Paneer is very popular and an integral part of Indian cuisine. As far as Bengalis are concerned I doubt whether there is a Bengali who can contemplate life without ‘Chhana’ (the Chh is pronounced as it is pronounced in the Hindi word Chhatri –Umbrella). Chhana the Bengali word for paneer is the essential ingredient in most Bengali sweets. I was therefore surprised to read that paneer was introduced in India by the Portuguese. I thought I will delve deeper and do a bit of research and share my findings with my readers. My search took to me to Wikipedia; I soon beat a hasty retreat when I found an intense debate raging on whether paneer is of Indian or foreign origin. Since I do not have a time machine to take me into the past and help me solve the problem, I thought it would be better if I focused on the paneer recipes.
Before I proceed to the recipes I would like to show you how to make paneer at home, because the usual reaction to mum’s paneer dishes have been, “The paneer is so soft the paneer just melts in the mouth” and my mum’s response to that is, “I never use readymade paneer, I always make it at home.”
It is actually quite simple. Here is a step- by- step instruction along with a video on how to make paneer:
How To Make Paneer (Cottage Cheese)
- Boil a litre of full cream milk. You may use skimmed milk but paneer always tastes better when made with full cream milk.
- Squeeze a lemon in a bowl. A word of caution since you are using lemon which is acidic in nature (it contains citric acid) use chinaware take care not to use stainless steel, aluminium or a vessel made from any metal.
- Now pour the boiling milk into this bowl.
- The milk will begin to curdle.
- Strain using a fine cotton cloth.
- Hang the paneer till all the whey has drained out and the paneer is dry. It usually takes about 7 to 8 hours for instance if you curdle the milk at around 8 in the morning the paneer will be nice and dry by about 4 to 5 in the evening.
- Check the whey to see there is no trace of milk; if the lemon is not sour or large enough you may need to add few more drops of lemon.
- Do not discard the whey, it’s very nutritious, you can either drink it (add a bit of sugar if you want to sweeten it) or add the whey to the paneer dishes; it enhances the flavour of the dish. But use it immediately or store in refrigerator in glass or chinaware.