Paneer – a true Indian favorite!
Paneer mattar, Mughlai paneer, chili paneer, paneer tandoori, paneer tikka, paneer masala, paneer paratha, paneer omelet, paneer bhurji, paneer kofta curry, paneer pakora…….. are you already drooling yet?
Paneer also known as the Indian cottage cheese is most sought after by both vegetarians and non-vegetarians be at home, weddings, or restaurants. This creamish white looking ingredient began to gain popularity in North of India especially in Punjab where there is the strong tradition of raising cattle hence the abundance presence of other dairy products like yoghurt, ghee and lassi (butter milk).
Curdling milk in India traces back to the Indus Valley Civilization, when milk was curdled with a special variety of green leaves, berries, barks, and yogurt. However, the Aryan people who invaded the region believed that curdling cow’s milk was dishonorable and put a stop to this practice. This is because the cow is held sacred, and “spoiling” its milk, which was held at the top of the Ayurveda food hierarchy, was seen as a taboo.
Paneer came back to vogue around 16th century which can be traced back to the Persian and Afghan rulers who introduced to North India, paneer made with goat or sheep rennet. The term “paneer” comes from the word “peynir,” which just means “cheese” in the Turkish and Persian Languages.
It is basically soft cheese, non-aged and non-melting. The process involves curdling full cream fresh milk with a fruit / vegetable derived acid such as lemon juice or vinegar.
Back in India we never made paneer at home. We perceived the process to be very complicated simply because we did not know “how to” and fresh paneer was abundantly available.
Since moving to New Zealand, we started making our own paneer. My husband Sidharth has perfected this process. We use our homemade paneer in our cooking classes trust me every student has only said one thing “divine”.