If there's one thing my kindergartner loves, it's paneer. She likes it for dinner and in her lunch at school. It has a subtle buttery taste and goes with many different Indian dishes as well as being nice to eat on its own.
I first made this soft Indian cheese while my husband was away in southern India on business a few years ago. I thought it would be fun to make dinner for the kids with the same foods that Daddy was eating in India as a way for them to connect with him while he was gone. I hoped that they would be open to trying something different, and as it turned out, they all really liked it. The runaway favorite since that was dinner has been paneer.
Here's last night's dinner. Tandoori chicken, basmati rice and palaak paneer (spinach with paneer):
The recipes and steps for the tandoori chicken and the palaak paneer will follow in the next few days, but today let's start with just the paneer. It's the simplest recipe to remember. It's just a gallon of whole milk and a quart of buttermilk! You will also need cheesecloth:
First pour the milk into a big pot and start it heating. Open the buttermilk and have it on standby to pour into the milk once it has gotten hot and almost boiling:
Meanwhile prepare the cheesecloth. Cut a generous length of it:
You need enough cheesecloth to drape over a colander like this:
Put the colander into the kitchen sink and then it should be time to add the buttermilk to the pot. Stir over medium heat until the liquid has separated and you can see curds:
Pour the contents of the pot into the waiting colander, but go slow at first to be sure the cheesecloth doesn't fold down over itself.
If you lift the edges of the cheesecloth it will help the liquid to leave a little faster:
Gather up the edges of the cheesecloth and tie it up. This next part is my favorite. Tie the bundle onto the kitchen faucet and let it continue to drain for about 30 minutes. I think I like this step because seeing the homemade cheese tied up there gives me a sense of accomplishment at making something so tasty and new out of an ordinary gallon of milk. It's hard to explain.
Next untie the paneer and unwrap it:
It needs to go into a container that will shape it into a brick that you can later cut. I like this container with a lock-on lid:
In goes the cheese...
On goes the lid...
Put it in the fridge for a few hours at least, if not overnight, and then it's ready to slice up. Eat it as-is, or fry it a bit.
Up next will be the palaak recipe. Have a great day!