Lauren Rea's website is just the kind of food related site I love to find - simple recipes, mouth-watering pictures and just enough personal information about the author to make me feel cozy. Her subtitle is "Healthy Food for the Soul."
There are recipes for Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese, Broccoli Cheddar Cornbread, Apple Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Maple Glaze, etc., etc.. There's even a Soul Food section with recipes for BBQ Baked Beans, Sweet Potato Pie with Pecan Crust, etc., etc.. In her introduction, Lauren says, "... Make yourself at home! Feel the love." I did and I do!
Six months ago, Lauren made Paneer, a very easy "beginner" cheese. She documented it in her usual way, with beautiful pictures and easy to follow instructions, so I asked her to share it with us. She agreed, as you can see:
Making Fresh Cheese At Home
By Lauren Rea at Lawfully Wedded Wife
a fresh, soft cheese originating in India and made by curdling milk with an acid such as lemon juice.
What would you say if I told you that with less than an hour and two natural ingredients, you could make delicious fresh cheese in your own kitchen? It’s hard to believe, but totally true!
I actually have a bit of a history with this soft Indian cheese known as paneer. I went to alternative schools all my life that encouraged a variety of learning experiences during the school day. Sometimes the families of students would visit the school and teach us about the customs of their specific culture, everything from language to food to music. I very clearly remember when two Sikh classmates of mine had their family come in and we had an incredible time opening our horizons to different aspects of Indian culture. We spent the morning preparing a meal that we would all eat together, including a wonderful soft cheese that I have never forgotten the taste of. It’s kind of lingered in the back of my memory for all this time, and I was overjoyed when I stumbled across it on the internet and realized that I could re-live my happy cheese making days.
I think there’s a kind of novelty and joy that comes with making and eating certain things that most American cooks would never dare. I admit, this is where I get my jollies. This is my idea of living life on the edge. Be dangerous! Give yourself (and everyone around you) a wow moment and try this amazingly simple recipe that no one else but you has to know is simple. Be the first of your friends to walk into a room, pop your collar, throw your hands up, and say “Yo. I make my own cheese.”
Paneer (Indian Cheese)
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Keywords: condiment snack side Indian
Ingredients (12 oz. of cheese)
8 c. whole milk
1/3 c. fresh squeezed lemon juice
In a large pot, bring the milk to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently.
When the milk starts to boil, pour in about 3/4 of your lemon juice and stir gently.
You’re looking for the milk to quickly separate into curds and whey (white chunks and clear yellowish liquid). If the liquid left behind still looks like milk, add a little more lemon juice.
Stir gently for another minute until everything is separated nicely. Remove the pot from the heat.
Place an empty colander in an empty sink and line it with a double layer of cheesecloth.
Slowly pour the entire contents of the pot into the colander (through the cheesecloth).
Turn on the water and lightly rinse the curds that will be leftover in the cloth, then gather up the sides of the cloth and wring the liquid out to form a ball of curds.
Squeeze as much of the liquid out as you can, then leave it twisted up in the colander for a few minutes to drain more.
Get out two small plates. Place your ball of cheese (still in the cloth) in between the two plates, with the twisted part of the cloth facing down.
Place something heavy like a can or a pan on top of the plate to weigh it down. Let the cheese drain like this for 20 minutes.
Remove the weight, open the cheesecloth, and voila! Fresh cheese! It can now be refrigerated and used as you like (sliced, cubed, crumbled, etc.).
Once you’re done dusting off your shoulders from your amazing culinary achievement, you can find all sorts of ways to use your fresh cheese. Perhaps the most common use is the Indian spinach dish called palak paneer. If you’ve ever been to an Indian restaurant, this was no doubt on the menu. And once you’ve made your cheese, you can make a palak paneer that will rival any restaurant’s version.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Keywords: side Indian
Ingredients (serves 4)
10 oz. fresh baby spinach
1 medium onion
1/2 t. cinnamon
1 t. ginger
2 cloves minced garlic
1/3 c. canned diced tomatoes, drained
2 T. cottage cheese
2 T. yogurt (plain or vanilla is fine)
1 T. corriander
1 t. garam masala
1 t. paprika
1 t. salt
8 oz. paneer, cubed
2 T. heavy cream (optional, but recommended)
Heat a few tablespoons of water in a large skillet over medium heat.
Shred all of the spinach into thin strips with a large knife and add it to the hot water in the pan. Cook and toss until all the spinach is cooked.
Pour the spinach and liquid into a bowl and set aside.
Heat a little oil (about a tablespoon or so) in the same pan.
Chop the onion and add to the hot oil. Once the onions are tender, add the mince garlic and sautee just until the garlic is toasted. Stir in the cinnamon and ginger.
Add the tomatoes and lower the heat to medium-low. Stir to combine then stir in the cottage cheese then the yogurt.
Add the remainder of the seasonings and stir well to combine.
Add the spinach and its liquid back into the pan. Stir to combine then cover and let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Turn the heat to its lowest setting, then scoop out about half of the pan’s mixture into a small bowl. Puree that portion in a food processor or blender, then return it to the pan.
Add the paneer and cream, stir to combine, and let simmer for a couple more minutes before serving.
Have I convinced you to try this yet? If the palak wasn’t enough to get you there, know that it’s only the beginning of the possibilities. You can crumble then scramble it like eggs for a protein-filled breakfast dish (don’t worry, it won’t melt), slice it for a sandwich, snack on it with veggies, or marinate it in spices and oil as a great salad topping.
Be dangerous with me! You won’t be sorry. :)