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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Back to basics: Making homemade paneer



What is the best thing that you can make with just two basic ingredients? My humble opinion is the delicious and versatile - PANEER!

Paneer is Indian cottage cheese that is used to make a variety of dishes. If anyone asked me what my favourite appetizer/starter in the world was then without batting an eyelid, I would say paneer tikka. I love this dish so much that I can keep eating it until my stomach sends signals of distress to my brain to stop! And my infatuation with paneer doesn't just end with tikka, I love any form of paneer for that matter.

In India, fresh paneer is always readily available. Unfortunately, the same luxury is not always available for those of us living abroad. Fresh paneer is available in Singapore but it isn't something that I can just run to the nearest grocery store and get whenever my heart desires it. I figured that if I had a sudden impulse to make a paneer dish especially one that favors fresh paneer over the frozen variety (as in paneer tikka/paratha/bhurji), then I would have to learn to make it myself. 

Here is the recipe for homemade paneer. The resulting paneer was soft, spongy and firm. It is a really simple procedure and the end product is worth the extra effort.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Idle Time: 2-3 hours (to firm up)
Makes: 12-15 medium sized cubes of paneer
Shelf life: Up to a week in the fridge

Ingredients:

1.5 liters whole milk
3-5 tbsp lime juice

Method:

Stuff you will need:


1. Take a large pot and heat milk in it.
2. When the milk is gently boiling, reduce the flame and add the lime juice slowly. I would advise starting with 3 tbsp first and adding more later if required. Once the lime juice is added, you will see that the milk starts to curdle and there is a yellowish-green clear whey. I needed about 5 tbsp lime juice for the milk to curdle and whey to appear. Turn off the heat and leave for 2 mins. 
3. Place a large muslin or cheese cloth over a sieve and filter the whey from the curdled milk. You can collect the whey if you want to use it for making rotis/gravies (but keep in mind that it contains traces of lime juice). 
4. Wash the curdled milk in running cold water to help remove any tartness from the lime juice. Bundle up the muslin cloth, secure it and hang it above your sink. Leave it for 30 minutes.
5. After 30 minutes, squeeze the extra water using your hand. What you see will look like pic 4. 



6. Place this on a flat surface/plate and put a reasonably heavy weight on it. I used my cutting board and on top of it, I kept my heavy marble mortar and pestle. 
7. Keep it aside for 2-3 hours. Be aware that the duration may vary based one the weight you used on the paneer. Heavier weight quickens the paneer preparation. I would advise you to check the firmness at random intervals. 
8. After it has firmed up, pop the paneer slab in the fridge for a while and then cut the paneer into cubes of desired shape using a sharp knife.
9. Use immediately or store it in a zip lock bag or in a container and refrigerate it until further use.

Paneer acts as a wonderful canvas for other flavors so you could use it to make starters, salads, sandwiches, pizza, wraps, parathas, gravies or even desserts. 

Notes:
  • Make sure the milk is not vigorously boiling when you add the lime juice.
  • You can also use sour beaten curd or vinegar instead of lime juice to curdle the milk....whatever works best for you! 
  • If you are making dishes like paneer tikka, make sure that the paneer firms up nicely otherwise it may tend to crumble when you skewer it

3 comments:

  1. I was thinking of making paneer too... will do it sometime soon... Thanks for the tips!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Where can one buy fresh paneer in Singapore?

    ReplyDelete

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