Paneer is an Indian cottage-style cheese that’s so amazingly easy to make you’ll wonder why you ever went out to buy it.
This recipe works for me and the milk we can get in our supermarkets here. All milk is pretty much the same in Australia (thanks to regulation), so we just grab the cheapest two-litre bottle of full-cream milk we can find. It makes about a cup of curds (the paneer), leaving about ¾ of a cup of pale liquid. This liquid is the whey, and it has its own uses: fermentation, in breads instead of water, in chapati, and as a hair conditioner.
European milk seems to be creamier than Australian milk, and American milk will probably be different again, so you might need to experiment a bit to get the right ratio of lemon juice to milk.
- 2 litres of fresh full cream milk
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice from fresh lemons
- Bring the milk to the boil in a large saucepan then take it off the heat. You don’t want the milk boiling over!
- Slowly pour in the lemon juice, stirring as you do it.
- Let it sit while the curds form. It should take only a few minutes. You will end up with solids (the curds) in a sea of pale liquid (the whey). You want the curds for the paneer, but don’t throw out the whey. It’s quite useful.
- Strain the curds and whey through a cheesecloth. It helps to sit the cloth in a colander so it all holds together for you. Put a bowl under the colander if you want to keep the whey.
- Once the curds are cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much whey as possible. You can do this by hanging it or pressing it down with a weight for a couple of hours.
- (If you want something closer to a soft cottage cheese, just drain the curds and use the same day.)
- For really solid paneer, sit it in the fridge overnight to firm up. You can use it straight away, but it could be a bit crumbly.
There’s no shortage of recipes for paneer, and the main differences seem to be how much lemon you add, and whether or not to add salt (some mix in a teaspoon after pouring off the whey).
The ratio of a tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice to a litre of milk seems to work for the milk I can buy here. You can always add more lemon juice if you think it hasn’t worked, but don’t be too hasty: if you add too much lemon juice, it will affect the taste and you’ll have to wash the curd before pressing it.