Paneer – The Brick and Mortar Way
In one of my classes at the French Culinary Institute, I needed to offer a vegetarian entrée option for L’ecole (the school’s restaurant). I sensed that my chef expected a dish from the land of the sacred cow. Technically, choosing an Indian dish, a culture with predominantly vegetarian eating habits, should have been a breeze. Yet the task at hand clashed with my carnivorous ways and no single vegetarian dish seemed gratifying enough to be served as a main course.
After playing with ideas and conversing with friends in a focus-group-like manner, I decided to make Paneer. Paneer is an Indian cheese that bears resemblance in both taste and touch to Ricotta cheese. Apart from being a crowd pleaser, this vegetarian dish could integrate well with the French menu it was to be part of and seemed the least ghetto compared to it’s other folkloric cousins.
Learning to make the paneer was surprisingly simple and required a lot less effort and complexity than one would imagine. Homemade paneer is creamy and velvety and smoothly coats your palate and the experience makes the store bought packets of paneer feel like some terrible imposter.
Serve it grilled like a piece of Halloumi, deep fry it like fritters, throw it in a curry or simply serve as is with a whole salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes and leaves of mint and tarragon.
3 liters of milk
1 quart heavy cream
Cheese cloth or a kitchen towel
1. Bring milk in a heavy bottom pan to a boil. Remove from heat
2. Immediately add the lemon juice and stir in to the milk. Place back over the heat on a simmer
3. Stir intermittently making sure the milk is not sticking to the bottom of the pan.
4. Once the milk splits and there are white lumps, switch off the heat and allow to stand for 5 minutes.
5. Set up a colander with cheese cloth securely fastened to it and place this in a deep bowl/pan to catch the excess liquid.
6. Remove the milk solids with a slotted spoon in to the colander. Place another bowl on top and weight it with canned tomatoes. Place in the fridge to allow allowing the paneer to strain for 4 hours.
7. Once it has set, it is ready to eat.
Chop up in to blocks and serve with a salad or sitr fry with ginger and garlic
Pearls of Wisdom
Make sure the milk doesn’t stick to the pan at the bottom or it will emit a burned taste