I am pleased to share an authentic Indian paneer cheese recipe today from Susan Saldanha. She is a Columbus cook originally hailing from India who teaches custom cooking classes about Indian culinary traditions for groups and individuals in your home. Contact Susan by email to experience her healthy, delicious take on Indian cooking.
June 2012 was memorable because I went back home to India after eight long years. Landing in Mumbai India I was hit by the heat, the humidity, the flood of humanity and a hunger in your belly. I began to realize I missed all of this so much.
My mom grumbling to a visiting neighbor awakened me one sweltering afternoon. In muted tones she said “Mrs. Advani, please stop sending food. All the neighbors bring her food claiming it was her favorite dish when she was a girl and I don’t get a chance to cook for her. After all, she’s my daughter visiting after eight years.”
In India, Food= Love and believe me I had a lot of good “love” growing up.
Today I will share with you a taste of my Motherland: a Paneer cheese recipe. This is often eaten in the US as Mattar Paneer (peas and paneer) or Palak Paneer (spinach and paneer). Paneer comes from Northern India. It is a fresh milk cheese that is easy to make. Highly nutritious, it is a great source of protein. Its subtle flavor profile allows it to absorb the Indian spices very nicely but can be eaten by itself as a delicious ‘anytime-snack.’
How to Make Paneer
4 cups of whole milk
3/4cup sour cream or yogurt (sour cream adds a decadent lusciousness to the paneer)
Cheesecloth folded over to give you four layers
- Heavy bottomed pan
- Bring the milk to a boil on a medium flame in the heavy bottomed pan. Keep the flame on medium as milk burns very easily and will add a burnt taste to your paneer.
- Add the sour cream and keep stirring gently. Turn the heat up to high to facilitate the curdling process.
- The milk will begin to appear lumpy and will have light green whey around it.
- Strain the whey in a cheesecloth lined colander.
- While the paneer is still in the colander run cold water over the paneer till it cools down. Squeeze as much of the extra water out of the paneer as you can by twisting the lose ends of the cheesecloth.
- While still in the cheesecloth place the paneer under a weight (a heavy pan or a foil lined brick) on your counter for about 1-2 hours.
- Unwrap the paneer and cut it into cubes. It’s ready to eat.
Paneer keeps in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Freezing is possible and cutting it into cubes before you freeze it is a good idea. After thawing you have to lightly fry (preferably in homemade ghee) on both sides before you use it in cooking or else it tends to break apart.
In my home we eat paneer fresh and love it with a slight drizzle of honey or on a toothpick with a small piece of pineapple and a sprinkle of chaat masala. (Chaat masala is a spice blend used on a variety of snacks and has spicy, salty, and sweet tones. It is available in any Indian grocery store.)
Note from Rachel: Our favorite Indian cooking book is 1,000 Indian Recipes by Neelam Batra.