Hello, so you’ve never had paneer before? That’s a shame. This creamy, mild cheese, ubiquitous to northern Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi cooking is a staple in our household. You can blame Mr Meow for that, he is addicted to the stuff.
Because it requires no fermentation, rennet or culture, it is super easy to make. Its mild taste allows for paneer to be used in both savoury and sweet dishes because it lets all other strong flavours shine without being bland itself.
Here is how you can make it in 30 minutes flat.
Important: Please do not try to make this with low fat milk or ultra-heat treated (aka long-life) milk – it simply won’t work. My favourite is Paul’s Farmhouse Gold which has a delectable creamy and wholesome taste.
Equipment wise, you will need a large stock pot (min. 4L capacity) and a muslin cloth (about 1m x 1m). I use a $2.80 dumpling steamer cloth from Daiso.
Paneer – yields approximately 400g
This recipe is Banting and vegetarian friendly.
You will need
- 3 litres whole, fresh full fat milk (NOT UHT/ long life milk)
- ¼ cup lime juice*
*approximate quantity – you may need a little more depending on the acidity of the limes.
- Pour the milk into a large stockpot and bring ALMOST to a boil. Make sure you stir it from time to time to ensure it does not catch.
- In the interim, place the muslin cloth over a large colander and stand over the sink.
- Just before the milk boils, turn down the heat to a minimum and stir in the lime juice.
- Almost immediately, the milk will curdle and separate into curds and whey. Keep stirring to ensure all the milk splits so you have creamy white lumps and a clear, pale yellow whey. Add more lime juice if the milk does not split fully.
- Remove from heat immediately once all the milk has split and tip the contents of the stockpot into the prepared muslin + colander set up.
Be careful, it will be very hot.
- Most of the whey will run off and you will be left with a mass of white solids resembling cottage cheese.
- Taking care not to burn your hands, gather the corners of the muslin cloth and bring together ensuring any curds sticking to the sides fall back into the centre.
- Twist the loose muslin so that you have a gathered ‘bag’ but don’t deliberately squeeze out any liquid. That will just make a mess.
- Remove the curd bundle from the colander and place on a wooden board over the sink (or in a spot that will allow the run off to drain without making a mess on your kitchen bench).
- Fill the stockpot with water and place over the bundle as a weight. If you have a heavy mortar, you can use this instead. Essentially, the paneer needs a weight on it to help the whey drain.
- Set aside for 20 minutes, then unwrap and refrigerate in an airtight container until needed. You don’t want it to dry out (gross).
I like to cut the block into bite-sized cubes for my cooking. Don’t worry about shape too much as long as it holds together. Embrace the rustic.
And remember to swat away stray hands!
Paneer is beautiful and versatile. You may have seen it as paneer saag, or palak paneer (spinach and paneer curry), butter paneer and matar paneer (paneer with peas) on dub-continental restaurant menus. Popular indian sweets such as gulab jamon and ras malai have paneer as their base.
You can add cubed paneer into curries in the last stages of cooking either as is or fried. I like to sometimes marinate it in tandoori paste and grill it on the barbie.
Sometimes, I make paneer bhurji which is like an egg scramble (sans the eggs of course) with crumbled paneer stirred into cooked finely chopped red onion, garlic, tomato, coriander leaves/ cilantro, plenty of butter, turmeric, salt and pepper. Paneer doesn’t melt so it has a great texture in bhurji.
Write in and let me know if you would like some paneer recipes. Meanwhile, please give paneer making a go and enjoy its wonderful taste with incredibly little effort.