Indian Kitchen Hacks/How To

How to Make Paneer (Fresh Indian Cheese)

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Okay this is long due. This post is in my drafts for more than two years. I was trying a lot of ways all this time but something wasn’t right with the texture & taste of paneer I made at home.As simple as it sounds but just splitting the milk,tying up & weighing it down was not as easy as it looked. Sometimes the curds didn’t pull together or the taste was off, on few days I was left with dryish, crumbly blob.

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Once you get a hang of it, making paneer could be the easiest thing you do in your kitchen. The steps are simple and there are just a few things you need to keep in mind and viola you are a cheese maker! I am sharing a recipe which I have developed to suit our tastes.Its moist, creamy and mildly chewy.The cubes hold up their shape when added to curries or grilled on high heat.

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Paneer/Panir is something you cannot imagine north indian cuisine without.From curries to flatbreads to desserts, there is hardly any course where paneer is not served if you sit down for meals.Back in India, freshest paneer is easily available at every nook and corner of the neighborhood having unmatched quality.This mild tasting cheese could be one few of the best indian things you can put into your mouth. It is a popular substitute for vegetarians in India and if you ask me,sometimes I choose paneer dishes over chicken or meat.

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There are many ways of splitting the milk which differ from recipe to recipe. I personally don’t  like to use lemon juice because no matter how much I wash the curds, I still taste the citrus note. If you are in India, sour indian style curds (khatta dahi) works great but I was not able to find it here & yogurt is not as good a substitute. I have known few recipes using  buttermilk but again indian mattha/chaas is made from dahi so it was not a choice for me.

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This recipe can be halved,doubled or tripled. Please use this recipe as a basic guideline to make paneer. The timings mentioned in the recipe will differ on stove settings and milk/cream quality.

Ingredients (Makes about 8oz block of paneer)

  • 1/2 gallon whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar (this quantity of vinegar can go up to 1/3 cup)

Other things that you will need :-

  • A heavy bottomed pot to boil the milk& cream
  • A wooden spoon or plastic spatula to stir the milk while boiling
  • Cheesecloth/muslin (large enough so that it can be tied up)
  • Soup Strainer/Colander
  • A bowl to collect the whey (which is extremely nutritious and can be used to knead doughs or as stock).
  • Few rubber bands or string to tie the cheesecloth


Line the strainer with double layer of cheesecloth/muslin. Set it over the bowl to catch the whey such that there is gap between the bottom of strainer and the bowl. Keep rubber bands or string nearby. I recommend setting this up near your sink so that once you have strained the curds you can hang the cheesecloth on the tap.

Add milk to the pot. Let the milk warm up on medium heat for about 5-6 minutes. Once the milk is warm, add the heavy cream to the pot and bring the whole mixture to a boil. This will take 12-15 minutes on medium heat, you will need to intermittently stir the mixture so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Keep a close eye because the milk can boil very quickly.

Once the milk has boiled, put off the heat. Wait for 3-5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of white vinegar to the boiled milk. Immediately you will see that the milk starts to coagulate and a greenish liquid separating (this is whey). This green liquid will be clear, if it’s still whitish, you might need to add more vinegar. Add vinegar 1 tbsp at a time till you see clear green liquid.

Pour the curdled milk over the strainer lined with cheesecloth. The whey will collect in the bowl. Tie up the ends of the cheesecloth and fasten with the help of rubber band/string. Hang this for maximum 5-7 minutes so that the liquid drains away. Stop as soon as the water stops dripping in a continuous string. At this point use you hands to squeeze the cheesecloth bundle a little bit.Don’t apply too much pressure. 

Place the cheesecloth on a plate and keep another plate on top of it to flatten down to a block. Next keep a heavy weight on top of it. I fill up my 3 quart stainless tea kettle with water and use it to weigh down. You could use tomato/bean cans. Keep the curds weighed down for at least 30-45 minutes at room temperature. Drain the liquid that has collected in the plate and unwrap the cheesecloth to take out the block.

Carefully, keep he paneer block in refrigerator for at least 24 hours before cutting through,though I find that it much better if I wait up to 36 hours to cut a piece.

Store paneer refrigerated for 4-5 days. It could be frozen for up to 2 weeks.

Few other tips & suggestions-

  1. Be sure not to add the vinegar when the milk is boiling and do not heat the milk once you have added it, else the curds will become rubbery. (see recipe for when to add vinegar)
  2. Do not let too much water drain from the curdled milk once you have tied it up in the cheese cloth else your paneer will be dry and the curds will never pull together to form a block.
  3. It is better to cut paneer when the block is cold. Use a sharp knife. 
  4. I recommend storing the paneer block in little bit of water (like we store fresh mozzarella) in the refrigerator. Cut out pieces as you need.
  5. You could skip addition of heavy cream in this recipe but it does make a difference in the softness.

Happy Cheese making & Thanks for stopping by!

Indian Breads & Flatbreads · Indian Vegetarian & Vegan

Kadhai Paneer & Triangle Paratha (Flatbread)

Thousands of miles away, when you cook food which you ate back home – on family picnics, long drives, with friends, at birthdays parties & weddings, there is a certain sense of overwhelm which grasps me.Does it happens to you too? – tastes which remind you of good times spent.One such memory is eating at dhabas in and around Delhi.Dhaba is indian equivalent of a diner, very popular amongst drivers and long distance travellers for quick & inexpensive food.If you ask me the best places to eat in Delhi, I will recommend most of the dhabas on the outskirts of the city and some in Old & central areas.

The typical setting of a dhaba is not fancy,very basic, you might or might not get cutlery or tissue paper, but you are sure to find food made with love and bursting with authentic flavors.Mostly you would be eating on reusable stainless steel plates, you may get mineral water,there might be mosquitos during summers and monsoons [grin],AC is out of question,if it’s a popular place – you ll get chairs else enjoy seating on a cot & don’t shy away from humming old hindi film songs playing on the radio…the food is glorious,the atmosphere – intoxicating! When my dad used to work outside Delhi, most of our summer vacations were spent on road trips. I remember that we used to plan our visits such that we can have dinner at our favorite dhabas which dotted the interconnecting highways.As I write this, my mouth is already watering at the thought of food served - dal makhani [ lentils], palak paneer [ spinach & cheese curry],  kadhai chicken served along with hot& fluffy butter dunked tandoori rotis [flatbreads] straight out the the clay oven, jeera [cumin] rice & a BIG glass of lassi or chaas [ salty buttermilk] during summers or masala chai during winters.Here you don’t kill yourself over worrying about calories or hygiene, its the zesty experience which matters!! The recipe in this post is one which you will find at almost every dhaba in north india – trust me the very mention still stirs the emotions of best family times 🙂

“Kadhai” is an indian wok.It is one of the most indispensable utensil in an Indian it for making quick stir fry, curries, shallow or deep-frying or simmering stews.Its shallow & less heavy as compared to dutch ovens and something I just can’t imagine my without.A dish which is made start to finish in a “kadhai” gets its name from there & is Indian answer to a stir fry. However, you do not compulsorily need a kadhai to make this recipe 🙂 The point to keep in mind is that since it’s a quick cooking method, you can make a kadhai with almost anything under the sun.The recipe is very simple, you can prepare & store the kadhai sauce in advance & add whatever you wish to it- from chicken to cauliflower to fish to vegetable medley .Today I chose paneer [Indian Cottage Cheese] which is the most popular of all kadhai preparations in northen India. A typical addition to any kadhai is lots of bell peppers – of all colors, choose any you like.The dish is bursting with indian flavors, mostly made semi dry, is really one of the most colorful curries around & is really simple to whip up.

Although kadhai tastes awesome with naan bread, tandoori roti or even rice, in my home we are used to eating it with tawa parathas or skillet cooked flatbreads.Since childhood , I have known parathas in this triangle shape right from dinner plate to lunch box.Infact my granny was very particular about how neat a triangle you are able to roll out.I hope my pictures of the steps will help you in that regard 🙂 This triangle paratha has layers , is soft & flaky coz its brushed with oil/ghee inside – I can have few of these straight from the skillet on its own- Love the aroma of steam which escapes when you bite the layers. You can add chopped chillies, herbs, spices etc to make your own variations.

  • .

Ingredients:- [Serves 2-3]

 [ You can replace the paneer with any boneless meat or vegetable of choice]

  • 1 lb / 1.5 kg Paneer, cubed or cut in strips  [ Indian Cottage Cheese available in all indian stores, recommended brand “Nanak”]
  • 1 tbsp canola/corn/vegetable oil
  • 1 medium-sized each of red & green bell peppers, seeded, cut in strips or diced
  • 1/2 cup onions, thick sliced [ optional]
  • Salt to taste [ if required]
  • Fresh chopped Cilantro for garnish
  • Fresh lime juice
Basic Kadhai Sauce Ingredients [ Can be made fresh or well in advance.For storing, put in dry-air tight containers & freeze.Thaw 1-2 hours before you need]
  • 1/3 cup mustard/canola/corn//vegetable olive oil
  • 3/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated
  • 2 tbsp fresh grated ginger
  • 3-4 fresh tomatoes [ any variety which is slightly sour, chopped fine to yield 1 cup]
  • 1.5 tbsp coriander seeds, coarsely ground with mortar pestle or in coffee grinder
  • 7 dry red chillies, coarsely ground with mortar pestle or in coffee grinder [ adjust to taste]
  • 3 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp brown sugar [ adjust to taste,do not skip]
  • 2 tsp kasuri methi,crushed with hand [ dried fenugreek leaves,do not skip, makes all the difference in the taste, available in all indian stores under ” Peacock” brand]
  • 2 tsp salt
Make the Kadhai Sauce:- [ Makes about 2.5- 3 cups] 
  • In a kadhai or any heavy bottomed cooking pot, heat the oil on high heat.Once the oil is smoking, reduce the heat to medium.If using mustard oil, it is important to cook it to smoky point at the start of cooking to do away with the raw smell.
  • Add the chopped onions and cook on medium heat till golden brown in color.
  • Next,add the grated garlic & ginger and saute for about 2 minutes till you smell the aroma.Next add the chopped tomatoes,coarsely ground coriander & red chillies,green chillies, turmeric and cook on medium heat till you see oil separating at the sides of the pot.About 5-8 minutes.
  • At this point add the kasuri methi, garam masala, salt & brown sugar,stir well cook for 5 minutes more on medium heat.
  • Above is the basic kadhai sauce, if you want to store it for later use, let it come to room temperature and refrigerate for using within 3-4 days or freeze up to a month.
  • Making Kadhai Paneer :- For the stir fry, on high heat 1 tbsp oil in a kadhai or a cooking pot.Add the diced bell peppers & onion slices [ if using] to the oil and saute for 3-4 minutes.This saute time depends on how tender you like the veggies.Next, add the paneer and saute for another 1 minute till paneer sarts to become light brown.Be careful while stirring after you have added paneer because it softens quickly & crumbles easily in heat. Add the sauce and mix well.Check the seasoning and let simmer for 2-3 minutes till everything is heated well.
  • Remove from heat,squirt some fresh lime juice & sprinkle chopped cilantro.Serve warm with flatbreads & a salad.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by.