Sunday, February 19, 2012

Homemade Baked Paneer

About a year ago, I attended a cheese-making class hosted by my local Co-op. We learned how to make ricotta, mozzarella, and paneer. My favorite to make of the 3 is paneer. It requires only 3 ingredients, and if you're patient, is very, very simple. If you try to rush it, the texture will be suboptimal and the yield will be lower.
In this post, I show you how to made homemade paneer, as well as a recipe for spicy baked paneer modified from the Sundays at Moosewood cookbook.

Let's see how it's done. Since technique really, really, matters here, I'm going to offer some of my kitchen notes up early:
  • Use whole milk. If you use lower fat milk, you will have less cheese as an outcome.
  • Use pasteurized milk, but avoid ultra-pasteurized milk if possible. You can usually obtain pasteurized milk if you can access a local dairy. The yield and consistency will be superior if you can find the non-ultra pasteurized. 
  • In theory, you can use almost any kitchen acid (e.g., citrus juice, vinegar) to make the paneer. I've only ever tried with lemon and lime, and recommend lemon or lime for your 1st attempt. 
  • Don't rush the milk to boil. I never get the right consistency when I do this. 
  • Avoid any potential for a chemical reaction and use wooden utensils instead of metal. 
OK, still with me? Now we're ready to go!

Homemade Paneer (yields about 3 C)
  • 1 gallon pasteurized milk
  • 8 Tbsp lemon or lime juice
  • salt
1. In a covered, heavy bottom container, bring the gallon of milk to boil over low to medium heat. This may take a very long time--don't rush it. Check the pot often, be sure it doesn't boil over. While the milk is heating, line a large sieve with cheese cloth.
2. Once the milk comes to a boil--not just a simmer, add 8 Tbsp lemon or lime juice, and a pinch of salt. With a slotted spoon, stir the milk until it begins to curdle and clump together.
3. Stir for another minute or two, pour through the cheesecloth-lined sieve. Press the paneer into a cake and cover with the cheesecloth. Place a weight on top of the paneer, and let drain for 1 hour. Cut into cubes, and incorporate into dishes as desired. Refrigerate any unused paneer and use within 10 days. 

Here are some pics:
                                                        Not quite read for the lemon juice

                                               Just poured into the sieve...sorry so fuzzy

                                                      Just after being pressed into a cake.

                                                         After being pressed for an hour.

                                                                   Cut into cubes

So, now that you've made the paneer, what to do with it? This is a recipe modified from Sundays at Moosewood. It's nicely seasoned, comes together fast, and is very warming on a cold day.

Baked Paneer (serves about 6)
  • 1/2 batch paneer (about 1 1/2 C), cut into cubes
  • 2/3 C diced tomatoes (canned)
  • 3 scallions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp peeled ginger
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 6 Tbsp plain yogurt
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/3 C frozen peas
  • 1/4 chopped cilantro
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Oil a small casserole dish and place the paneer in the dish.
2. In a food processor, combine 1/3 of the diced tomatoes, the scallions, tomato paste, ginger, lemon, yogurt, salt, cayenne and garam masala and combine until well mixed. 
3. Pour the mixture over the paneer cubes. Add the peas, remaining 1/3 C tomatoes, and cilantro to the casserole dish and mix gently. Bake, uncovered, for 15-20 or until the sauce is bubbling. Serve hot with rice, naan, or both. 

Verdict? This is a terrific weeknight meal that rivals Indian takeout. This will only be as good as the paneer, so be sure to take your time making the paneer. This is a well seasoned dish that will make you smile in cold weather.


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