Wow! Quite a few people have asked for my homemade paneer and mattar paneer recipes after checking out my Flickr photostream (all is back to normal, of course). So without further ado –
Okay, so this is THE easiest cheese ever. For those who aren’t familiar with it, paneer is an Indian fresh (unripened) cheese with a dense texture and milky flavour. It doesn’t melt when heated (within reason) which makes it super cool! This amount makes the patty above, approximately 15 cm x 10 cm x 1.5 cm, enough for two people (or one, if you’re me). Very very easy to upsize, of course.
1 L (or quart) homogenized (whole) milk – 3.25% MF
2 tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar
Line a colander over a bowl with several layers of cheesecloth. Heat the milk in a heavy medium pot over medium-high heat. When the milk comes to a boil, turn the heat off and stir in the lemon juice. The milk should curdle pretty much right away, with the white curds separating from the greenish, thin whey. If it doesn’t want to go, add a little more acid.
Drain the curds into the colander and let the whole thing cool down for a little bit. Twist the cheesecloth up into a bundle to squeeze off more of the whey, then press the bundle – I pressed the cheese into a disc for a few minutes, then shaped it into more of a rectangle, re-wrapped the cheesecloth around it, then put a small plate and a couple cans on top. Press for at least half an hour, maybe an hour. Ready to become…
Mattar paneer is an Indian dish which translates to “peas and cheese” (guess which word means peas!). This is a medium-spicy dish, which you can, of course, adjust to your level of spice tolerance. I referenced my good friend Vivek for his recipe, but made a few procedural changes – supremely un-authentic, most likely, but easiest for me. This dish is a little time-consuming, but soooo yummy.
Ingredients [my notes in brackets]
Two large or three medium onions, chopped [I used one very large one]
Four large tomatoes, chopped (approx 750 ml of tomatoes) [I used home-canned ones from last year’s garden!]
Four cloves of garlic, chopped
Three green chilies, chopped (each about 4 cm long)
One inch of ginger, chopped [I grated mine]
10 ml cumin powder (or 25 ml whole cumin)
5 ml ground coriander
5 ml turmeric powder
2.5 ml cayenne pepper
7.5 ml garam masala
four cardamom pods, crushed (optional)
10 ml salt
400 g or so peas, frozen or fresh and shelled
300 g paneer cheese, chopped into 2 cm cubes [I used 1 recipe of paneer, but you could always add more!]
coriander to garnish (optional)
1. Heat some oil in a medium heavy pan over medium heat. Sweat off the onions slowly until they are translucent, at least 10 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger (I grated my ginger) to the pot and cook for another minute or two.
2. Push the onions all off to one side of the pan and heat a touch more oil in the bottom. Add the cumin, coriander, cardamom, turmeric, and cayenne pepper to the oil and fry through for a few seconds until fragrant. Mix the spices into the onions and add the chilies.
3. Add the tomatoes to the pot. Take the stick blender to the whole thing and give it all a whirr – I didn’t completely blend mine, but it should be pretty smooth. [This is a significant deviation from the original recipe, which has you make the onions into a smooth paste in the blender and then the tomatoes blended separately, but, well, I didn’t want to have to clean the blender! Plus my blender doesn’t work as well as an Indian grinder.] Add the salt and garam masala.
4. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes.
5. Add the peas. If you are using fresh peas, add them a few minutes earlier since they take a touch longer to cook. Cover and simmer an additional 10 minutes or so.
6. When you’ve gotten to the end of the simmering time, leave the pot on anyway while you toast the paneer. Heat a small, heavy frying pan over medium-high heat and add the pieces of paneer. Fry, turning often (I used chopsticks) until the pieces have golden spots and are turning crispy at the edges.
7. Add the paneer to the pot and stir gently. Turn off the stove and let the pot sit for 5-10 minutes, covered, or as long as you can stand it!
8. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves (cilantro) and serve with rice, plain or fancy. Ooh, and some yogurt or raita (yogurt with grated cucumber in it) is nice too. Serves 4-5.