Thursday, January 29, 2015

Home-Made Paneer/Indian Cottage Cheese

Paneer is a healthy source of calcium and proteins though it’s a bit rich, it can be in your diet once in a while and of course should be included if you are a vegetarian and that gives a reason for me to cook paneer often.. ok,, very often!! But honestly I m not that into homemade paneer not that I m a rookie relying on store bought packets all the way, or who doesn’t approve of the more luscious, soft and way more hygienic paneer made at home.
But simply because I m lazy and the idea of being pushed to cook something  out of my favorite ingredient without the mood to cook, just so it would get expired soon is not the best thing for me to do in my kitchen. Its just my way!!! Or on the contrary when something sparks and when I have that urge to get my hands on the paneer immediately I seriously can’t resist the urge and sit for hours to get the paneer set. Yeah! If I want something now its NOW!! PERIOD!!! But having grown up with a OCD for cleanliness father and a mothers who slogs all day to get everything done from scratch, I do know how things are done but its just that I don’t want to complicate situations because once you get into this habit of MAKING FROM SCRATCH, let alone your own conscience the lovely buggers surrounding you wouldn’t be satisfied with store bought stuff ever after. So I do everything in moderation: homemade and store bought. But nothing thatz junk enters my house often. I keep an eye on that. Having said that I know how things are done I do know how to make paneer as my Amma makes them; for that matter she makes buttermilk, curd, butter, ghee, chenna, paneer pretty much all the by-products of milk/dairy that can be home made! (I think all Indian mothers does that!). One step ahead, I know how to make masala paneer which is no big deal (but I show off!) and I ll be posting that in a while. But homemade paneer sure has an in depth flavor that goes missing in store bought stuffs and for sure addictive especially if you are anything like me who eats paneer raw, they may disappear in minutes, leaving no traces that they have been made, without finding their way into gravies or curries just straight down to your tummy. I warn foodies out there, if you make paneer and you want to taste you can’t stop with one piece you ll be wanting to go back for that new flavor which you haven’t ever experienced in store- bought paneer.
Milk-1/2 litre
Curd-3-4 tbsp
Lemon juice/Vinegar-1 &1/2 tbsp
How It Happened:
1. Boil the milk and when the milk starts to rise, simmer the flame and let it gently boil for 2 minutes.
2. Now add in a tbsp of curd and keep stirring with a metal spoon. The milk will slightly curdle. You can see the milk solids while stirring.
3. Add in another tbsp of curd and keep stirring. The milk will start splitting more.
4. Add in another tbsp and when the greenish whey completely separates forming lumps of milk solids switch off the flame.

5. Line a pan with a cheese cloth/any clean cotton cloth. Pour the curdled milk through the cheese cloth collecting the milk solids on the cloth and the whey in the pan.
6. Tie the cheesecloth tightly and hang it for 30 minutes to 1 hour so that all the whey drips out. I gently squeezed it twice in between.
7. Now place the cheese bundle on a flat surface and place some weight over it and let it set for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
8. Remove the cheese cloth, cut the paneer into desired size, pack it in a zip lock cover/airtight container and store it in freezer/refrigerator.
9. Thaw it before using in gravies by soaking in hot water for 15 minutes or microwave it for 1 or 2 minutes. It has a shelf-life of 5 days to 1 week.
* The milk can be split using lime juice too. While using acids directly it requires less amount of the acid to curdle the milk so use accordingly. If using lemon juice after straining the milk solids through cheese cloth wash it through running water to remove the lemon flavor.
* Add in the curd/lime juice little by little at intervals and stop adding when the milk has curdled completely. Keep stirring to improve the process.
* Use whey in making rotis, soups or even water your plants. They are rich in proteins and you can use them in making desserts too.
* Do not squeeze hard else the paneer will become crumbly.
* Before placing weight/setting the paneer you can knead them for a couple to make them soft and prevent from crumbling. But then it needs a little more setting time.
* I placed my wooden cutting board topped with my wooden mortar and pestle. Do not place too much weight for too long as this may turn the paneer crumbly.
* 1/2 a litre of milk yields somewhere around 150-170 gms of paneer. First timers will be taken aback by the mean little quantity. But don't worry! its not your mistake. Thatz what it is. For best results use full cream/even double cream milk. Also using curd to split the milk yield a tiny bit more in quantity when compared to using lemon juice/vinegar.
* Cutting the paneer and storing them helps to easily thaw while using in gravies as paneer blocks take a long time to thaw.

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