Thursday, January 13, 2011

Little Miss Muffet

Why anyone would eat whey is beyond me. It looks disgusting! How do I know? Because I wanted to make my own paneer tikka masala, but I didn't know where to buy paneer, so my friend Jennie linked me to a site detailing how to make it myself. Only two ingredients are required: whole milk and lemon juice. Done!

(Incidentally, this simple process makes paneer a vegetarian cheese. Most cheeses are made using rennet, which, traditionally, comes from animal stomachs. Yes, cheese comes from animal stomachs. Nowadays, rennet can be made from vegetables or other sources, but unless specified, assume most cheeses at your local deli are not, in fact, vegetarian.)

I didn't have any whole milk because I don't actually like milk. Rice milk is out of my price range, though, so I buy skim milk for cereal and the occasional recipe. I happened to have used the last of my milk on pancakes earlier that day, so I was in the market for milk, and who am I to pass up such a challenge?

The only requirement that I wasn't sure about was cheesecloth, which I certainly do not have sitting around. Since my library books were due back, I decided to run out to return the books and see if I could pick up some cheesecloth and milk along the way. The weather had other plans. I managed to creep to the library never more than 20 mph and on my way out of the parking lot, I decided against the cheesecloth. Instead, I drove home and walked (it was quicker than driving, trust me) over to Trader Joe's for the milk and some other incidentals. A quick search online told me that I could use any number of things in place of cheesecloth, including paper coffee filters, which I do have lying around! (See my entry on coffee.)

The recipe calls for a liter of milk, which I found a bit daunting. For one thing, I wasn't sure how many cups that was. (Turns out it's about 4 and a quarter.) And I didn't know that I wanted a bunch of paneer sitting in my fridge for who knows how long, though luckily I do know two dishes that call for paneer, my goal paneer tikka masala (chopped cheese curds in masala sauce) and palak paneer (spinach and cheese curds).

Anyway, I decided to cut the recipe in half, which seems to have worked out. After separating the milk into curds and whey by stirring the lemon juice into the heated milk, to divide the curds from the whey, I put a coffee filter in my strainer (previously used for steaming the cauliflower for my chickpea cauliflower curry) and set it atop the largest Pyrex bowl that my brother got me for Christmas. I very carefully poured the separated milk into the coffee filter and let it sit. The instructions told me to squeeze the curds to get more liquid out, which I did and split open three soggy filters in a row. I was also told to set something on top of it to squeeze out liquid, so I ended up leaving the curds in the strainer, put another coffee filter on top of them, and on top of that I set the smallest Pyrex bowl, which worked better than squeezing by hand (no filters broke). Once it seemed that no more liquid would come out of its own free will, I set a bag of potatoes in the top Pyrex bowl to press the curds down even more.

After a few hours of that, I decided to remove the paneer from between the thoroughly soaked coffee filters and chill it in the fridge. The website mentions putting it in a cold water bath, but I didn't have time to use the cheese right away so I wanted to preserve it. I was also hoping that refrigeration would help firm it up. Taking it out the next day, it seems to have done the trick. Next step, marinade! But that will have to wait another day when I have more time. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. You should try currie potatios. My Indian friend, from India, made her own coo book. You can borrow it if you like. She was an Indian women from India, who came to America, but had never cooked her own food before. She was a self made cook.

    I hate cow milk. The Indian stores carries a garlic ginger paste, which will last you a life time. I tired powered in Indian dished, but, they never seem to have worked for me, that well.. I Knoa how to make yougurt, I gotta leanr the curt thing now. How exciting, your food looks good.