Paneer, ricotta, queso fresco – whatever you call this creamy cheese – is easy to make and can be crumbled into soups and curries for texture, sprinkled over flat breads or threaded onto skewers and marinated for the most delicious achari paneer tikka.
1. Bring 2L of fresh full-cream milk slowly to the boil (it must just start to bubble and steam), stirring constantly so that the milk does not burn. Remove from the heat and stir in about 30ml apple cider vinegar and, for extra flavour if you like, about 15ml fresh lemon juice.
2. The mixture should immediately start to curdle and separate into the crumbly curds (paneer) and whey. Leave to stand for about 10 minutes for the mixture to separate completely. If the whey is not slightly yellow and watery after 10 minutes, add a little more vinegar.
3. Place a colander over a large mixing bowl and line it with cheesecloth. Pour, or carefully spoon, the separated mixture into the cloth so that the whey drips through into the bowl and the curd stays behind in the cloth. Bring the corners of the cloth together and hang it up over the bowl or on the spout of your tap over the sink so that it can drain completely. If you’re short on time, you can gently squeeze the cloth to get rid of any extra whey.
4. Once the paneer has drained to your satisfaction, season with salt and mix it through carefully. Now form the paneer in the cloth into a neat square and wrap it with the cloth to make a parcel. Keep the cloth as smooth as possible. Place a weight like an inverted plate on top of it to compress it; leave for 15 minutes to 1 hour.
5. The cheese will become firmer as it stands. A refrigerated, well-compressed fresh cheese like this is easier to cut than one at room temperature. Open up the parcel and cut into squares or crumble it. The paneer is now ready to be used.
ACHARI PANEER TIKKA
Cut your firm homemade paneer into bite-sized squares. Mix 30ml double-cream yoghurt, 5ml grated fresh ginger, 1 grated garlic clove, 1 chopped chilli, 15ml lemon juice, a pinch each of mustard powder and turmeric and about 30ml tikka masala and marinate the paneer squares in this for 1 hour. Thread onto skewers and fry in a little oil until golden-brown all over. Serve with a yoghurt dipping sauce seasoned with fresh mint, lemon and black pepper.