I adore paneer cheese in a curry dish but it’s impossible to get hold of in this part of Italy where, unlike the UK, there isn’t a long history of inward migration from India and Bangladesh. So this week between Zoom meetings I had a go at making my own. It was incredibly quick and simple! The paneer was cut into cubes, fried and served with spiced garden vegetables alongside my creamy chickpea, spinach and sweet potato curry and a red lentil, squash and coconut dahl.
For the paneer
1 litre of fresh whole milk
Juice of half a lemon
Oil for frying
For the spiced garden vegetables
A small aubergine
A red onion or shallot
Two garlic cloves
Red chillis (quantity according to taste and heat!)
2 tablespoons garam masala
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric
Start by making the paneer, leaving enough time for it to ‘firm up’ before it needs to be cooked ( minimum 4 hours). First, put the milk in a large pan and bring to the boil. Take the pan off the heat then add the juice of half a lemon, stir, and watch the curds separate from the whey. Allow to cool.
Pour the contents of the pan through a clean cotton tea towel so that the curds are retained. These will be used to make the cheese. Keep the whey. It’s full of protein and can be used to make a stock for your curries. Squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the curds and shape on a plate. Then fold the tea towel around the cheese adding weight to help squeeze out the remaining excess liquid. I happened to have a big bowl of chestnuts to hand but you can use anything….tins from your cupboard are good! Leave for 3-4 hours,
After 3-4 hours remove the cheese from the cloth, place on a clean plate and cut into cubes. My paneer was much firmer than expected and didn’t crumble at all but don’t worry if it does, it will still taste creamy and delicious. I fried the cubes in a little oil to make them crisp on the outside.
I decided to go for a ‘dry’ curry so that the taste of the paneer would not get lost in a rich sauce. To make the spice mix I simply toasted the cumin seeds in a little hot oil taking care that they didn’t burn and then added the garam masala and turmeric before tipping the mixture into a mortar and pestle and grinding together.
I cut the aubergine into small chunks and fried with the onion, which I’d grated to release the liquid. The cauliflower was roasted in a hot over for 10 minutes and then added to the pan with the spices and fried paneer.
As for the whey which I mentioned earlier, this is full of goodness so don’t throw it down the sink! I added a vegetable stock cube to mine, poured it into a bottle and used as the liquid base for the accompanying curry dishes.