Paneer is a fresh cheese common in South Asia, especially in Indian, Pakistani, Afghan, Nepali, Sri Lankan, and Bangladeshi cuisines. It is an unaged, acid-set, non-melting farmer cheese or curd cheese made by curdling heated milk with lemon juice, vinegar, or any other food acids. Its crumbly and moist form is called chhena in eastern India and in Bangladesh.
According to writers such as K.T. Achaya, Andrea S. Wiley and Pat Chapman, the Portuguese introduced the technique of “breaking” milk with acid to Bengal in the 17th century. Thus, Indian acid-set cheeses such as paneer and chhena were first prepared in Bengal, under Portuguese influence.
Nutritional Value of Paneer
|Nutritional value per 183 g|
|Energy||182 kJ (43 kcal)|
|Vitamin A equiv.||
|Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Preparation of Paneer
Paneer is prepared by adding food acid, such as lemon juice, vinegar, citric acid or yogurt, to hot milk to separate the curds from the whey. The curds are drained in muslin or cheesecloth and the excess water is pressed out. The resulting paneer is dipped in chilled water for 2–3 hours to improve its texture and appearance. From this point, the preparation of paneer diverges based on its use and regional tradition.
In most Nepalese cuisines, the curds are wrapped in cloth, placed under a heavy weight such as a stone slab for two to three hours, and then cut into cubes for use in curries. Pressing for a shorter time (approximately 20 minutes) results in a softer, fluffier cheese.
In Bengali and other east Indian cuisines, the curds are beaten or kneaded by hand into a dough-like consistency, resulting in Chhena (also known as Sana or Chhana). In these regions, Chhena is distinguished from paneer (called Ponir), a salty semi-hard cheese with a sharper flavor and high salt content. Hard Ponir is typically eaten in slices at teatime with biscuits or various types of bread, or deep-fried in a light batter.
In the area surrounding the Gujarati city of Surat, Surti Paneer is made by draining the curds and ripening them in whey for 12 to 36 hours.
Anari, a fresh mild whey cheese produced in Cyprus, is very similar in taste and texture to fresh Indian paneer.
Circassian cheese is produced using a similar method and is close in consistency to paneer, but is usually salted.
Farmer cheese, dry curd cottage cheese, and firm versions of quark are similar except that they are made from cultured milk and may be salted.
Queso blanco or queso fresco are often recommended as substitutes in the Americas as they are more commercially available in many American markets. Both are generally salted, unlike paneer.
Use in dishes
The well-known Rasgulla features plain Chhana beaten by hand and shaped into balls which are boiled in syrup. The Sana / Chhana / Chhena used in such cases is manufactured by a slightly different procedure from paneer; it is drained but not pressed, so that some moisture is retained, which makes for a soft, malleable consistency. It may, however, be pressed slightly into small cubes and curried to form a Dalna in Maithili, Oriya and Bengali cuisines.
Some paneer dishes include:
- Chhena murgi
- Mattar paneer (paneer with peas)
- Shahi paneer (paneer cooked in a rich, Mughlai curry)
- Paneer tikka (a vegetarian version of chicken tikka, paneer placed on skewers and roasted)
- Paneer tikka masala
- Kadai paneer
- Chili paneer (with spicy chilies, onions and green peppers, usually served dry and garnished with spring onions)
- Paneer pakora (paneer fritters)
- Palak paneer
- Paneer capsicum (paneer and bell peppers in raisin crème sauce)
- Khoya paneer
- Paneer bhurji
- Paneer momo (dumpling)
A QUICK RECIPE FOR A PANEER DISH
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 2 people
Serve: Immediately after made
Paneer- cut in cubes- 250gms
Onions- nicely chopped- 50 gms
Tomatoes- nicely chopped- 50 gms
Green Chilies- fine chopped- 25 gms
Cornflour- 2 Table Spoon
Oil- 2 Table Spoon
Cumin Powder- 1 Tea Spoon
Chaat Masala- 1Tea Spoon
Bhujiya- 50 gms
Barik Sev- 50 gms
Lime juice- 1 Table Spoon
Fresh Coriander- Chopped- 5 gms
Sweet Chutney (dates chutney)- 3 Table Spoon
Green Chutney (Coriander chutney)- 2 Table Spoon
Garlic Chutney – 3 Table Spoon
Salt to taste
- Take the Paneer cubes and slightly toss it in Cornflour.
- Keep a pan on the stove, pour oil, and start toasting the Paneer lightly it is becomes slight orangish-brown on both the sides of the paneer
- Once the Paneer is slightly roasted, take it off the stove and keep it a side to cool off.
- Take a bowl and add onions, tomatoes, green chilies, Cumin Masala, Chaat powder & start mixing it together.
- Then add the Sweet chutney, Green Chutney, Garlic chutney & lime juice and mix well,
- Add the Paneer along with the Bhujiya & some salt to taste and mix well.
- For garnishing add coriander & Barika sev.
Replacing onions with capsicum & eliminating garlic chutney can make this Jain as well.
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