Paneer (Indian Cottage Cheese) A Vegetarian’s Delight

paneer Indian cottage cheese

Paneer is an Indian cottage cheese very commonly used in Indian vegetarian cuisine. It’s an un-aged, non melting cheese that is made by curdling heated milk with lemon juice or a food acid. It is then simply pressed into a cube, then sliced or chopped…to be used in a number of delightful ways, creating some of the most popular Indian Vegetarian dishes as you’ll see below. Paneer has often been compared to as Tofu…because of it’s texture and consistency and can be substituted with it for any of the below recipes.

How to make Paneer at home

While Paneer is available at most dairies and stores across India, people still prefer to make their own at home….and who can blame them…the process is very simple, fast and the results are a great homemade fresh cottage cheese ready for the most delicious of Indian vegetarian preparations.

The method is quite simple really. A food acid (usually lemon juice, vinegar, or yogurt) is added to hot milk to separate the curds from the whey. The curds are then drained in a muslin cloth or cheesecloth and the excess water is pressed out. The resulting paneer is dipped in chilled water for 2-3 hours to give it a good texture and appearance.

Here’s a simple recipe with step by step instructions…so you can’t go wrong:
Ingredients:
– 10 cups whole milk
– 1/2 cup buttermilk / yogurt (more maybe needed, so keep some extra)
OR
– 3-4 tbsp of an acid like lemon juice/lime juice

Method:
– In a large heavy bottomed pan, bring the milk to a boil over medium heat. Stir often to ensure that the milk is not sticking to the bottom of the pan.
– When milk starts to boil, lower heat and add the buttermilk or lemon juice (one teaspoon at a time) and stir until the milk starts to separate into curds.
– Remove from heat as soon as this happens. You can even add a few ice cubes to the curd-whey mix. As the heat will make the protein tougher.
-If the curds are not forming, add a little more buttermilk and cook for a couple of minutes more. And do the above as soon as the curds form.
– Pour the curds-whey mix into a colander lined with several layers of cheese cloth or even a layer of muslin, draining onto a dish that will collect the whey.
– Collect the sides of the cheesecloth or muslin and tie it up together and twist gently to help drain the whey from the curds.
– Shape the paneer while it is still in the cheese cloth, into a block by wrapping it tightly with the cloth. Then put a cutting board or something heavy and flat on top of the paneer. This forces out more moisture and makes it into a firmer block which is suitable for slicing and frying.
– If you want it soft and crumbly don’t weigh it down for too long…around half an hour should do the trick. For a firmer block of cheese leave it for around an hour or little more.
– Soak the block of cheese in chilled water for 2-3 hours This is optional, as the intention is to improve appearance and texture.

Delicious Paneer Recipes

Palak (spinach) Paneer

Ingredients:
500gms Fresh Palak (Spinach)
100gms Paneer
2 Onions grated
2 tsp Ginger-Garlic paste
5-6 tbsp oil
1 tsp pure ghee (clarified butter)
Garam masala to taste
Red chili powder to taste
1 tsp cumin powder
Salt To Taste

Method:
-Clean and wash palak (spinach) well.
– Boil the spinach in water (enough to cook it) and then let it cool in the same water.
– Now mash it in a mixer or puree it.
– Heat oil in a kadai.
– Add the ginger-garlic paste to the oil and stir-fry for a minute.
– Now add onions and fry till golden brown.
– Add all spices except the red chili powder.
– Now add the spinach (palak) and little water if needed and cook for 4-5 minutes.
– Cut paneer into pieces (Paneer can be fried to a golden brown in a separate pan or can be used as it is).
– Add the Paneer pieces to the gravy and cook until done (around 10 mins).
– Dish it and add the finally touch…
– Just before serving, heat pure ghee (clarified butter) in a small pan.
– Hold the pan with hot ghee over the dish, add the chili powder and immediately pour on the Indian Palak Paneer dish.

Mutter Paneer (Peas and cottage cheese)

Ingredients:
500 gms paneer cubed
200 gms shelled peas
2 large onions
3 medium tomatoes
1 tbsp ginger paste
2 tbsps garlic paste
2 tsps coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
2 tsps garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 green chillies chopped fine
6 tbsps of oil
1 1/2 cups water
Salt to taste
3 tbsps thickened/ double/ heavy cream
Coriander leaves chopped fine to garnish

Method:
– Grind onions into a fine paste in a food processor. Keep aside.
– Next grind tomatoes into fine paste and keep aside.
– Heat 2-3 tbsps of oil in a pan and gently stir-fry the cubes of paneer till golden. Remove onto a paper towel and keep aside.
– In the same vessel heat 2-3 tbsps of oil and add the onion paste. Fry till it turns light brown.
– Add tomato paste, ginger and garlic paste and fry for another 2 minutes.
– Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric and garam masala powders, green chillies and fry, stirring continuously till the oil begins to separate from the masala (spice mixture).
– Add the peas to the masala and fry for 2-3 minutes.
– Then add the paneer, water and salt, reduce flame to a simmer and cook till the gravy thickens.
– When the gravy is as thick as you would like, turn off the flame and stir in the cream.
– Garnish with coriander leaves and serve.
– Mutter paneer goes great with parathas, naans and even jeera rice.

Paneer Pakora (Cottage Cheese Fritter)

Ingredients:
250 gms Paneer
For the Batter:
1 cup Chickpea Flour (Besan)
2 tsp Oil
1 1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Red chili powder
1-2 Chopped Green Chillies (Jalapeno)
1/2 cup Water

Method:
-Mix all batter ingredients well.
– Beat in a blender for 4-5 minutes to incorporate air (this will make the batter fluffier).
– Let the batter rest for about 1/2 hour in a warm place
– Cut the paneer into thick cubes.
– Sprinkle the paneer with little salt and chili powder
– Dip the Paneer cubes in the batter to coat evenly and then deep fry in oil that is heated to 375°.
– Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.
– It’s best served a with coriander or mint chutney

Paneer Kofta (Cottage cheese balls in Gravy)

Ingredients:
For Koftas:
200 gms Cottage Cheese (Paneer) How to make paneer
2 Potato (Aloo)
1/2 tsp Red Chili Powder (Lal Mirchi)
1/4 tsp Garam Masala
2 tblsp Cornflour
Oil for frying
For Gravy:
4 Onion (Pyaj)
4 Tomato (Tamatar)
Coriander Leaves (Dhania Patta)
1/2 cup Curd (Dahi)
1/2 cup Cashewnut (Kaju) Powder
1/2 tsp Cumin Seed (Jeera)
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Red Chili Powder (Lal Mirchi)
1/4 tsp Turmeric (Haldi)
1/4 tsp Garam Masala
1 Bay Leaf (Tej Patta)
2 tblsp Clarified Butter (Ghee)
3 tbsp Heavy cream

Method:
– Boil potatoes and peel them.
– Grate paneer and potatoes.
– Add salt, red chili powder, garam masala, cornflour and mix well.
– Make round balls of this mixture.
– Now heat oil in a pan.
– Fry balls in the oil till golden brown in color.
– For the gravy- Grind onion and tomatoes together.
– Chop coriander leaves very finely.
– Heat oil in a pan.
– Add cumin seed and bay leaf.
– Add onion, tomato paste and satuee till brown , stirring continuously.
– When it the oils starts separating from the spice mixutre (masla), add curd, cashewnut powder, salt, red chili powder, turmeric and garam masala.
– Stir it continuously for a minute.
– Then add 2 cup of water.
– Put on the lid and simmer for 5 minutes.
– Lastly add the heavy cream to give the gravy richness.
– While serving reheat the gravy and then add koftas to it.
– Garnish it with chopped coriander leaves.