There was a time when I lived next to a dairy that sold really fresh, soft paneer (cottage cheese). Now the only paneer I can lay hands on is the store-bought variety. Fridge life of three weeks says the wrapper, but within three days it starts to feel rubbery and sour.
Homemade paneer has acquired irresistible charm. Pre-packaged paneer will do no more – the taste buds crave the real deal.
Fortunately, this is an easily satiated craving. It is surprisingly easy to make paneer at home.
This recipe uses half a litre of milk for about a dozen 2-cm cubes of paneer. Increase the quantities proportionally for more.
- Milk – 1/2 litre (Full cream milk gives thicker paneer but I prefer using toned milk)
- Lemon – 1
Bring the milk to a rolling boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Extract the juice of the lemon, strain out the seeds and pips.
Mix the lemon juice into the milk. Keep the milk boiling on medium heat till it curdles and the whey separates completely.
Strain the paneer out of the whey using a fine strainer or cloth. If using a strainer, press with the back of a spoon to squeeze out the last few drops of whey. If using a cloth, weigh it down with something heavy (my choice of weight: a fat book balanced over a plate) to harden it into a solid block.
Let it stand for an hour to let any remaining whey drip away. Refrigerate for at least an hour before use.
What to do with the whey?
1. Use it to knead chapatis - makes them softer and more nutritious.
2. Bottle and refrigerate it. The next time you want to make paneer at home, use the whey instead of lemon to curdle it. The whey stays fresh for up to a week in the fridge.