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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Paneer (fresh cheese, Indian origin)

What is your favorite ethnic food?  That's a hard one for me to answer.  Living on Maui has very few drawbacks but one is a lack of many good ethnic restaurants.  I'm sure that living in the foodie city of San Francisco spoiled me and gave me high expectations for restaurants.  Fortunately, when we get the itch for some good Indian Food, we have a place to go.  And, it is really good.  And a bunch of our friends like it too so we always take a group and order family style so there is alot to taste and enjoy.  If you come to Maui and like Indian food, be sure to go to Monsoon India in North Kihei.

One dish everyone, including me, seems to love is palak paneer-spinach and fresh cheese in a curry sauce.  I wanted to try making it at home but wouldn't you know it, I couldn't find paneer.  I did, however, come across this recipe and decided it looked foolproof enough to try even though I've never made cheese before.

I didn't do alot of additional research until after I made the paneer.  One step that this recipe doesn't include that I found in several others is to chill the cheese in ice water for a few hours.  Next time I'll try that because, although the taste was perfect for the dish, the cheese was a bit crumbly (like a goat cheese log) compared to what I'm used to in palak paneer (firm cubes).

Here's the recipe as written.  I followed it to the letter.

Makes about 4 oz by weight. 

1 quart whole milk
4 tablespoon lemon juice (I used lemons from our new lemon tree!)

Bring milk to a simmer until it reaches a temperature of 176 degrees F.
Add lemon juice one teaspoon at a time while stirring.  Once all the lemon juice has been added to the milk turn off the burner and allow it to cool for at least 30 minutes.

Place cheese cloth over a bowl and carefully pour the curdled milk into the cloth to separate the curds from the whey. 

Form a ball with the cheesecloth and twist the ends to extract excess moisture from the curds, keep in mind the more moisture you extract the firmer the paneer will turn out.

Place something heavy over the paneer to help shape it into a disc. It should be pressed for a least 1 hour before using in any recipe.

I used a couple of large cans of tomatoes to press down to make the disc.

This was super easy and I thought it was pretty cool to make my own cheese!  I'll definitely do this again and will add the chill step at the end and see if the texture is any different.  Palak paneer recipe will be posted tomorrow-stay tuned!
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