Over 98% of British Households buy and consume cheese on a regular basis. We devour around 700,000 tonnes each year, produce 700 named cheeses, and gorge on Cheddar more than any other variety.
But how many of us are still yet to sample the glory that is Paneer?
‘Paneer’ you say, ‘what on earth is that?’
Well imaginary voice, I’m glad you asked. Do let me enlighten you.
Most commonly used in South Asian cuisine, Paneer is an unaged, non-melting curd cheese, made by curdling milk with lemon juice or any other food acid. (Thanks Wiki). Because of the way it is made, Paneer is often referred to as ‘Indian Cottage Cheese,’ (though actually tastes nothing like) and thanks to the aforementioned non-meltiness, (a technical term) is used as a meat alternative within curries, kebabs, and salads.
(There… consider yourself enlightened.)
As a curry fan, I have to admit, I ADORE Paneer.
Not only is it tasty and versatile, it is also an excellent source of protein, providing vegetarian dishes with the nutrients and texture meat typically provides. Nonetheless, as with all cheese, Paneer is not particularly low in fats or calories; a notion I find rather upsetting considering the quantities I wish to eat it in.
In light of this overzealous penchant, over the past few weeks, the Scoffing Cow laboratory has been deeply engrossed in this very cheese, and the low fat manufacture of which.
My goal; to make a reduced calorie version of my much revered Paneer, which does not compromise on taste, or require ‘unhealthy’ cooking methods to ensure palatability.
The result; Chilli, Cumin and Coriander Paneer, made with just 1% fat, and containing less than 100 calories per serving.
So how about it Scoffettes, why not brie adventurous and give it a go… it really is the cheese knees.
Chilli, Cumin and Coriander Paneer
© 8 pints 1% milk
© 1 tbsp cumin seed (preferably dry roasted under the grill)
© 1 lemon (juiced)
© 2 tbsp dried chilli flakes
© 2 – 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
© Large handful fresh coriander, very finely chopped.
© Pinch of Salt and Pepper
© Large Casserole or Stock Pot
© Muslin Cloth, or Cheese Cloth
1. Pour milk into a large casserole pot, and then throw in the garlic, chilli, roasted cumin seeds, along with a decent pinch of salt and pepper.
2. Heat pan gently continually stirring, until the milk starts to bubble and come to a boil.
3. Reduce heat and add lemon juice little by little, continuing to stir. After a minute or so, the milk should start to curdle; if it doesn’t, add a drop more lemon juice and increase the temperature slightly.
4. Once the milk has curdled, and the curds and whey have separated, remove from heat, and add the coriander leaves. Leave to rest for ten minutes.
5. Line a large colander with cheesecloth or muslin, and lay over the sink. Carefully pour the mixture into the cloth, discarding the whey and catching the curd.
6. Lift the cloth away from the colander, and bring the sides into the middle. Twist the ends together so that the curd is forced into a ball. Continue to twist until all excess whey is squeezed out of the cloth.
7. Lay the clothed curd on a chopping board, and place a heavy pot / board on top. Leave to dry for a couple of hours, and when cool, transfer to Clingfilm and refrigerate.
8. Gloat – you just made your own cheese man!
Serves 4 (makes around 400 grams)
Takes around 30 minutes to prepare, plus cooling/setting time.
Approximately 100 calories per serving.
The Scoffing Cow’s Top Tips
Low fat Paneer can be dull – without the fat content of heavy milk, there is the risk of creating something which resembles overcooked tofu. Sounds yummy right!?
Avoid this unappealing scenario by seasoning generously… add more chilli, cumin, garlic, pepper… you can throw in just about anything. Just be careful not to add ‘acidic’ ingredients whilst the milk is heating – this may affect the curdling process and leave you with dry or crumbly cheese.
Also, don’t underestimate the ‘Twist and Squeeze.’ You may be tempted to assume that it’s all in the bag once the cooking part is over, but alas, the straining / setting process is the crux of kick-ass Paneer.
Don’t let the curd sit for too long once you’ve strained it – this will give it a crumbly rather than creamy texture, and may lead to it falling apart when cooked. Once you’ve drained away the whey (try saying that after a few!) wrap your little Paneer parcel up tight, and squeeze out as much liquid as you can… just be careful, cause it will still be extremely hot.
Paneer is always best served the following day, and cubes easily with a sharp knife.
Finally..Fry it, grill it, or roast it in the oven. Serve it with curry, veggie kebabs, salads or risotto – just be adventurous.