I love paneer. In fact it’s a big favourite with my entire family. It definitely adorns our dining table at least twice a week if not more.
Being one of the most versatile, paneer can be used to make a wide array of dishes right from soup, salad, starters, snacks, main course to dips and desserts or sweets. And that’s quite something for I don’t think there is any other ingredient that can be used in such a huge variety of dishes.
Paneer is definitely one of the most fascinating of dairy products. Quite simply it is curdled milk but paneer definitely has so much more to it.
Kids lap it up, oldies reach out for it, paneer is ever so popular among the young and old alike. I cannot imagine there is anyone who doesn’t know about paneer or hasn’t tasted it. Well if at all there is anyone who is oblivious to its existence then let me tell them that paneer is Indian cheese.
Like my younger daughter suggested that we should say ‘paneer’ while being photographed, for it brings on a smile at its very mention.
Where did paneer originate
It is known by so many names - paneer, cottage cheese, chaman, chhena and has been a part of Indian cuisine since ages. Its origins are difficult to trace. There are references to a form of paneer in early Vedic literature, but if some culinary historians are to be believed, the making of paneer, or the process of acidulation of milk to get cheese, was a gift of the Portuguese.
And then there are some who feel that the popularity of paneer in India is due to Persian and Middle Eastern influences. Paneer in many ways is similar to bean curd or tofu, which is so popular in South East Asian cooking.
Whatever or wherever its origins may be, we cannot deny the fact that paneer has, in recent times, assumed the status of a delicious, nutritious alternative to non-vegetarian food. Packed as it is with protein and all the goodness of milk, vegetarians have found that paneer as the perfect substitute for meat and poultry in almost any dish.
How to make paneer at home
Paneer is quite easy to make at home. Boil two litres of fresh whole milk and just as it begins to boil add two tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice or curd and stir continuously till it curdles. Drain away all the whey and then wrap it in a clean muslin cloth, rinse in cold water and drain well again. Form a ball and place it under a heavy object for approximately twenty minutes. The result of all this procedures will be two hundred grams of paneer.
What about the whey
If the colour of the whey of paneer is light green in colour, it means that you have extracted most out of the milk! However you are advised not to throw away the whey because it is nutrient rich. It can used to make upma, to knead roti dough or add to dal or soup.
Whey can also be used to make more paneer. But remember that when the milk is split with lemon juice or vinegar, the paneer will be firmer than when you use the whey to split the milk. Whey will give you softer crumbly paneer.
Health benefit of paneer
Paneer being a good source of calcium, helps build strong bones and teeth, and also prevents osteoporosis. Paneer when consumed in moderation, can help lower body weight as well as reduce the risk of developing insulin resistance syndrome. Besides it is a good source of protein and it can also reduce cancer risk.
It can prevent stomach disorders and even help with your bones as you get older, especially in women. It also helps in lower, back and joint pain.
Paneer in the kitchen
Paneer’s versatility is vast. At home we often have matar paneer or palak paneer or paneer jhalfraezi. At parties we serve paneer starters – which could be paneer tikka or paneer kabab. One dish which our guests always expect is paneer and babycorn balchao or paneer kaliya. Once when we served paneer tikki sizzlers and believe me our guests simply lapped it up.
Paneer combines well with most vegetables and even with rice. Chaat with little cubes of paneer is simply irresistible. There are so many other things that can be made with paneer that the adage ‘no use crying over split milk’ can be changed since the split milk can be put to good use to prepare many delicious dishes.