Paneer is used largely in Indian cooking, though I’ve been known to throw it into oriental stir fries where it takes the place of tofu. No matter where you use it, it gets lovely crispy edges when it fries, and it soaks up spicy flavours.
Paneer takes almost no time to make (in cheese terms, anyway), and requires no special equipment or cultures. As a friend of a friend once said, “Paneer is very dangerous.” Too easy to make and too good to resist! Give it a go!
1 gal whole milk
2 tsp citric acid, dissolved in ¾ c. hot water OR ½ c. fresh lemon juice
Heat the milk on high to a foaming boil, stirring constantly to avoid scorching. Turn the heat down to low and quickly add the citric acid solution, stirring very gently. The milk should curdle almost instantly. (If it doesn’t, add a little more acid). As soon as the milk has curdled, remove it from the heat, and let it sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Spoon the curd gently into a colander lined with cheesecloth (3 layers if you’re using “cheese cloth”, 1 layer if you’re using butter muslin (known here as baby muslin; you can also just use a clean handkerchief). Once the large chunks have been transferred to the colander, gently pour the rest of the liquid and curds into the colander. Pull up the corners of the cloth and twist gently. Hold the bundle under lukewarm running water for 10 seconds, then hang to drain for 3-4 hours. To speed up the draining, you can press the cheese under a light weight (put a small plate or saucer on top of the cheese to spread the weight evenly; I use a 2 litre bottle of water) for 1 ½ hours. Refrigerate until you’re ready to use it; use within 3 days.
*When it comes time to cook paneer, most recipes say to fry it. If you don’t use a non-stick pan, the paneer will stick and fall apart. If you do use a non-stick pan, the paneer will sputter and spit hot oil everywhere. I avoid both by baking it on a lightly oiled non-stick baking tray in a hot (230°C/450°F) oven until it is nicely browned.