In my house, adding cheese to any meal instantly makes it at least 75% better. Homemade cheese ups that by a good 50%. So, when I set out to make Indian-flavoured pizza, I knew that homemade paneer flavoured with spices was the first step.
Paneer and other fresh cheeses are surprisingly easy to make, and take very little time. For this recipe, you will need:
- a large saucepan
- a wooden spoon, or other stiring implement
- a stove
- cheesecloth, or a lint-free towel
- a colander
- a sink
- two large plates of equal size, with a lip preferred
- several cans of soup or other heavy weights
- a fridge
- a good sharp knife
- 8 cups of milk
- 1/4 cup of lemon juice
- spices of choice: I used garam masala, curry powder, and tumeric
Step 1: Heating the Milk and Flavours
First, pour your 8 cups of milk into the saucepan, and add appropriate flavourings. I added 1 teaspoon each of garam masala and curry powder, and a pinch of tumeric. I've also made paneer with infused lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, for a Thai curry pizza, but really, you can add any flavours you want - chiles, citrus rind, and cinnamon would all make delicious additions.
Heat the spiced milk over medium heat. Keep an eye on it, and stir regularly, to prevent the milk from burning. You want to bring the milk to a gentle boil
Step 2: Make Curds
Reduce heat down to low, and add a 1/4 of a cup of lemon juice. For making cheese, I prefer to use bottled lemon juice, because fresh lemon juice is not always acidic enough.
Stir the milk mixture until curds start to form. You'll be able to see the curds start to clump together and the whey (the watery greyish liquid that is left over after cheese curds form) start to appear.
If the curds don't start forming after two minutes or so, add more lemon juice a tablespoon at a time, stirring frequently.
Step 3: Straining the Curds From Whey
Pour your curds into a colander lined with a double layer of cheesecloth (or single layer of towel), placed in the sink. Be careful! The mixture will be very hot, so pour away from yourself.
If you would like, save the whey and use it as a replacement for water when making bread. It should be slightly flavoured as well (yum, spiced homemade naan!).
Step 4: Draining the Curds
Gather the cheesecloth, and lift up the curds to drain more whey. Gently squeeze the ball of curds, though be careful! It is still very, very hot.
Take two opposite corners of the cheesecloth, and tie up over the sink faucet. Tighten as much as you can, and then secure with remaining two corners.
Let curds drain from faucet for 5 minutes.
Step 5: Set Curds
Transfer drained curds on to one of the plates. Press down and form into a rough disc.
Fold edges of cheesecloth as smoothly as possible over the curds, so they are covered completely.
Place other plate on top of the curds, and transfer to the refrigerator.
Stack several heavy cans or other weights on top of the second plate, to weigh and press down the curds. Let curds set for at least half an hour.
Step 6: Slice and Eat Curds
Take curds out of the fridge, and remove weights and second plate. Unwrap curds and remove cheesecloth.
Slice curds into 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch squares. Add to your favourite curry, pizza, salad, or mouth.