Today I made myself some cheese! This recipe is easy peasy, there’s no rennet, and you don’t need anything but fresh organic whole milk and something acidic (vinegar, lemon or lime juice). I set out to make Paneer, but stopped before shaping the cheese curds to enjoy some ricotta-like cheese with chilli flakes, herbs and olive oil.
This Indian cheese (Paneer) isn’t mature or ‘cheesy’ tasting, it’s very plain and doesn’t melt, this is because with matured cheese, like cheddar, rennet is added which further breaks down the proteins in the curd, forming a single mass which matures over time and melts under heat. Paneer doesn’t include rennet (from India, this cheese can be consumed by the vegetarian hindu population of the country) so it doesn’t mature well and doesn’t melt. But it does make a great creamy fresh background for strong flavours like curry, chilli or oregano.
So what’s the advantage of making your own paneer? Well first of all it’s fun, secondly it’s cheap (4 pints of milk makes a good bit of paneer and at only £1.69 for 4 pints of organic wholemilk, I think it’s at least £1 cheaper than the same cheese in the shops), thirdly it means you can make your cheese organic- I’ve never seen organic paneer in the shops.
So here’s how you make it, AND how to use it straight away on tasty pizza slices!
So you need:
4 pints of whole organic milk
Between 100 and 140ml of acid (vinegar, lemon of lime juice- I recommend the most tasteless, so rice vinegar or similar is good).
Here’s what you do:
Put the milk in a large pan
Heat the milk until boiling and then turn it down to a simmer.
Add the lemon juice or vinegar, in small amounts until the white cheese curds split away from the green whey, don’t add more acid than you need to, just because you don’t want the strong lemony or vinegary flavour. It’s worth mentioning it looks gross at this point but don’t let you put that off.
Drain the curds through a cheesecloth or piece of muslin, squeeze out all the whey you can (don’t spend a lot of money, a clean teatowel or piece of sheet is fine). It’ll look like this…
Rinse the cheese curds in the cheesecloth to get rid of any acidic flavour, then tie the cheese cloth into a parcel and rinse the cheese again, or soak the cheese in cold water, just to get all the lemon/lime/vinegar out.
Squeeze the cheese again to get out as much liquid as possible.
Now it should look like this, soft crumbly curds.
At this point hang the cheese up to drip out the last of the liquid.
When the cheese has been hanging for a few hours and most of the moisture is gone, cut open the parcels, shape the cheesecloths with the curds inside into a block shape and wrap in more cheesecloth if available. Then squash with something heavy to form the cheese into a block.
My version of something heavy- a cast iron pan filled with jars of garlic and coffee!
Before hanging it up, if you just can’t wait- nick a few of those curds out and add dried chilli flakes, dried herbs and olive oil, you can eat this smeared on bread or make into tasty pizza slices (see my post HERE 🙂 )