Thursday, 25 February 2010

Further Adventures in Cheese - Paneer!

Paneer is a fresh, simple cheese that can be made in any kitchen.
You start off much like homemade ricotta or queso blanco or farmer's cheese, adding an acid to a tempered pot of milk and straining - only with paneer the resulting curds are weighted and pressed until as much of the liquid as possible is drained from the cheese. It is then able to be pan-fried and added to delicious dishes, many of the classics involving greens. Perhaps the most famous in Western restaurants is Palak Paneer - sautéed spinach with paneer and glorious Indian spices.

Cumin Paneer
200 Easy Homemade Cheese Recipes
This is a little more crumbly than store bought, but delicious! I like this one as it has cumin and salt for a more flavourful cheese. I think I might add even more salt next time and maybe some nigella seeds.

4 quarts whole milk
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp salt
4 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, approx.

1. Sterilize all equipment. In a large stainless-steel pot over low heat, combine milk, cumin seeds and salt. Slowly bring to a boil; boil for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring gently the whole time to prevent scorching. Remove from heat.

2. Add lemon juice. Continue to stir milk until milk curdles and the solids rise to the top. If it does not curdle, add another 2 tbsp lemon juice and continue stirring.

3. Pour contents of pot into a cloth-lined colander. Twist curds in the cloth to remove as much of the moisture as possible.

4. Twist the cloth tightly around the cheese and place on a plate. Cover with another plate and place a 2-lb. weight on top. Place in the refrigerator overnight.

5. Unwrap cheese and place in a small bowl. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

*I am much too absent-minded to watch over a pot of milk. I use my slow cooker on high, lidded, with a probe thermometer in it - alarm set for 190f. It takes longer but you don't have to think about it.
*I let mine sit 2 days, and then pressed it even further between two cutting boards for a few moments, with me sitting on top!

Palak Paneer
From 660 Curries, Raghavan Iyer
This is incredibly delicious, and this book has never let me down.

1 small red onion, coarsely chopped
4 lengthwise slices fresh ginger (each 2 inches long, 1 inch wide, and 1/8 inch thick)
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp fennel seeds
2 dried red Thai or cayenne chiles, stems removed
1 tbsp coriander seeds, ground
1½ tsp coarse kosher or sea salt
½ tsp cayenne (ground red pepper)
¼ tsp ground turmeric
1 large tomato, cored and finely chopped (I used halved grape tomatoes)
1½ lbs fresh spinach leaves, well rinsed (I used frozen, thawed and drained)
1¼ lbs paneer, cut into 1 inch cubes and pan fried in ¼ cup veg oil until browned
½ cup thick yogurt

1. Combine the onion and ginger in a food processor, and pulse until minced.

2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle in the cumin seeds, fennel seeds, and chiles. Cook until they sizzle, turn reddish brown, and smell nutty-pungent, 10-15 seconds. Immediately add the minced blend and stir-fry until the onion is light brown around the edges, 5-7 minutes.

3. Stir in the coriander, salt, cayenne and turmeric, and cook the spices without burning them (thanks to the cushioning from the onion medley), 10-15 seconds. Add the tomato and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until it softens but is still chunky, about 3 minutes.

4. Add the spinach, in batches if it won’t all fit, stirring until it is wilted, 4-6 minutes. Once all the spinach has wilted, the water it releases will deglaze the pan.

5. Stir in the paneer, cover the skillet, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cheese is warmed through, 2-3 minutes.

6. Remove the skillet from the heat and fold in the yogurt. Remove chiles if you wish.

7. Serve immediately.

So, have I convinced you to try making cheese at home? I hope so! Feel free to join us at Forging Fromage for some cheesy fun.