Paneer or cottage cheese (also called chena) is an integral part of north Indian cuisine, especially in the winter months. From gravy-based subzis to tikkis, pakodas and parathas, the list of dishes one can make with them is endless, only limited by the cook’s imagination!
Paneer is one of the best sources of proteins, especially for vegetarians and has other health benefits too. Not just the paneer, but also the whey that is left behind after taking out the paneer, is healthy and nutritious.
Apart from being a rich source of protein, paneer also has good amounts of calcium and phosphorous which help in forming strong teeth and bones. Its antioxidant properties prevent the growth of cancer cells in our body. The dietary fibre present in paneer aids metabolism and digestion.
While it is an excellent food, it should be taken in moderate quantities by people with diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, as it is a high energy food and might cause digestion problems for them.
Whey water is the translucent liquid that we get from the curdled milk after the paneer separates. But before throwing it away, consider some of its nutrition factors. It is a rich source of protein, calcium, vitamins, carbohydrates and minerals. Its protein is most easily digested. It has some amino acids that help in muscle development and last, but not least, it has the power to lower bad cholesterol, while boosting immunity.
However, those with milk allergy could be allergic to whey water too.
Three curdling agents viz. lemon juice, white vinegar and curd are normally used to make soft and smooth paneer. I am giving the methods of making paneer with each one of them.
Note: You can make approximately 200 gm paneer from 1-litre full cream milk.
Ingredients for making Paneer using lemon juice:
Full cream milk – 1 litre
Lemon juice – 2 to 3 tsp
- Heat milk. When it starts to boil, add 1 tsp lemon juice. Repeat the process till the milk curdles, as sometimes more lemon juice is needed to separate the milk.
- Switch off the gas as soon the milk curdles.
- Keep a soup strainer on a bowl and spread cheesecloth in it. Pour the curdled milk in the strainer. Whey water will collect in the bowl. Let it stand.
- After 10 minutes take the cheesecloth holding the edges together and keep it on a plate with holes in it. Place some heavy object on it. This will help firm up the paneer and it will not break while making subzi.
- After 30-45 minutes the paneer sets firmly and is ready to use.
- If not using immediately store in the refrigerator. It will stay fresh for 2 – 3 days.
Ingredients for making paneer using curd:
Curd — 1 ½ cup
Milk — 1 litre
When the milk starts to boil, slowly start adding curd, stirring the milk till the milk curdles.
Follow steps 2 to 6 as in the first method.
Ingredients for making paneer using vinegar:
Milk – 1 litre
Vinegar – 2 tbsp
Water – ½ cup
- Mix 2 tbsp vinegar in ½ cup water, when milk starts to boil, start adding vinegar with a teaspoon till milk curdles.
- Follow steps 2 to 6 as in the above methods.