I am trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle these days – not necessarily diet but just skip the junk food and eat better in an attempt to be more energetic & productive. The solution provided to this problem by just about everyone is ‘avoid carbs and load up on vegetables & protein’. Sounds simple enough the first week but as the days went by, it just become tedious to have chicken almost all the time. Mutton & beef are options but they do take time to cook and seafood is best had fresh so that limits it to maybe once or twice a week.
A solution to eating protein is cottage cheese or paneer. Made from adding an acidic agent to boiling milk, cottage cheese can be simply salted or flavored with your favorite herbs & spices. Once made you can have it on its own, on toast, grilled or in a salan like Aloo Matar Paneer. You can get it from the supermarket but why not make it fresh at home at a fraction of the cost.
How to make Paneer / Cottage Cheese
Makes about 200 – 250 grams
1 liter whole milk, fresh NOT tetrapak
2 tablespoons lemon or vinegar or fresh yoghurt
¼ teaspoon salt
Strainer or colander
Cheesecloth (Muslin Cloth or Malmal ka Kapra)
Weights (like a can of tomatoes)
- Put the milk to boil into a saucepan over low-medium heat. Keep checking the milk to make sure it doesn’t boil or scald from the bottom.
- Once the milk comes to a boil, turn off the heat and add preferred acidic ingredient. You can add either lemon juice, vinegar or fresh yoghurt. All three will work but they will give a subtle hint of flavor to the cheese so in case you don’t like lemon juice you can use vinegar or vice versa.
- The milk will start to curdle the moment you add the acid. Wait for 2-3 minutes if it doesn’t and add a drop or two more if required.
- Once the milk has separated, the liquid will look yellow & watery and the curds will be separated. In case this doesn’t happen after adding extra acid you should check the milk to make sure it’s fresh versus tetrapak.
- Set a strainer over a mixing bowl and line it with cheese cloth / muslin cloth / malmal ka kapra.
- Carefully pour the curds into the strainer. The curds will gather in the cheesecloth whereas the whey will collect in the bowl beneath.
- Add salt & seasonings to the cheese curds. Taste & adjust seasonings if required.
- Close the cheesecloth around the curds and shape into a rough circle or square (whatever your preference) and place it on a dinner plate. I had a local Paneer maker mold which makes Paneer in the shape of a circle. Keep a weight on top of the cheesecloth enclosed paneer for about 15 minutes to an hour.
- Once the Paneer is firm, it can be eaten directly or kept in the fridge for upto two days. Cut it into slices and add it to sandwiches, salads or salans.
- Red Chili Paneer – add 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes along with a pinch of red chili powder after adding salt.
- Herb Paneer – add ¼ teaspoon mixed Italian herbs in the paneer after adding salt.
- Red Chili & Herb Paneer – add ¼ teasoon red chili flakes & a pinch of mixed Italian herbs in the paneer after adding salt.
- Garlic Paneer – add 2 cloves sliced garlic in the milk and bring it to a boil. The garlic will soften and infuse the milk during the simmer process.
- Olive & Italian Herbs Paneer – add ¼ teaspoon mixed Italian herbs after adding salt in the paneer. Top the paneer in the end with green & black olives.
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