Updated: Sep 10, 2020
Ok, so cottage cheese or paneer has to be something that every Indian (and south asian?) loves, without any exceptions. It's smooth, chewy texture is something that is hard to find in vegetarian food and quite simply, it's amazing. It's a hero item in a dish, or it can play second fiddle to another item. You can marinade it, roast it, BBQ it, fry it and even make a curry dish out of it. You can get creative and make koftas. I mean this when I say this, the possibilities are endless with paneer.
As far as making paneer is concerned, it isn't complicated, per se, but if you want to make it soft, then a tiny bit of extra work is needed.
A (rough) list of ingredients
Fundamentally, this is what you need.
2 litres of full fat milk, aka whole milk
200 ml cream. In my humble opinion, this is optional, and you can make do without it. If you want to go the extra mile and get it nice and soft, then this isn't optional ;)
Lemons, or Vinegar. I've even seen/heard of citric acid, but I'm not sure about it's ratio. Fundamentally, something acidic in nature is what we're after. We need this to curdle the milk and separate the proteins so that paneer can be created.
Ice cold water. This is in the optional category as well.
A muslin cloth
Milk, in a saucepan, over high heat. I then introduce (the optional) 200ml of cream into the saucepan. Frequently stir the milk while it's on heat to ensure it doesn't stick to the bottom and we keep on doing this until it comes to a boil.
When it's come to a boil, we lower the heat and continue heating it for another 5 odd minutes. At that point, we turn off the heat and allow the milk to cool.
To assist with the cooling, we add in the 250 ml of ice cold water we have.
Once the milk stops boiling and has cooled down slightly, add in the lemon juice or vinegar. If you give it a stir, you'll see the milk curdling, and the solids separating from the liquid.
At this point, you can either add ice cold water to the thing, or let it sit for a few minutes, it's entirely up to you. If you're after soft paneer, add the water in. Don't be surprised if you see the liquid turning green, it's fermented whey.
Now it's time to strain out the liquid (whey). Put the muslin cloth onto a colander and strain the liquid out. Once all the paneer is in the muslin cloth, give it a tight squeeze to strain out as much of the liquid as you can.
Another optional step - you can run some more cold water through the paneer if you want to.
Next, we put some pressure onto the paneer so that it takes a nice shape, and into the refrigerator it goes. It'll firm up a bit due to the cold temperature and in about an hour or two, it should be ready for consumption
Yeah, paneer really is that simple, and because of this, my incentive for buying expensive packs from the supermarket has dropped considerably over the last few years. I've heard and seen a few variations around this process, some involve adding a bit of Ghee to achieve the creaminess, but I've never tried it personally. If you've got a variation to the process or any thoughts, I'd love to hear them in the comments below!
See you all next time!