Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Homemade Paneer/Saag Paneer

Have you seen the March issue of Food Network Magazine?  It's all about cheese....I looove cheese.  I also looove Indian food.  When I eat Indian food I almost never eat meat.  There are so many amazing veggie and lentil dishes that I just don't think meat adds anything.  And along with those veggies and lentils you also have paneer (cheese!). Homemade fresh Indian cheese.

I've made paneer in the past using my favorite recipe for ricotta cheese.  Because that is basically what paneer is. A cheese very similar to ricotta but pressed to cut down on the moisture and cut into cubes.  I've always been happy with making paneer this way but decided I would give the recipe in Food Network Magazine a try anyway.

The only real difference between this recipe for paneer and the ricotta recipe is that the paneer recipe calls for greek yogurt instead of cream.  I'm glad I tried this version because this cheese really did firm up better than my pressed ricotta.  I'll be using this recipe for paneer going forward but I'm sticking to the ricotta recipe for, well, ricotta. :)

Don't be intimidated by the idea of making cheese, this recipe is easy!  Just boil, drain, press.  That's it! The only "special equipment" you need is cheesecloth, so grab some and let's go!  (oh God, did that sound like Jake and the Neverland Pirates to you?  No?  the toddler tv is obviously getting to me...ok, moving on)

Paneer, adapted very slightly from the recipe in Food Network Magazine, March 2013
6 cups whole milk
1 cup plain 2% Greek yogurt
1/4 cup lemon juice (you can also use white vinegar)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup flour
vegetable oil (for frying)

To make the cheese, first line a colander with a double layer of cheese cloth.  The cloth should hang over the sides of the colander so you have enough to wrap around the cheese and squeeze out the whey.

Now put your milk into a large non-reactive pot and bring it to a simmer on medium.  Stir it occasionally to make sure the milk doesn't scorch on the bottom.  Once the pot comes to a good simmer, turn the heat off and stir in the yogurt, lemon juice, and salt. Continue stirring for a minute or two until large curds form in the milk.  Once this happens, pour the contents of the pot over your cheesecloth in the colander.  Gather the ends of the cloth and twist them together to form a tight bundle and squeeze out the excess whey.  Leave it to drain for 10 minutes or so.

Once the 10 minutes is up give the bundle a few more squeezes to try and get out as much moisture as you can. Next put the cheese into a small rectangular (or square) container and using plastic wrap press it down flat into the container.  Leave the plastic wrap laying directly on the surface of the cheese then cover the container with a lid and put it in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight.

When you are ready to cook with it, loosen the edges of the cheese in the container with a knife and it should just fall right out.

Cut the cheese into cubes.  Now, heat a large frying pan with about a half inch of vegetable oil on medium-high.  Coat your cheese cubes in the flour and then put them into the hot oil.  Fry them for about 4-5 minutes, turning them to give each side a nice golden color.

Stir the fried paneer into any favorite Indian sauce or dish.  Aarti's Saag Paneer and Tikka Masala are both good choices.  We did the Saag Paneer this time and it was fantastic.  Enjoy!

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