Tag Archives: paneer

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!

19 Comments

Filed under Recipe, Savoury

Pan-Fried Paneer with Coriander Sauce

Imitation, the sincerest form of flattery?

A while ago, I went to Colony in Marylebone. They have a luxurious lounge area with inspired cocktails and a delicious selection of bar snacks. Not just crisps or nuts, but something that is best described as “Indian tapas”. Little dishes to graze on before going for dinner.

Today’s recipe is my attempt to recreate one of their dishes, a block of paneer cheese with a fresh coriander (cilantro) sauce. It took a few attempts to get something that I was happy with. First time round I marinated the paneer in oil and the spices overnight, but when I fried it, it just seemed to have a thick coating of rather flavourless spices. Second time round was much better. I abandoned the marinade, and instead fried the paneer until golden, the added the spices, with salt and some water. The theory was that this would form a spicy “sauce” that would reduce down, and at the same time flavour the paneer. And, happily, this worked like a dream. The paneer stays soft and moist, and the flavours worked together beautifully. And, ahm, the use of a little salt makes all the difference to the flavour.

The blocks of spicy paneer work well with the coriander sauce. Mint might have seemed like the more obvious choice, but the coriander flavour is more subtle yet also fresh, and the combination with the turmeric and curry was just delicious. As good as Colony’s version? Well, not quite, but then they are the experts, and I still need to have some incentive to go back there for dinner. But in the meantime, I am still pretty thrilled with how this turned out and will be looking to serving this as a starter some time soon.

To make pan-fried paneer with coriander sauce (serves 4):

• Block of paneer (around 200-250g)
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
• 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 10g fresh coriander leaves
• 6 tablespoons natural yoghurt

Cut the paneer into slabs, depending on the number of people to be served. Add the oil to the frying pan, and cook the paneer on both sides until browned.

Add the spices and salt to the pan, and add 150ml water. Stir so that the spices and salt are combined with the water. Keep cooking on a medium heat. The paneer should start taking on a neon yellow colour.

Cook over a gentle heat until the water has evaporated and the paneer is coated in the spices. If the paneer looks too dry, add another tablespoon of oil

To prepare the sauce: place the coriander and yoghurt in a blender with salt (to taste) and blitz until smooth. The sauce should be a fresh, light green colour.

Serve the paneer warm with the sauce and a sprig of fresh coriander or mint.

Worth making? This was a little tricky for me to get right at first, but the above method works well and the result is delicious. Worth all the effort in developing it, and happy that it’s actually quite easy to make.

Leave a comment

Filed under Recipe, Savoury

Muttar Paneer

You may already have read about my liking for Indian food, and one of my favourite ingredients is paneer. This is an Indian cheese which is made from milk and lemon, and thus has the benefit of being 100% vegetarian, which just happens to feature in two Indian dishes that I absolutely love – palak paneer (cheese with spinach) and today’s feature, muttar paneer (cheese with peas).

I’ve eaten muttar paneer for years, and a few months ago decided to do it myself at home. “I assume you made your own paneer?” sniffed Fashpolitico at the time. “It’s terribly easy“. Well, yes, while I could have made my own paneer had I had a spare afternoon and the inclination, to be honest, noting beats the convenience of the 200g block that is stocked in my local shop. I’ll get round to making it one day, so another one for the list…

What you’ll notice about making paneer is just how simple it is – milk is soured, the whey drained off, and the curds washed and compressed. This yields a high-protein food, but also something that could lead to a very bland final result. So what to do? Well, the usual solution to any food that seems less than jiggy – cook it with lots of spice! Paneer is best in all manner of well-seasoned, fragrant dishes. I used it recently as a starter – marinated in curry and oil, and then lightly fried on both sides and served with a simple fresh coriander sauce. I suppose you could see this as a more substantial version of tofu, with the final result really being influences on just how you cook it.

Muttar paneer is well worth trying. It is one of those really simply cook-it-together-in-one-pan recipes, it is also great when you don’t have much in the store cupboard. You can play fast and loose with the spices, vary how much garlic and ginger you use, go for all fresh or all tinned tomatoes. Provided you have the paneer and some frozen peas, you’re sorted. Just make sure you get the spices right – I was always a little scared of putting in too much, but recently I’d been adding more and more, such that I will routinely double or triple the amount in a recipe. If you like it spicy, don’t be scared to be bold.

For serving, this is great with a little plain boiled rice, whole-wheat naan or chappatis and a little yoghurt raita, or go for a posh canapé and serve small portions on Chinese soup spoons.

For the muttar paneer:

• Vegetable oil
• 200g paneer
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger (peeled and finely chopped)
• 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
• 1 teaspoon turmeric
• 3 teaspoons curry powder
• 2 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

• 1 teaspoon nigella seeds
• 1 teaspoon sambal sauce
• 1/2 stock cube
• 100g fresh tomatoes, chopped
• 400g tin chopped tomatoes
• 3 tablespoons tomato paste, mixed with a little water
• 50ml double cream
• 200g petit pois (frozen is fine, fresh if you want)

Cut the paneer into chunks (as you prefer, I aim for 1 cm cubes). Heat one tablespoon of oil in a frying pan, and cook the paneer until golden all over. It will hiss and crackle with a tendency to jump up and make a bolt for freedom, so keep an eye on it.

Once the paneer is cooked, put on a plate and allow to cool. In the same pan, add another tablespoon of oil plus the onion and ginger, and fry gently until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, cumin seeds and the nigella seeds. Cook gently for a few minutes, being careful not to let the garlic get too dark.

Now add another two tablespoons of oil and the ground spices. Fry the spices for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Add a glass of water, and the mixture will form a loose paste. Cook on a medium heat until the water in the mixture evaporates and the mixture becomes thicker and oily. At this stage, add the chopped fresh tomatoes, and cook for a few minutes until the tomatoes become soft.

Now add the stock cube, the tinned tomatoes, the tomato paste and the cream, and stir well. On a low heat, allow the mixture to cook until the sauce thickens (around 30 minutes – check from time to time and season as preferred with salt and pepper). You can, of course, cook at a higher heat and the sauce will be ready sooner, but the slower cooking will allow the flavours to develop and mingle. Around half-way through the cooking process, add the frozen peas. Add the paneer a few minutes before serving – you only need to warm it through.

Serve hot with rice, bread, raita and chutney.

Worth making? I really like this recipe and it always works well. It can also be made ahead of time, and in my view, benefits from being allowed to sit so that the flavours can develop (just don’t add the peas too early – we want them fresh and green, not brown). Also, a word on the spices – really, go with what you want. If you like it spicy or very hot, then feel free to add more than the quantities I have given here. If it does end up too hot, just make sure there is enough cooling raita to solve the problem! You can also substitute sambal sauce with your favourite hotsauce (or omit if you don’t like it too spicy).

Leave a comment

Filed under Recipe, Savoury