloth. Run some cold water on the curd to cool it down. You may wish to save the whey, as it has some nutritional value and can be used in cooking.
Remove any remaining whey from the curd by pressing it with the back of a spoon. Using a clean white cotton/muslin cloth (cheesecloth) instead of a sieve is a good idea - if you use cheesecloth instead of a sieve, this pressing of the curd to remove the whey is not required. Tie up the curd in the cheesecloth and hang up the bundle so it can drip for five-six hours. You may want to place a bowl underneath to catch the drips of whey. At this stage we can now refer to the curd as 'paneer'.
Gently flatten the paneer, still wrapped up loosely in the cloth, to make a patty shape. Put it on a plate and put a heavy weight on it. Tilt the plate to one side, so that any whey which is squeezed out can drain off. Leave for four or five hours. Cut into cubes of desired size.
Paneer, unlike other cheeses, has not been matured and it is rather bland. If you keep it refrigerated it will last for five to seven days. You can also freeze it for about a month - but once it has defrosted don't freeze it again.