Many think of cheese and it’s melty, yellow, aged quality, what about cheese that doesn’t melt and isn’t aged?
Paneer, an Indian traditional white cheese, doesn’t require ageing or culturing and is super easy to make at home.
This crumbly cheese is an all-time favourite ingredient in many dishes.
Paneer is an important food in south Asian countries, which is unsurprising considering milk is a prominent part of the cuisine. It’s also vegetarian, which suits the meat-free diet of many in India, making paneer a very popular ingredient for curries.
Paneer’s mild, milky flavour and dense, crumbly texture goes well with spicy flavours used in many classic Indian dishes. Because it won’t melt like other cheeses, chunks of it can be stirred into soups or curries. It’s also great in kebabs and is lovely when crumbled over flatbreads or into a sandwich.
You can buy paneer at many stores these days, but homemade paneer tastes far better. All you need is a pot, a sieve and muslin cloth.
How to make paneer at home
It’s important that whole milk is used for making paneer, as any other milk won’t have enough fat to actually separate into the curds, which make up the cheese, and whey.
- Pour milk into a pan and bring it to a boil.
- Reduce the heat and slowly add the lemon juice to it, stirring the whole time. It should start to curdle straight away.
- Remove it from the heat and leave it to stand for 10 minutes to give the acid time to completely separate the curds and whey.
- Line a sieve with a large piece of muslin and place it over a bowl. Carefully pour the mixture into the sieve to collect the curds in the muslin.
- Place it under cold running water to get rid of any left over whey. Gather the muslin in your hand and squeeze out the excess liquid.
- Leave the muslin in the sieve and press the bundle by putting some weight on it. Alternatively place a plate on it and put a couple of tins on top. Leave it like this for at least 15 minutes.
- Then place the muslin bundle in the fridge to set for an hour or so.
How to use paneer
You can use paneer in the filling of your samosas, to give a soft texture to the mix. It’s as simple as chopping fresh paneer into little cubes and adding to the cooked onions and other vegetables.
Paneer also goes really well with a potato and cauliflower curry. Tear the paneer roughly into small pieces and once the potatoes and cauliflower are cooked, throw it in and mix well. It absorbs all the flavours of the curry, and the texture pairs beautifully with the cauliflower.
Paneer also stands out for making a great vegetarian tikka masala. The sweet onions and sour tomatoes are a perfect match for the soft, milky flavour. It’s super-simple: once the sauce has been cooked, just add chopped paneer to it.
There are many more dishes in which paneer can be used. Go on and experiment with some of your favourite curries, on the braai or in your salads.
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