Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Recipe: Paneer Cheese
I love Indian cuisine and one of my favorite Indian dishes is mattar paneer, which consists of green peas and cubes of paneer cheese in a spicy sauce. The first time I had mattar paneer was in March 2008 while on a work-related trip to Cincinnati. I was looking for a vegetarian restaurant and found Akash India in the downtown area near my hotel. While not exclusively vegetarian, Akash India offers a very good selection of meatless dishes at reasonable prices.
Since returning from Cincinnati, I have been wanting to make mattar paneer at home. Much to my surprise, the large pan-Asian supermarket where I shop for ethnic foods - Super H Market - does not stock paneer cheese. Recently, though, MOM's, a small organic grocery store down the street from my house, began selling small blocks of paneer cheese for $5.99.
I've been told by my friends who are of Indian descent that making paneer cheese is easy: just whole milk and some vinegar or lemon juice. So rather than spend $5.99 for paneer cheese at MOM's, I bought a 1/2 gallon of whole milk and a handful of lemons, did some additional research on the internet on making paneer cheese, and then gave it a shot. I'm quite pleased with the result!
1/2 gallon (8 cups) whole milk
3 tablespoons lemon juice (strained of pulp and seeds)
Slowly bring the whole milk to a boil in a large pot, about 15 minutes. Once the milk starts to boil, add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. The milk will start to curdle (if not, add 1 more tablespoon of lemon juice) and the curds will start to separate from the liquid whey. When the separation is complete, strain the milk in a colander lined with cheese cloth.
Rinse the curds carefully under cold tap water to remove any lemon juice. Gather up the edges of the cheese cloth and being twisting the ball of cheese to squeeze out any excess liquid. Because the dish I'll be making tonight calls for the paneer cheese to be cut into small cubes, I've flattened the ball of cheese slightly with my palm while it was still wrapped in the cheesecloth. This will make cutting these cubes easier. Place the wrapped cheese in the refrigerator for a few hours to harden. It's really that simple. Wish me luck on making the mattar paneer tonight!