During my recent trip to India I ate SO many great curries with paneer. I came home fired up with the intention of making my own; I suspect this is partly because I was trying to hold on to memories of lovely warm weather as I headed back into the grey UK winter. The good news is that paneer is very straightforward to make. You don’t need any special cheese making equipment, or to faff around with rennet or thermometers.
Paneer is a lovely, filling addition to vegetarian curries. I also made a simple stir fry with paneer, ginger, garlic, onion and slices of broccoli, with a big splash of tamari soy sauce. If you’re a bit worried about eating too much tofu or can’t eat soy, paneer is a good alternative.
I recommend using organic, unhomogenised full fat milk. You’ll start with a lot of liquid and as this thickens with the addition of acid, you’ll get enough curd to make a decent sized block of cheese. If you want to experiment, you can also add some lightly toasted cumin seeds, black pepper or seaweed flakes to the strained curds while they are draining over your bowl.
And please don’t throw away the whey you get when draining the curds! Add it to curries as a thickener, use it in baking in place of other liquids, or just drink it straight up. It’s full of nutrients and protein (there’s a reason why body builders like whey protein), and it’s also a really refreshing, slightly sour drink.
2 litres full fat milk
200g live natural yoghurt
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1. Put the milk into a large, heavy based saucepan and bring to a gentle boil over a medium heat. You want it gently bubbling, rather than a voracious milk volcano of bubbles. Make sure you keep stirring so that the milk doesn’t stick to the bottom of the saucepan or burn. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.
2. Turn the heat down a little. Add the yoghurt and lemon juice, and stir gently to combine with the milk. The milk should start to thicken, splitting into thick clumpy curds (a bit like lumps of cottage cheese) and transparent whey. Leave the mixture to sit for 5 minutes and then stir again. If you’re not getting much in the way of curd, add a bit more lemon juice.
3. Line a sieve with a clean tea towel, cheese cloth, muslin or nut mylk bag (I used my mylk bag). Place the sieve over a bowl in your sink. Carefully pour the mixture from the saucepan into the sieve, capturing the whey in the bowl. Tie the curds into your cloth or bag, give it a gentle squeeze and then hang it from your tap. Leave to strain over the bowl for about 30 minutes.
4. Pat your curds out into a rectangular shape about 2-3cm thick (still in the cloth or bag) and place on a chopping board, ideally in your sink if it will fit. Weight down the paneer block with a heaving chopping board or a saucepan filled with water. Leave for 1 hour.
5. Remove the paneer from the cloth or bag, and it’s now ready to use. It will keep in your fridge in an airtight container for 2-3 days. I recommend pouring a little of the whey over the top of your stored cheese to keep it fresh.