Friday, June 19, 2009

Cheese Gromit Cheese!

I think that people close to me, as well as not close to me, know that I love India Quality restaurant in Kenmore. I often get IQ for lunch when I'm working at Jean Therapy. I always order the came thing. I think I don't get anything different because I've tried to deviate before and, while it was good, it wasn't exactly what I really wanted. I always get the saag paneer. I love the taste of curry with the texture of the creamy spinach/greens and the chewy, sorta spongey, cheese! It's a wonderful dish full of comfort and complexity for me.

So when I saw a recipe on-line a while back for making paneer cheese at home, I cut and paste the recipe to an email, sent it to myself and archived it. What I cut and pasted is below this post. I'm sooo sorry to the blog where I found the recipe because I can't for the life of me remember where I got it.

In any event, it's a very simple recipe and I was kinda excited to be able to say, "I made my own homemade cheese". So how did I do? Well, for such an easy recipe, I managed to mess it up. A couple of suggestions, so you can learn from my mistakes:

1.) Use a cheesecloth and not a kitchen towel.
2.) Wait until the curds have cooled a bit to dump them into the cheesecloth in the colander.
3.) Wait until the curds have really cooled off to start squeezing out the liquid. E and I were so excited over making cheese that right after dumping the hot curds into the kitchen towel in the colander, she started squeezing out the liquid. This resulted in most of the hot cheese sticking to my kitchen towel.
4.) Make the cheese ahead of the sag. This will give you time to really press it and get the liquid out before you attempt to fry it.

Will I make cheese again? Sure, but it won't be a staple in my kitchen that's for sure. I don't think I was born to become a cheese maker anytime soon. A cheese eater on the other hand, well, that's another story entirely! Also, the sag recipe I got off the Internet somewhere (again can't remember where) wasn't quite right. It called for yogurt and didn't have the creamy mouth feel I was use to. So if anyone has a fairly foolproof recipe for saag, please share!!!!
Basic Paneer

This comes from my oft-consulted copy of Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian.

You’ll need:
  • 2 litres whole milk
  • 3-4 tblsps white vinegar
You’ll also need:
  • A large, heavy saucepan in which to boil the milk, plus a colander and tea-towel for straining.
The Steps:
  • Place your colander in the sink and line with a clean tea-towel or few layers of muslin.
  • Put the milk in a large heavy saucepan over a medium-high heat.
  • Stir the milk occasionally while it’s heating, otherwise you’re likely to end up with burnt milk residue on the base of the pot (at least that’s what happens to me!)
  • When the milk is just beginning to boil, turn the heat to low and add 3 tblsps of vinegar. The milk should curdle and separate into solid white curds and a thin greenish liquid, the whey.
  • The curdling should start happening right after the vinegar is added. If it doesn’t, add another tblsp of vinegar.
  • Once the milk is separated (which won’t take long, maybe a minute or so) remove from the heat and pour the contents into your lined colander. Most of the whey will drain out.
  • Now, you can either just let the curds sit and drain for 5-10 minutes and use them as soft curds (as you might use ricotta) or you can press them into a solid patty.
  • To press into a patty, gather up the ends of the tea-towel, twist and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
  • Then take your little cloth bundle, flatten it into your desired patty shape and leave the top firmly twisted. Sit it on a board in the sink and top with another board and weight it down for about 3-4 minutes. The weight (a heavy pot, say, or a combination of pots) should weigh at least 2.25kg.
  • The paneer is now ready. It can be sliced and fried or cut into cubes and used in any number of Indian recipes.
The Variations:
  • Having read Jenni’s post on the world of dairy infusion, I thought, hey, ho, I could add something into the milk to impart some flavour while it boils. So far I have tried adding a piece of cinnamon stick and ended up with lovely, mildly cinnamon-flavoured curds. There are lots of other things you could try adding, like bay leaves, cloves or other whole spices, depending on how you want the curds to taste.
  • If you’re going to press the paneer, you can mix herbs or spices into the curds just before you press them. For Indian dishes I like to add 1 tsp of toasted cumin seeds and a couple of twists of black pepper to the paneer but you can choose the flavouring to suit whatever dish you’re making.
The Results:
  • Approx. 250g of paneer

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