Paneer is the same for Indians as what mozzarella is for the Italians, the camembert is for the French and the Gouda is for the Dutch.
Paneer can be compared to cottage cheese and is made very simply in the traditional way by processing the curds of buffalo's milk. The result is a firm cheese, not dissimilar to the mozzarella, which does not melt - making it suitable for use in curries and other savoury dishes.
Indians love their paneer and it is widely used in Indian cuisine. You will often find it in some mouthwatering Indian dishes like the ever popular palak paneer, matter paneer (paneer with peas), paneer bhurji (grated paneer often served with vegetables), paneer tikka masala, (barbecued paneer) and many more.
In the Bengal region paneer is also known as chenna, where delicious tasting sweet dishes are made with this soft silky cheese. Rasgulla (balls of paneer in a sweet sauce, called chashni) and ras malai (flat, round paneer in a sweet creamy sauce) are probably “everyone’s darling” and among the most well known desserts made with paneer.
Making this type of cheese, which is rich in protein, at home is very easy. My advice would be, by making double amounts, as paneer freezes well, you will be able to enjoy quick paneer dishes in minutes.
Like this particular dish. A simple dish that took just about 15 minutes to prepare but offers the fullest satisfaction to fulfil my cravings for a quick Indian meal.
I had made a large amount of paneer and frozen it in batches. One lunch time I had my crazy cravings strike me and I was about to reach out to call our favourite Indian restaurant. Then I remembered I had all that lovely paneer in the freezer. I also found a few different varieties of onions in my pantry and a lot of red chillies. The rest I left to my creativity.
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2 l full cream dairy milk
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon/lime juice
Gently warm the milk over a medium flame. Just before it starts to boil, add the lemon/lime juice and stir well. The curd will separate from the whey in about 5-7 minutes.
The curd is the lumpy white mass, the whey is the yellow/greenish liquid. Once the curd has completely separated, drain off the whey, retaining the curd, using a strainer or a sieve lined with a white cotton/muslin cloth (cheesecloth). Run some cold water on the curd to cool it down.
Save the whey, as it has some nutritional value and can be used when preparing soups or lentils.
Remove any remaining whey from the curd by pressing it with the back of a spoon. Tie up the curd in the cheesecloth and hang up the bundle so it can drip for 2 to 3 hours. Placing a bowl underneath to catch the drips of whey is a good idea. At this stage,the curd can be referred to as 'paneer'.
Gently flatten the paneer, still wrapped up loosely in the cloth, to make a patty shape. Put it on a plate and put a heavy weight on it. Tilt the plate to one side, so that any whey which is squeezed out can drain off. Leave for four or five hours. Cut into cubes of desired size.
If you are using the paneer – or in this case, the chenna - to make sweet desserts, you do not need to flatten it. The chenna is ready to be used after the dripping stage.
Paneer, unlike other cheeses, has not been matured and is rather bland. If you keep it refrigerated it will last for 5 to 5 days. You can also freeze it for about a month - but once it has defrosted don't freeze it again.
My tip: Freeze the paneer in cubes and portioned into a plastic freezer bag.
Also check out Jai and Bee’s great Paneer making tips.
Spicy Paneer Do Piaza
100g paneer cubes
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon black cumin seeds
1 bunch of spring onions – green and white parts chopped
2 red onions – finely sliced
2 red chillies – slit sown the middle and then chopped
Bunch fresh coriander leaves - chopped
Salt and black pepper
In a wok, kadai or a shallow saucepan heat the oil. Add the cumin seeds and allow them to pop and release their aroma. Tip in the spring onions and red onions and stir fry until soft. Add the paneer cubes and allow to brown gently. The paneer should take on a light golden color.
Stir in the chillies and season with salt and black pepper. Sprinkle with the coriander leaves.
Serve hot, with fresh rotis or flat bread.
This was my quick lunch and I enjoyed every bite of it. Do not the simplicity of the ingredients or cooking method mislead you. This is and extremely flavourful dish. The sweetness of the onions harmonizes perfectly with the spicy chillies. The paneer gives it an incredible texture.
More Indian Cuisine on WFLH:
Mouthwatering Chicken Curry
Tasty Channa Masala
Comforting Egg & Mushroom Roll
Warming Masala Chai
I’d like to send this as my entry to this month’s Jihva being hosted by Nandita of Saffron Trail. Nandita has chosen the wonderful hot ingredient Chillies.
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