Perfect Paneer! Cheese-making for beginners
Paneer cheese and whey
Easier than pie!
Making paneer cheese is very fast and simple. You can make it in about twenty minutes, then use it in all types of dishes from cocktail snacks, quiches and curries to creamy desserts
What you'll need:
- milk (preferably full fat) - plus extra cream if you want it rich
- vinegar of your choice - use 1-2 tsp vinegar per 100 ml of milk (Lemon juice, curds or yoghurt can be used instead of vinegar.
- a heavy-based saucepan large enough to hold all the milk with room to spare
- a bowl large enough to hold your volume of milk
- a clean piece of cheesecloth, muslin or cotton large enough to line your bowl with 15cm or more spare all around (you could also use a fine mesh sieve to drain it, then squeeze it in a smaller cloth)
- Two plates
- a spoon
- a colander or sieve is useful, but not essential
- something heavy to press the cheese
Making the curds and whey
Put your milk into the saucepan and bring it to the boil, stirring occasionally.
Add the vinegar one teaspoonful at a time, stirring constantly, until the white curds separate from the clear whey.
Milk boiling up
Curds and whey
Separating the curds and creating the cheese
Drape the muslin over the bowl (and a colander or sieve if you have one). Gently tip the curds and whey mixture into the cheesecloth. Once it has drained through, gather up the edges of the cheesecloth, twist them above the cheese, then sandwich the bundle between two plates and either squeeze out the additional liquid manually - it just takes seconds - or sit a heavy weight on top for fifteen minutes or so, to drain out the excess liquid.
Squeezing the whey from the curds to make the cheese
Hey Presto! Paneer
- Serve it plain with bread
- Sprinkle it with herbs, sesame seeds if you have them, and drizzle it with olive oil, or a flavoured oil like lemon oil.
- Use cubes of it in a curry, such as sag paneer
- use it instead of tofu in stir-fry recipes
- Cut into cubes and deep fry it
- Try coating whole cheeses with egg, then breadcrumbs, almond meal or sesame seeds and deep-frying them, then quartering them to serve as a dinner party starter with a dressed salad and sweet sauce
Suggestions for using the whey
Whey will keep in the fridge for weeks. The easiest way to it use up whey is to add it to soups, stews, smoothies and baking. It can be fed to animals and is a good fertiliser for plants. You can also use it to preserve fruit and vegetables, in a process called lacto-fermenting, which is used to make sauerkraut.
A more challenging way to use up the whey is to reduce the volume of liquid by simmering it slowly. It can them be used as a sauce, in salad dressings. You need to stir it more and more as it gets thicker though, to avoid creating sticky burned toffee.
Variations on a theme..
Once you've mastered the basics, you can try adapting the recipe.. Here are some suggestions:
- Try different types of vinegar (or lemon/lime) to get different flavours. You can wash the curds under the tap if you find you dislike the result.
- Lightly salt the cheese before squeezing out the liquid (sea salt; celery salt; herbed salt)
- Try adding herbs to the mix before squeezing it. e.g. garlic powder and dill or taco seasoning
- Knead some chopped olives, chives or sun-dried peppers, etc. through the cheese after it's made (add a little whey if it's too crumbly)
- Try kneading the cheese with a little honey and using it as the base for a creamy dessert or ice-cream.