There are certain things such as ghee, yogurt, paneer that I would always prefer homemade. There is definitely a great difference in taste as compared to store bought items. Plus you have total control over the quality of ingredients that go in making of these foods and of course freshness of final product. I have been making ghee since a few years now, and have been making yogurt at home since about a year. Paneer is one thing that I have been wanting to make for a really long time. Since A doesn't like paneer, I didn't pursue making it at home. Since about a week or so, thoughts of trying out paneer started creeping in and I knew that I would be making paneer very soon.
Making Paneer At Home:
Recipe for paneer is pretty straightforward. All you need is some milk and vinegar or lemon juice. Hundreds of bloggers have posted this recipe in the past. Add to it another few hundred websites that prescribe this method. So I guess this is the best way of making paneer. Detailed posts about paneer making can be found here and here. This is how I made my very first paneer -
1. In a heavy bottom pot, bring 4 cups milk to a boil (I used whole milk) and add 2 tbsp vinegar to it. You can add a little more if required.
2. As soon as the vinegar hits the milk, milk will start to curdle. Let it boil for another minute and then turn the heat off.
3. Strain the contents of pot. Make sure you collect whey as it is nutritious.
I did not use a muslin cloth as I don't have one. I simply strained the paneer, kept a dish on top of strained paneer and put a weight on it in order to remove excess water. I also used my food processor to smooth out paneer a bit (I wasn't sure if I should do it, but thankfully it turned out great). I then firmly pressed it in a plastic box and let it sit in the freezer for about an hour before cutting it into cubes.
Excluding the time in the freezer, all the time it took me to make paneer was about 30 minutes. The paneer turned out extremely soft. I am sure that I am going to make it often.
As it happens to me most of the times, I forgot to take a picture of paneer before I used it in the curry. May be I will add one next time I make it.
12-15 paneer cubes
1 medium onion - diced
2 Roma tomatoes
1/2" fresh ginger
2 big cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (more or less as per your heat preference)
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp kasuri methi
2 tbsp alomnd meal (optional)
1 tsp sugar (optional)
1 tsp oil
3 tbsp butter (1 tbsp for frying paneer and 2 tbsp for gravy)
1 tbsp heavy cream or half and half (optional)
Salt to taste
1. Before you start with gravy, fry paneer cubes in butter and set aside. If you prefer, you can use paneer without frying as well.
2. Halve the tomatoes, put them skin side down in a bowl in little bit of water and microwave for about 2 minutes. Remove the skin and set aside.
3. In a pan take a teaspoon of oil and add onions, ginger and garlic to it. Saute until onions are tender.
4. Grind onions, ginger and garlic with tomatoes to a smooth paste. I happened to have some almond meal on hand and also added it while grinding for a rich and creamy texture. Alternatively, you can use some cashew paste.
5. In a pan melt 2 tbsp of butter and add tomato-onion paste. Add salt, red chilli powder, cumin-coriander powder, garam masala and sugar, and saute for 2 minutes. If the gravy is too thick, you can add some water to loosen it.
6. Add kasuri methi and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Add fried paneer and continue to simmer for another minute. Turn the heat off and add a touch of heavy cream if you like.
Top it off with some shredded paneer and chopped cilantro (I usually reserve a piece of paneer before frying and grate it directly over the curry). Serve with naan, paratha or steamed rice.