Paneer is a fresh, white cheese that you can eat right away. It is particularly straight-forward to make, its only ingredients being milk and lemon juice. It is traditionally made in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and is often added to curries. It makes a great protein addition to vegetarian curries, having the advantage that it doesn't melt when heated, instead providing velvety nuggets of goodness in a curry sauce. I particularly like it in a vegetarian tikka masala...
Last month Kim from our Living Better With Less Group turned up in my kitchen to show a bevy of interested potential cheesemakers how to make paneer.
We started with two litres of whole milk, poured it into a saucepan and brought it to just under a boil, then added 4 teaspoons of lemon juice (2 teaspoons per litre of milk). A litre is more or less the same as a quart for the US imperialists out there..
Take the milk off the heat and wait for the milk to curdle. It will take a few minutes. What you are looking for is curds like this. If they are a little smaller, don't worry. This was the biggest curd we could find in three large saucepans of milk! If there are not many curds forming, add more lemon juice.
Now pour your curds and whey mixture through a colander or strainer lined with muslin set inside a large pot. And really, only muslin will do for this job. We also tried cheesecloth and a tea towel, but the weave on both was too fine, so we had to use the loose-weave muslin for all our batches of cheese.
The liquid that strains through the muslin is the whey, and it is useful to keep that for baking, preserving your paneer, or feeding to the dog to make his coat shiny.
Now make a Christmas pudding style bag with the cheese in the muslin, and squeeze out excess whey. My official photographer did not get a photo of this step, but I am sure you can imagine it. Pop the muslin bag in a small bowl or pot and pop a heavy object on top to squeeze out even more liquid. After half an hour or so, unwrap your Christmas pudding cheese parcel, and you will have a small but delicious amount of home made cheese!
You will feel very proud of yourself! You can eat it in a couple of days (store it covered in the fridge) or if you want to keep it for longer, up to a couple of weeks, add a little salt to the whey to make a brine, and cover the cheese with it, and refrigerate it. The cheese will be firmer after a couple of days in the fridge.
And here is an idea I have had - you know you see marked down milk at the shops that is near its use-by date? I have never been able to think what to do with that other than make large amounts of custard (not an unworthy scheme, of course), but now I can buy it up and make it into cheese. Hurrah! Waste not the unwanted milk at the back of the dairy case. Equally, the milk at the back of the fridge that may be about to go off..
Thanks Kim, and all the hilarious bunch of wonderful people that make Living Better With Less a joyous way to live xx