Lately, I've been embarking on new culinary adventures. I'm entering a zone that I've avoided for years -cooking Indian food. I love my parents' cooking and they live a mere 20 miles away. You can see how that's led to my having neither reason nor motivation to make the effort...until now.
I wanted to experiment this weekend with an idea of masala-paneer phyllo turnovers. What I love about paneer is that it's mild and takes on the flavors of whatever you add to it. In this case, I plan on mixing into it a basic "masala" of sauteed onions, chili, ginger and tomatoes. The problem with my plan was that I didn't know where to find paneer in its pre-block form (other than my mom's kitchen). I decided the closest substitution would be ricotta and I would just use that instead.
I was running the idea by my mom when she suggested I just make it myself. "Mom, I don't know how to make paneer. And I don't want to spend hours doing it." She told me it was easy to do, but I didn't believe her until I actually tried it. Apparently, making paneer is a cinch. Well, the first step is at least. Turning the ricotta-like paneer into the cubes we're used to seeing in most dishes involves a few more steps -involving cheesecloth, weighing it down, and possible frying. All of that is left for another day's lesson.
Most of you are probably used to paneer that comes in a big block from the grocery store, but it doesn't start off that way. For the purposes of my turnovers, I wanted the cheese in its pre-block form.
1. Pour one gallon milk into a large heavy bottomed pot. I happened to use 2% milk, but you can also use whole milk.
2. Bring to a boil. Just as milk starts to boil, slowly add the lemon juice. You will immediately see the milk begin to curdle. Reduce the heat to medium.
3. Using a ladle, stir the milk gently. You will see the curd start to separate from the whey (an almost clear liquid)
4. Allow to cook for another minute or so, then turn off heat.
5. Using a small-holed colander, drain liquid from cheese. (In another post, I'll talk about saving the whey water and using it for other purposes, such as kneading it into dough.)
6. Now you have your cheese, ready to use.
I was truly amazed at how simple this was!