Paneer (also: “Panir”) is a homemade fresh cheese, very tasty if prepared well. It is ideal when you want to eat something a little more substantial, yet still vegetarian. Ayurveda recommends Paneer for lunch only, not for dinner.
Compared to other cheeses, Paneer is quite unique: it is fresh, free from additives, can be used in many ways, and its solid yet soft consistency is not lost during cooking – even at high temperatures, it does not lose its resistance to melting.
To make Paneer, you need whole milk – it won’t work with low-fat milk! If possible, use organic milk.
Heat up the milk in a relatively high pot. When it starts to boil, remove the pot from the heat and pour in fresh lemon juice (the coagulant), about 4 tablespoons per liter of milk. Now the milk curdles: the solid parts separate from the whey. When the whey turns a greenish-yellow color, enough lemon juice has been added. If the milk doesn’t curdle, add a little more lemon juice.
Place a straining cloth (cheesecloth or tea towel) in a colander or large strainer. Now pour the curdled milk through the cloth so that the cheese is caught. If you put the colander on top of a pot or bowl, you can collect the whey and use it for drinking or cooking.
Let the fresh cheese drain for about half an hour. Fold the cloth over it and weigh it down, e.g. with a cooking pot with some water in it, to squeeze out the remaining whey. The consistency of the Paneer is determined by the length of the draining and the strength of the squeezing. You can also rinse it under running water to wash out the residual whey, then continue draining or pressing the cheese. If the Paneer is made the night before or early in the morning, then it’s not necessary to press it.
Seasoning the Paneer:
- Heat 1 tablespoon of Ghee in a pan
- Add Vata churna or a curry mixture
- Add black pepper
- Add a pinch of rock salt.
Cut the Paneer into bite-sized pieces and add to the pan with the spices. Sprinkle in a pinch of rock salt. Turn the pieces over in the pan and fry lightly on all sides at a low temperature.
Paneer can be used in many ways. The famous “Palak-Paneer” (Paneer with spinach) is a standard dish in Indian restaurants.
Paneer also combines very well with tomatoes or fresh peas: Put some Ghee in a frying pan, add spices: ground coriander, cumin, some black pepper, Vata Churna and salt. Sautee the tomatoes in the spice mixture for a few minutes. Then add the Paneer and let it simmer for a bit with the tomatoes. Another very tasty side dish!
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