Do you think of paneer as cheese? Paneer is a by product of milk, prepared by boiling milk and adding lemon juice or vinegar to it. The curdled milk is then separated from the liquid or whey using a muslin cloth. The result is a fluffy unsalted bowl of cottage cheese, as popularly known. So it is safe to say, paneer is a kind of cheese.
The word Paneer is derived from an Iranian word - Panir. It is believed that the Afghan and Iranian invaders introduced paneer to India. There are three popular theories to the origin of paneer in India. First, the Vedic (large body of religious texts orginiating in ancient India) literature has mentions of milk, ghee (clarified butter) and cream and some believe of a milk cheese mention as well. However, many scholars counter this since acidifying milk was considered a profane practice. This still remains as an unsettled debate.
The second version mentioned is the Bengali origin. An eminent Indian food scientist and historian - K.T. Achaya, in his book Indian Food: A Historical Companion traces the origin of paneer and milk curdling from a time when the Portuguese who came to India via the Eastern princely state of Bengal (around 1497).
The third version - according to the National Dairy Research Institute, India - paneer came to India with the Afghan and Iranian travellers and is an indigenous product of the South East.
With nearly 772,000 paneer hashtags on instagram, there are more than hundreds of starter, maincourse and gravy recipes for paneer. We have picked three quick, easy and delicious paneer recipes for you to whip up this weekend:
Make fresh paneer at home with this recipe from Dubai-based chef Vandana Jain:
2 litres milk (full cream)
4 tbsp vinegar
½ cup water
1. Dilute the vinegar and water.
2. In a large vessel, heat the milk. Make sure to use full cream milk to get a good quantity of paneer. Make sure not to burn the milk. So keep stirring the milk at regular intervals.
3. Once the milk starts boiling, turn off the gas and add diluted vinegar. Stir lightly.
4. As the milk starts to curdle, add more diluted vinegar as required.
5. Now drain off the curdled milk over a muslin cloth. In case you don't have a muslin cloth, use a sieve.
6. Rinse with cold water and drain any extra water.
7. Shape the paneer into a block and keep a slightly heavy utensil/object on it to set the shape.
8. Rest for 30 minutes or until the paneer sets completely.
Note: Store the paneer in an airtight container filled with water. Place the paneer in such a manner that it is submerged in water. The water helps keep the paneer fresh and soft for long. Store it in a refrigerator and use it within a week.
1. Paneer Masala: A recipe from our UAE Editor - Sharmila Dhal, this dish takes less than 20 minutes to make and is best enjoyed with hot flatbreads or even rice. Paneer is cooked in a tangy tomato-based gravy and sprinkled with freshly chopped coriander. You can make this at home with this recipe:
2. Amritsari paneer paratha: A paratha is a kind of thick unleaved bread cooked on a griddle using clarified butter or ghee. A common household bread across India, Paratha (North Indian name) or Porotta (as populary known in South India) is served for breakfast or snack. This is a stuffed paratha, filled with cottage cheese mixed in local spices. Populary served with curd (yoghurt) or makhan (freshly churned butter) and seasonal pickle. Try the recipe:
3. Palak Paneer: A cottage cheese and spinach-based gravy recipe where fresh spinach is blanched and reduced to a thick paste and cooked in an aromatic mix of spices and garlic. Then cubes of paneer are mixed with the gravy and cooked together. You may choose to add a dollop of fresh cream or simply enjoy as is with freshly baked naan or roti smeared with ghee and some raw onions by the side. Crunch, munch and your lunch is taken care of. Try the recipe to make a hearty meal.