I have a Sicilian heritage, so I enjoy making Italian sauces and products. I also have a general passion for cheese. So when I was first traipsing around Indian cuisine, cheese was a logical first stop into the largely unknown territory.
I was really happy when ricotta suddenly showed up. Well, it wasn’t called ricotta, of course, it was called paneer! Twin cheeses across nations.
Paneer is seemingly the only Indian cheese. It is used in a similar way that further eastern countries use tofu. It shows up marinated and barbecued, cut up as the primary “meat” in vegetarian curries, and yes, even in desserts. Does a ricotta dumpling boiled in sugar syrup then soaked in sweet cardamon-infused milk sound good to you? It sounds good to me…
Paneer or Ricotta
Makes about 1.5-2 cups
Special tools: cheesecloth, colander (strainer)
- 5 cups of whole milk
In a small pot, bring milk to a boil. Stir as necessary to prevent the milk from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Meanwhile…
- 3 tablespoon of lemon juice
lime juice is fine (sacrilege, I know), it does give a smoother flavor
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1/4 tsp salt
In a small container combine lemon juice, warm water, and salt. Set aside.
When the milk reaches a boil, reduce the heat to medium and add lemon water. Stir slowly and allow the milk curds to completely separate. Remove from heat.
Spread open the cheese clothe into the colander (strainer) in the sink, and then slowly pour the cheese curds and whey into it. If you want to keep the sour whey for future uses, do this over a bowl instead.
Using any method of your choosing, allow your ricotta or paneer to drip strain. For paneer, 20-30 minutes is sufficient. For ricotta, leave for closer to an hour.
Making dumplings??? If you are using your paneer to make Rasgulla or Rasmalai dumplings, squeeze out any remaining liquid and then knead the cheese curds (like you would for bread dough) for about 7-10 minutes to produce a very smooth cheese ball. If you don’t knead the paneer, your dumplings will not be fluffy and will collapse during cooking.
(I recommend plastic/nitrile cooking gloves, because it gives you a better grip on the cheese curds during the kneading process)