I whipped up a modified version of chana masala a few days ago by adding in some spinach because I add spinach to most everything anymore. This made me want to whip up a Palak Paneer or better yet a Mattar Paneer, but alas I had no paneer and that is a central focus for these two dishes.
Do you know of paneer? It is often referred to as cottage cheese in Indian recipes.
Think of a more solid form of ricotta or haloumi, although that is made from goats milk. These mild flavored cheeses are great because they don’t melt, can even be fried and sort of squeak when you eat them.
So I asked around to find local shops that carry paneer and got a few suggestions. I have been able to get haloumi really close to home, which would work in a pinch, but at last check it was $10 for about 8 ounces. No way.
My lovely son-in-law suggested making my own paneer. He uses milk and buttermilk and gets paneer. Basically you just bring to a boil whole milk and then he adds buttermilk. Recipes found on the web suggest adding lemon juice or vinegar. As long as you add an acid, curds will form and then you can strain out the whey through a cheesecloth. Squeeze out the curds, press and you have paneer.
I bought a gallon of whole milk and some lemon juice this morning. I brought my milk to a boil, took it off the heat and begin adding lemon juice. My milk began to curdle nicely but not much. The recipe I was using suggested adding a bit more lemon juice slowly until you could easily define curds from whey. After what I think was way too much lemon juice, my large curds went back to tiny curds and sort of blended right back into the whey. At this point I just said F*** and strained it. Maybe I should have reheated it and tried again but who knows.
I did make some paneer although it ended up being such small curds that they went right through the cheesecloth and left me with roughly a golf ball size piece of cheese. I rinsed it, squeezed it and had it on a piece of toast with honey drizzled over the top.
The outcome of this experiment was not as successful as the granola bar episode. That one in fact needs to be repeated soon as we are almost out of granola bars.
I am going to try cheese making again, but use only a half-gallon of milk, and maybe try the buttermilk trick instead of the juice. Or I could just head to my local cheese shop and buy the ready made version. Where’s the fun in that though.