Paneer is a fresh curd cheese most commonly found in Indian, Nepalese, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi cuisine. You might found it hard to find in supermarket, but fortunately it is extremely easy to make. Basically, we obtain Paneer by curdling heated raw whole milk (from sheep, goats or cows) with any food acids (usually lemon juice or vinegar) to separate the curds from the whey. Then, the curds are drained, placed under a heavy weight to pressed out the excess liquid and cut into cubes to add into curries. Because of its plain taste, paneer cheese can me use in a large variety of recipes to add texture to preparations.
In addition to its easy-digestible particularity, Paneer has many health benefits: It is a rich source of calcium, it helps reducing weight, it provides the protein required by the body and reduces the development of Insulin Resistance Syndrome.
Now, to start making your own Paneer, you will need…
- 1 L of raw whole milk
- 3-4 tbsp of a food acid (lemon juice, lime juice or vinegar)
- 1 large deep heavy bottom sauce pan
- 2 large bowls
- 1 wooden spoon
- Pour the milk in the sauce pan and set the temperature to medium heat.
- Bring the temperature of the milk just bellow the boiling point (at around 80°C, or 176°F.)
- Add the food acid (vinegar, lemon or lime juice) in the milk, one teaspoon at a time, gently stirring the milk with the wooden spoon between each addition. Don’t try to rush it. Progressively, you will see the solid milk curds separating from the greenish watery whey.
- Allow everything to cool for couple of minutes, until it gets to a temperature that you can handle but still warm.
- Take one of the large bowl, put the strainer over it, and line double layers of the cheesecloth in the strainer. Strain the mixture in the strainer and cheesecloth to retain the solid milk curds and to allow the watery whey to flow into the large bowl.
- Set the bowl with the whey aside in the fridge for another use.
- Conserve the curds and rinse it with fresh water to remove the acid taste.
- Wrap the cheesecloth around the curds to squeeze out moisture. Squeeze tight for a firmer paneer, or lightly for a softer, fluffier texture.
- Shape the paneer tighly wrapped in cheesecloth into a block.
- Put an heavy weight (like the deep heavy bottom sauce pan for example) on the paneer block. This will be resulting in removing more moisture and obtaining a firmer block of paneer, making it easier to cook or cut into cubes. Its all depending on how you want to be using the paneer in your recipe. A longer pressure will give you a firmer cheese. If you need to fry it for a recipe, then you should let the pressure for at least 2 hours to get it firm. If you need to use it for stuffed paneer naans for exemple, then you will want a fluffier softer texture and a shorter pressure of only 20 minutes will be enough.
- When the wrapped paneer block has the desired firmness, conserve it in the cheesecloth and put it into your second large bowl filled with cold water for 2 more hours to improve the appearance and texture of your cheese.
- Finally, unwrap it, and use as directed in your recipe.
* I personally like to cut it into cubes and use it in curry or recipe like Palak paneer, Mattar paneer, Paneer tikka or Paneer tikka masala.
* Some recipes doesn’t required to pressure the curds. For the Indian dessert called Rasgulla, the curds will be rinsed in cold water for 30 minutes and then beaten or kneaded by hand into a dough-like consistency and shaped into mini balls. There is no need to pressure it under a weight here, as it will need to be more soft and malleable.