Tag Archives: dairy

Making Paneer

If you’ve ever had cause to wonder exactly what Little Miss Muffet was eating on her tuffet on that fateful day that the spider came along and sat down beside her, then you’re about to find out. For it turns out that curds and whey are…well, basically paneer! Frankly, I’m surprised. Really – I had no idea!

Paneer is common in Indian cooking, and it’s one of my favourite ingredients. If it’s on a menu, then that’s usually the dish that I go for. A good paneer and spinach curry is a thing of joy.

I’ve got friends who have in the past been known to get rather snobbish when they try to make a curry. What? You’re not making your own paneer? Well, it’s just not the same. I always thought they were probably right, but let’s be honest – there are a lot of things we could all be making at home but don’t. Paneer always seemed like a job too far. I’ve always just bought the blocks as it makes things so, so much easier. Who actally has the time to make the stuff themselves? Well, it turns out that it’s actually a heck of a lot easier than you might think.

First, get several pints of whole milk. Heat it, then add some lemon juice diluted with hot water. The milk splits, and that’s bascially it! Then just strain it, rinse the curds, and then weigh down the paneer to drive out the excess water. You are left with a large, flat block of paneer that can be cut into pieces and then fried until golden, and then added to whatever dish you’re in the mood for making.

The flavour of the fresh paneer was different to the stuff you buy. It tastes fresher and lighter. The texture is different too – it does not cut as cleanly into squares, but it keeps a slightly crumbly, almost fluffy texture. When you come to fry the paneer, I noticed this time that it has a distinct aroma of buttery caramel as it cooks, which the commercial stuff does not.

So that’s my attempt at paneer, and I was completely thrilled when it was fried and produced this plate of golden deliciousness. It ended up in a spicy tomato and ginger sauce, enriched with a little natural yoghurt. A nice way to finish a Sunday!

To make paneer:

• 4 pints whole milk
• juice 1 lemon
• cup of hot water

1. Gently heat the milk in a saucepan until it just comes to the boil. Watch it doesn’t boil over – otherwise your hob will be a pain to clean!

2. In the meantime, mix the lemon juice with the hot water. Once the milk is just boiling, turn off the heat and add the lemon juice mixture. Stir until the milk curdles – this is the curds and whey separating. Leave to cool for around 15 minutes, gently stirring from time to time.

3. Line a metal sieve with muslin or cheesecloth. Pour the milk mixture into the cloth, and allow to drain. Gently run cold water through the cheese to remove any remaining lemon juice.

4. Gather the ends of the cloth then squeeze out as much water as you can.

5. Place the cheese (still wrapped in the cloth) on a tray and put something very, very heavy on top (I used a metal pan filled with  weights). This should flatten the cheese into a firm block. Leave to sit for an hour or two, and the excess water will be squeezed out.

And there you have it – paneer! Now use in your favourite Indian dishes. Like this or this.

Worth making? Making paneer is actually really easy, and the result is a bit nicer than the stuff you buy. If you’ve got the time (or need to occupy some children for a while) then it’s worth trying. However, I suspect I’ll keep buying it as it’s easier to have it ready for use in the fridge when I want it. Sorry guys!

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Filed under Recipe, Savoury

Labneh

I love cheese. Show me a groaning cheeseboard, it’s hard to resist the urge to pick, pick, pick. Cheddar, Stilton, Wensleydale, Manchego, Comté (darn, that Comté!), Brie…you name it, I love it.

What I have not really done much of is trying to make my own cheese. I’ve followed the posts on Pease Pudding with interest, but frankly the realities of living in the middle of a very large city makes getting hold of the right sort of milk rather challenging. Keeping a dairy herd out back is rather impractical, and I’m not sure the woman downstairs would be trilled to find a couple of Frisian cows munching on the recently-planted birch trees or peering into her kitchen in the morning. That, and I can get hold of just about anything in London if I really need to (although yuzu fruit and edible frankincense oil have managed – thus far – to escape me).

However, there is one option which is both relatively quick and very easy. This little miracle is called labneh (which you may also see spelled labni, lebni or labne) which is essentially strained yoghurt. OK, I realise that doesn’t sound too appealing! But what you do is allow most of the liquid to drain off, which leaves behind a very thick yoghurt, something like cream cheese. This can be made with low-fat yoghurt if you’re looking for a healthier version, and I think it is particularly good if you use goat milk yoghurt.

The method here is simplicity itself – pour all the yoghurt into a bowl, add salt, mix well and then strain through a cloth. Then leave it for a day and you’ve got the labneh. 24 hours is the minimum you should leave it, but if you can manage longer (up to 48) then so much the better. You might prefer to use a (very clean!) tea-towel rather than a piece of cheesecloth, as I learned from experience that if the cloth weave is not sufficiently fine, the yoghurt just pours straight through. The sort of messy mistake you make only once!

As cheeses go, this is (or should be) relatively low-fat – I used low-fat yoghurt in my version, so the resulting cheese is rich and creamy, but not oily in any way. Of course, all that is undermined by adding a little olive oil for serving…but I think the combination of the thick, creamy labneh with olive oil works very well.

Once made, there are a few ways to store and eat it. Either roll into balls and store in a jar of olive oil, or use to fill dishes, add a drizzle of olive oil, some lemon zest and salt, pepper and toasted nuts for a delicious dip. You might even prefer to use some dukkah mixture to add another layer of Middle Eastern flavour. Alternatively, spread on toasted bread and add a drizzle of honey for breakfast.

To make labneh:

• Large pot (450g) natural yoghurt
Large pot (450g) goat milk yoghurt
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

In a large bowl, combine the yoghurt and stir well to incorporate the salt.

Line another bowl with a clean tea-towel (it should come over the edges).

Pour in the yogurt mixture, then gather the edges of the cloth and tie in a bunch. Hang the cloth above the bowl, and leave for at least 24 hours to drain (best to start first thing on a Friday morning, then by Saturday evening it’s done). When you return, there should be clear liquid in bowl. If you can leave it longer (up to 48 hours) so much the better.

When ready, open the cloth. The outside of the yoghurt will be firm, although the inside may be a little soft. Mix everything together until smooth, and then either form into balls and store in oil, or use as a dip or spread with bread.

Worth making? This is a fun, easy way to make cheese at home, and really worth trying. It’s delicious on sourdough toast with honey.

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Filed under Recipe, Savoury