#1 – 48 Recipes Challenge: Recipe 29 – Homemade Paneer Cheese

This month’s recipe started life as a google search of what to do with leftover milk, and is a perfect exemplar of the reason I’m doing this challenge in the first place:  to encourage me to try new recipes instead of doing the same things over and over, and to start using the stack of untried recipes I see, like the sound of, print off and stash in a great heap on the side in the kitchen.

I frequently end up with spare milk because I don’t use milk, I only buy it when I have guests or if a recipe specifically requires it.  I hate throwing food away so I normally end up making vast quantities of cheese sauce with any leftovers.  However, I have a freezer stuffed full of cheese sauce and I really wanted something else to do with it this time.

So, a quick search told me that with a litre of milk I can make a basic cheese.  Either cottage cheese or paneer (Indian cheese which is essentially cottage cheese pressed solid so all the liquid drains out).  What a great idea, I thought, that’ll be different.  I’ll make cheese.  To be fair, I’m not a total novice as I have experienced cheesemaking before.  When I travelled in New Zealand I worked for a while in a homestead where the lady of the house made her own cheese and I helped out on a couple of occasions.  I remember this being an incredibly complicated process involving unpasteurised milk (which was hard to obtain for starters) and faffing about with thermometers because it had to be heated to very exact temperatures for specific periods of time.  Not something I wanted to try at home.

This paneer recipe however, found in an article on what to do with leftover milk (http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jul/08/14-recipe-ideas-for-leftover-milk) looked very easy.  Simple ingredients and simple method.  No unpasteurised milk, no exact temperatures, no special equipment.  Perfect.  I thought I’d give it a go.

Process wise, it sounded easy.  Boil the milk, add lemon juice and salt, stir, leave to separate into curds and whey.  Drain through a sieve, rinse, drain off the excess water and presto (apparently):  cottage cheese.  To make paneer, it said, simply put the curds in a tea towel or muslin, squeeze, place the cloth over a sieve and leave to drain for a further 3 or so hours before placing the resulting curds between two weighted boards to compress and create the texture of paneer.

Second draining, through a cloth this time

Second draining, through a cloth this time

Curds with the whey drained out

Curds with the whey drained out

Practically, it wasn’t quite this easy.  Firstly my sieve obviously isn’t fine enough as it didn’t retain much of the solids, so I had to try again but this time lining the sieve with a tea towel so the liquid then took ages to drain and had to be done in small batches.  The interim 3 hour draining process didn’t really seem to release any further liquid so I had to leave it to compress overnight in the end as it was getting really late by then.

For the effort (and the amount of washing up and general mess created) it generated what I thought was a very small amount of actual paneer.

 

 

 

The finished (tiny) yield of homemade paneer

The finished (tiny) yield of homemade paneer

Next up was the question of what to do with the paneer I’d made.  Back to my friend google…  Several paneer recipes later, I settled on Nigel Slater’s Paneer and Aubergine Curry http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/aubergine_and_paneer_10985 because it seemed simple to make and didn’t look like it would take that long.

Nigel Slater's Aubergine and Paneer Curry

Nigel Slater’s Aubergine and Paneer Curry

It was, it didn’t and it was tasty.  BUT – by that time I’d also I printed off a couple of other tasty sounding paneer recipes (Paneer Koftas and Butter Paneer Masala), just in case, so these have been added to the ever growing pile of as-yet-untried recipes in my kitchen!  You can now understand why I have such a stock of such recipes.  From something as simple as leftover milk I’ve ended up with a recipe to make paneer plus three recipes to use the paneer.  And that’s before I even started on what to do with the whey leftover from the cheesemaking process…

Scores for homemade paneer are:

Healthiness – 5/10  (Paneer is marginally less fatty than, say, cheddar but cheese on the whole should be a treat rather than a staple.  Sadly, I love the stuff)

Ease of prep – 3/10 (it isn’t actually that difficult but it involves a lot of hanging about and a fair bit of washing up.  Plus a finer sieve than I obviously have.)

Flavour/taste – 5/10 (paneer itself doesn’t taste of much, it’s the dish you put it into that’s important)

I’ll hang onto the curry recipe because it was very tasty and very easy to make.  I’m not however, convinced that yield on the homemade paneer was worth the time and effort involved so if I want to make something with paneer in future I’ll just buy some.  And I’ll stick with cheese sauce when I’ve got leftover milk!

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