Basic How To’s: Series II~ Paneer and Matar Paneer

Basic How To: Paneer

Paneer is fresh Indian cheese, easy to prepare but the only drawback is that it takes a lot of milk to prepare a little paneer. It perhaps the only kind of cheese most commonly eaten in India with a sweet smell, kind of rubbery with a mild flavor and the best form of protein source for vegetarians in their diet next to Soya protein(TSP_TVP). It is a block of condensed milk solids made my curdling milk (low fat or high fat) with acid, then strained with a muslim cloth and left to set under a weight until it is set into a block of white smooth textured cheese.

The first time I tasted Paneer was when I was in my teens during my school days. At the lunch break, I and my class mates would sit under the trees for shade in fresh air in the school playground with napkins spread on our laps and share our tiffin boxes passing about a spoonful of what each one of us had brought that day until we all had a sample of everyone else’s to taste. Soft, spongy and meaty. I immediately fell in love with it. There are always memories associated with food. Since then, I love to add paneer in my food.

Vacuum-packed paneer is available ready made, either frozen or fresh, at most of the Indian stores. I love to prepare my own Paneer whenever possible as I find it more soft, fresh and delectable. The procedure is effortless. You can later cut it into cubes and store them either frozen if you plan to use it after a while or refrigerate it in a plastic wrap to use it the next day.

Basic How To’s: Series II ~ Homemade Paneer – Indian (Unaged) Cheese

Ingredients:

Milk (low fat or full fat) – 2 litres
Buttermilk – 4 cups

Homemade block of Paneer – Indian (Unaged) Cheese

Method:

1. Line a sieve with a moistened muslin cloth and put it over a large pot.
2. Bring milk in a saucepan to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.
3. Add the buttermilk, and lower the heat. Keep stirring the milk for a few minutes until you see the milk has curdled completely.
4. Carefully strain the curdled milk through the sieve lined with the muslin cloth. Let the whey collect in the bottom saucepan. The whey is highly nutritious. Store it to use later on in other curries instead of water (at this stage if you wish, you can experiment and add a few flavors that you like to the curds in the muslin cloth, like dried herbs, etc. Mix the dried herbs well with the curds and continue). Later, lift the edges of the cloth and tie the corners of the cloth into a bag completely enclosing the curds.
5. Remove the sieve from saucepan and place it in the sink. Place the bag of curds back in the sieve. Set aside under a heavy weight for about 3-4 hours to press to a flat shape about 2 cm thick. Later, transfer the Paneer block to a zip-lock packet and store refrigerated. Use within a week.

Tip: Paneer can also be made from failed yogurt.

This post is my contribution to the event Back to Basics originally stated by Jaya, and currently being hosted by Aqua at Served with Love.

The following is a curry I prepare quite often using paneer and frozen peas. The rich and subtle spicing in this curry is worth trying out. You will all love this gluttingly delicious side dish.

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Matar Paneer – Indian Cheese and Peas curry

Ingredients:

Home-Made Soft Paneer/Cottage Cheese – 200 gms, cut into bite sized cubes
Fresh or Frozen Peas/Matar – 2 cups
Dry Roasted Coriander powder – 1 tbsp
Dry Roasted Cumin seed powder – 1 tbsp
Onion – 1, large, finely chopped
Tomato paste – 6 tbsp
Salt – to taste
Red Chilli powder – 2 tsp
Canola Oil – 2 tbsp

Matar Paneer – Indian Cheese and Peas curry

Method:

1. Pour oil into a large frying fan with lid on medium heat, and as soon as it warms up add the chopped onion. Stir fry it till lightly browned, then add the tomato paste, coriander and cumin seed powder and mix well. Let cook for 5-8 minutes.
2. Add the cubed paneer, red chilli powder, salt, half cup water and gently mix. Close the lid and let it cook for about 10 minutes. Add peas and gently fold them in. Cover the lid and let cook for a minute more. Serve warm.

Suggested Accompaniments: Serve it warm along with freshly prepared Rotis.

Luv,
Mona