Paneer is a soft fresh Indian cottage cheese which can be easily made using milk & acid together. It's quite popular in Indian cuisine, specifically in North India due to the fact that its a healthy & delicious vegetarian menu. Some of the popular dishes range from Paneer Tikka, Paneer Pakora's (Fritters), Paneer Butter Masala, Palak Paneer & Aalo Matar Paneer (Peas and Potatoes with Paneer). In fact, I think its a much vegetarian alternative to tofu since not only is it easy to make but is delicious eaten on its own as well, or grilled or fried.
Furthermore, for a bit of extra flavor, flavored paneer can also be made by adding spices or herbs. For example, the first time I made Paneer was basic plain flavored paneer and the next time I added fresh coriander (dhaniya) & some crushed red chilli flakes to give it just a little bit of kick. I was always a big fan of Paneer, but ever since I tried making it at home, there's definitely going to be no store-bought Paneer for me.
|Flavored Chilli & Coriander Paneer|
Yields approx. 200-225 grams of Paneer from 1 litre milk
1 litre full-cream milk; its necessary to make sure that the milk is fresh - tetra-pak milk
Acid Ingredient - One of the following
2 tsp lemon juice or 2 tsp fresh yoghurt or 2 tsp vinegar
Flavorings (Optional) - Finely chopped fresh coriander, red chilli flakes, black pepper, salt etc
Muslin Cloth/Cheesecloth - Muslin cloth is basically 'malmal' in Urdu - so any clean & washed old Dupatta or fabric lying around can be used
Heavy Weight - A Mortar is good for pressing down the Paneer or desi Sil-Batta.
Note: It is not necessary to add flavorings in the Paneer, but since I had taken pictures of this version, this is what I posted. I think it makes the procedure much more simpler when explaining with pictures.
1 - Pour the 1 litre milk in a medium sized pan and put to boil.
2 - Line a sieve with muslin cloth/cheese cloth & put it over a big bowl.
3 - Make sure that you keep standing next to the stove, since the milk can boil over anytime.
4 - Once small bubbles start appearing at the edge of the pot and the milk is about to start boiling, add flavorings if using. For example, in this recipe, I used 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp crushed red chilli flakes, & 1 tsp of fresh corriander leaves.
|Light Boil - Added the spices & herbs|
|Time to add the the acid when the milk starts boiling|
5 - Once the milk starts boiling, turn the heat to low to make sure it doesn't boil over. Add the acid ingredient (lemon juice) and keep stirring. The milk should curdle/separate as soon as the lemon juice has been added. Stir continously until the milk is completely curdled and the water (whey) turns yellow-green in color. In case the milk does not curdle then add a few more drops of lemon juice till the milk has curdled and the water turns yellow-green.
|Curdled Milk with White Curds Separated & Greenish Yellow Liquid Remaining|
6 - Remove from heat.
7 - Pour the mixture into the sieve lined with a muslin cloth.
8 - Drain the whey/yellow liquid.
9 - Tie up the cheesecloth/muslin in a tight bundle and hang it for about 15-20 minutes so that the moisture is drained. Alternatively, you can just lift it up, close the muslin cloth & squeeze the moisture as much as possible.
|Paneer with the whey drained|
10 - Then place the cheesecloth on a flat surface and place a weight on it so that the cheese gets flatter and any additional moisture is drained. Keep it for about 30 minutes.
11 - Once the paneer is set, it can be cut into cubes of any shape to be used.
|Set Paneer ready to cut into cubes|
12 - Keep the Paneer in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
13 - It will stay fresh for 3-4 days.
14 - Use the Paneer to make Palak Paneer, grill it for sandwiches or use to make gravies.
1 - Use good quality fresh milk. I used Buffalo milk for the first time which yielded a slightly creamier & white colored Paneer.
2 - Either yoghurt, lemon juice or vinegar can be used to curdle the milk. If yoghurt is used, then it should be fresh. Its best to add 1 tsp at a time to see when the milk curdles. If the milk has not curdled, then another tsp needs to be used. The milk will completely curdle when the water turns a light green/yellow color.
3 - Remove immediately & drain once the milk has curdled otherwise if the milk is overcooked, it will lead to a hard Paneer.
4 - Once you get the hang of making Paneer, keep experimenting with flavors and try them out in different recipes.
5 - The leftover liquid/whey can be used for making roti's (making the dough) or added to veggies/gravies or used to water plants.