Making paneer, in my opinion, is a magical thing. You start off with liquids but in no time at all, you unveil this very solid, material thing that you can hold in your hands. Ahhhh, a little cheese baby! And then on top of that, of course, making it at home is not only economical, but also very, very simple. And it’s such a great addition to so many recipes – I love that you can cut it up and throw it into all sorts of things without it disintegrating, so you get a great chewy bit of protein in your mouthful. It also takes on flavour really well, so virgin, milky white paneer is great added to well-flavoured curries. But yesterday I decided to make an aromatic version, adding strands of saffron and toasted cumin seeds to the boiling milk. It worked really well. I stuffed small pieces of it into kachoris (I’ve never done that before – I’ll post the recipe at some point), but it would be great in any number of dishes, I’m sure.
You can use the whey in recipes too, although I must admit to tipping mine down the drain…
Ingredients (makes 1 150g cheese)
1 litre full fat milk
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 generous pinch saffron strands, bashed about in a pestle & mortar
2 tsp. cumin seeds, dry toasted
Salt, to taste
Before you start, you’ll need to get your hands on a bit of cloth to strain the curds. I’ve got a cheese cloth, but an undyed teatowel would work, as long as it’s clean (I also like to scald the cloth with boiling water immediately prior to use, but perhaps that’s just me.) Arrange the cloth over a sieve, which in turn is resting over a large bowl.
Pour the milk into a large (heavy based, if possible) saucepan. Add the saffron and cumin seeds, then bring to the boil, stirring now and then to make sure the milk doesn’t burn on the base of the pan. When the milk starts to foam and boil, stir in the lemon juice. The curds will immediately separate from the whey.
Remove the pan from the heat, and strain the curds through the sieve. Salt to taste (go gently to begin with) then gather up the cloth to squeeze out the moisture (be careful – it will be hot!)
Then, place the curd-filled cloth onto a plate, and rest something on top of it to weigh it down (I used a heavy lid from a Le Creseut pan, which is a good weight, but leaves behind a deep indentation – if you want your cheese to be flat on both sides, then use a plate with a few cans or jars on it.) Let it sit for about half an hour, after which time, congratulations! A new member of the family!
It’s best used within about 48 hours of making. When it’s just set, it’ll be crumblier in texture, so if you want solid cubes, leave it in the fridge to firm up further. If you store it in a covered bowl of water, it’ll stop the cheese from going too hard.