Categories
General How To Vegetarian

How to Make Paneer (Fresh Indian Cheese)

SinfullySpicy - How to Make Paneer/Panir, Indian Cottage Cheese 001

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.

SinfullySpicy - How to Make Paneer/Panir, Indian Cottage Cheese 002

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.

SinfullySpicy - How to Make Paneer/Panir, Indian Cottage Cheese 003

SinfullySpicy - How to Make Paneer/Panir, Indian Cottage Cheese 004

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.

SinfullySpicy - How to Make Paneer/Panir, Indian Cottage Cheese 008

SinfullySpicy - How to Make Paneer/Panir, Indian Cottage Cheese 006 SinfullySpicy - How to Make Paneer/Panir, Indian Cottage Cheese 007

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.

SinfullySpicy - How to Make Paneer/Panir, Indian Cottage Cheese 008

SinfullySpicy - How to Make Paneer/Panir, Indian Cottage Cheese 0011

SinfullySpicy - How to Make Paneer/Panir, Indian Cottage Cheese 009

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

Method

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!

Categories
Desserts Festival Recipes Gluten Free Side Dishes Vegetarian

Gajar Halwa

Sinfully Spicy :Gajar Halwa-Indian Carrot Confection001

When food connects to a memory, there is a sense of warmth that crosses the heart.That time, those days, chatter, loud laughter, aroma of food, one thought after the other and I m suddenly transported to my grandma’s house where we had a huge aangan (backyard). I used to stroll through the vegetable patch soaking in the morning sun, brushing my teeth. We used to eat lunch after coming back from school there, sitting on charpai (four-legged cots),plucking & eating delicate garlic chives. When the sun decided to call it a day, we played in the mud while the gardener picked up potatoes and harvested the winter greens.

Oh Memories,so far are thee. yet so close in my heart…

Sinfully Spicy :Gajar Halwa-Indian Carrot Confection002

Sinfully Spicy :Gajar Halwa-Indian Carrot Confection002

Those sweet days are behind me but as I stir couple pounds of shredded carrot on stove, I think about the days when gajar halwa was made, my grandma just scraped, peeleed & grated all morning sitting there. There were no food processors then so she used a stainless steel rectangular grater placed on top of a large paraat. In between, she chatted with the lady who came in to clean the house or the next door aunt who stopped by for a cup of tea. She even tried giving me knitting lessons if I was just lazying around but the grating never stopped.

Sinfully Spicy :Gajar Halwa-Indian Carrot Confection002

When there are few ingredients, the recipe gets all the more tricky,this is what I learned on my trip to India couple of months back. Everytime I made it, my halwa hardly came out good. I blamed it on the variety of carrots (we get those red, juicy carrots in India during winters) or on the quality of dairy blah blah… All my bad. I was mixing up steps in the recipe is what I realized.

Sinfully Spicy :Gajar Halwa-Indian Carrot Confection004

In India, Halwa is usually an after meal or breakfast (like in my home) treat.Made with different kinds of vegetables, grains, fruits, nuts, seeds and even with lentils, it is a very popular thing when it comes to desserts. 

Gajar Halwa is an indulgent confection of shredded carrots slow cooked in milk & ghee for hours. It is a winter speciality in northern parts of India. Too bad that I am making it at the fag-end of the season (yep, it almost feels like spring in my part of the world). There are a lot of recipes which use khoya (solidified milk),condensed milk to make it rather rich & decadent.I don’t add all those because I don’t want to steal away the taste of the carrots and also that much dairy makes it quite heavy. You can add a cup or so of khoya to this recipe towards the end if you like.

Sinfully Spicy :Gajar Halwa-Indian Carrot Confection005

Ingredients (Makes 6-8 servings)

  • 2 lb carrots (preferably organic, they make a lot of difference in taste)
  • 2 tbsp + 1/2 cup ghee
  • 1 cup + 3/4 cup whole milk,warmed
  • 1 cup crystal sugar ( can reduce to 3/4 cup if you like less sugar like me)
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder
  • Almonds & Raisins for garnish (use roasted nuts of any kind you like)

Method

Peel the carrots and thoroughly wash them under running water, air dry the carrots completely before proceeding to grate. Using the food processor, shred the carrots.

In a heavy bottomed kadhai/pan on medium heat, tip in 2 tbsp ghee, after it melts, add the carrots. Mix so that the carrots are coated in ghee. Let the carrots cook for about 20-25 minutes, uncovered. You can stir occasionally in between so that they do not stick to the bottom.You will see a lot of steam coming up and the carrot shreds break down but this is fine because we want to cook off the moisture.

After 20-25 minutes of cooking, add warm milk to the kadhai/pan. Be careful when you do so because there will be splutter. Combine the milk & carrots thoroughly. Now, again let the carrot & milk mixture cook on medium – low heat so that the carrots are almost cooked and the milk has evaporated. This will take approximately 1.5 – 2 hours (or more depending on how juicy your carrots are).You will need to  occasionally in between. You will see the carrots turning a dark shade of orange and little drops of fat (from ghee & milk)on the sides of the pot, some of it might start sticking to the bottom of the pan, reduce the heat to low or take off from stove for few minutes if that happens.

After all the milk has evaporated, add the 1/2 cup ghee and keep on sautéing the carrots on low heat for another 15-20 minutes.At this point, you can try to pinch a little bit of carrots between your fingers, it should feel dryish. The point is to completely dry out the carrots, they should be glossy just because of ghee.

Take the kadhai/pan off from the stove and add the chopped roasted nuts,cardamom powder & raisins and combine. Let the halwa sit for 10-12 minutes to cool down a bit.Once cooled slightly, add the sugar and mix well.You do not need to cook on heat again.Adding sugar will loosen the halwa a bit and also enhance the color further.

Whenever you want to serve, reheat & serve garnished with more nuts.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!