How to Make Paneer (Soft Cheese) at Home

If you are starting to discover Indian flavours and recipes you can cook at home, you have probably come across a few that require the addition of paneer – those delicious little cottage cheese like cubes that are added to a range of dishes (and go just perfectly with spinach!)

Some New Zealand supermarkets do carry paneer – look for it near the other cheeses. A few brands to look out for are Lemnos, Kohinoor (frozen) and you can also buy fresh or smoked paneer from Zany Zeus.

But if you have a little time on your hands and you are keen to make your own, the process is very simple. You will need to start making it the day ahead of when you plan to use it in your recipe, so just keep that in mind.

The recipe below comes from the lovely Claire at Out of the Ordinary – her blog is worth exploring when you have a few moments to browse. She made it with her son Isaac as sous chef, and this is a fun thing to cook at home with your children.

Homemade Paneer

5 cups milk
pinch salt
3 T lemon juice

(You can add other seasonings as well to the boiled milk if you wish.)

Bring the milk and salt to a boil. Once it starts to bubble, add the lemon juice and stir it in. (but not too vigorously, you don’t want to break up the little curds that are forming)

Pour the cheese into a piece of cheesecloth about 1.5 feet long and three layers thick. Squeeze into a ball, getting out as much of the whey as possible. (You can save all of the whey for other purposes). Let the ball hang over your sink over night. I tied mine from the faucet. Because that’s what Madhur Jaffrey suggested!

The next day, the curds should be quite dry. Leaving them loosely covered with cheese cloth, press them into a disk a little over an inch tall. Place something heavy on them. We used a soup pot with a big bag of masa harina inside. Leave for at least five hours. It should be compressed to about 3/4 inches (as per the image above). You can now cut it into half inch cubes.

Isaac’s Sauce

2 T olive oil
1 shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic – minced
1 t. tomato paste
1/2 cup cashews
1 can roasted tomatoes
2 T golden raisins, soaked in warm water
1 T butter
1 1/2 cups peas (we used frozen)
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t smoked paprika
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1/4 t. coriander
1/4 t. fennel seeds
1/4 t fenugreek powder
1/4 t. turmeric
1/2 t sugar
salt and black pepper

Warm the olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add the shallots and garlic, and cook till they’re starting to brown. Add the cashews and tomato paste, stir and cook till the pot is dried out – a few minutes. Take off the heat and add all of the spices. Transfer to a blender. Add the tomatoes, raisins, and butter. Blend till you have a nice smooth sauce. Add a little water if you like it thinner. Add the sugar, salt and black pepper.

In the same pan – cleaned and dried – warm a little more olive oil. Put the paneer in and move it about gently. Add the peas, and stir to coat with oil. Then add the sauce. Stir everything very carefully – you don’t want to break up the paneer!. When everything is warm through, serve with basmati rice.

About Karen Foreman-Brown

Karen is a passionate foodie who has found herself in the kitchen (for pleasure and nutrition) much of her life. After cooking at one of Christchurch's most popular veget... View all posts by Karen Foreman-Brown

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