Paneer is a cheese that, despite experiencing a high level of popularity in South Asian cuisine, is one you are unlikely to find served up on the cheeseboard following a typical dinner party here in the UK. It is a cheese that is firmly ingrained in Indian cooking culture, possibly due to the fact that it does not melt as easily as its relatives would when faced with the warm climate of the country. It is made by the somewhat unappetizing sounding method of curdling milk with an acidic component such as lemon juice or vinegar, and its moist crumbling form can be utilised in a wide range of main dishes and sides. Just drop in to one of London’s best Indian brasseries and you are bound to encounter a tempting, vegetarian-friendly option containing this creamy, melt-in-your-mouth cheese.
Here are some of our favourite, classic, paneer recipes:
- Palak Paneer
Palak paneer is a wholesome, filing and hearty dish that hails from the northern states of India. The north is known for its love of decadent, rich gravies and this curry does not disappoint. Cubes of creamy, soft paneer are cooked with spinach in a tomato-based gravy flavoured with spices and onions. Serve with fluffy, white rice or a warm naan bread.
- Paneer Butter Masala
For foodies who can’t get enough of some bright colours in their cooking, this is the recipe for you. Chunks of succulent paneer are lightly fried with ghee until they turn a crisp, golden brown. They are then immersed in a rich gravy that turns a lively, orange shade with the addition of red chillies, tomatoes and turmeric. Add a generous portion of butter and cream for a luxurious texture. Enjoy with rotis and a fresh salad.
- Paneer Kofta
A favourite recipe from the Punjab region of India; instead of the traditional minced meat used to create koftas for carnivores, mix ingredients including grated paneer and potato as well as green chilli, ginger, lemon juice and fresh, chopped cilantro. Shape into balls and deep-fry until crispy and brown before serving dipped in a thick, tangy tomato gravy.
Something for the sweet-toothed now, with this popular, Bengali dessert. It might sound unusual to mix cheese with dessert but hey, who doesn’t love a piece of cheesecake? Paneer is mixed with sugar, cardamom and semolina or rava then kneaded and shaped into little patties called rasgullas. These are then left to soak in sugar syrup whist the spiced milk is prepared. This creamy concoction is heated gently and sprinkled with cardamom powder, almonds, pistachios and saffron before the rasgullas are dropped neatly into the mix. Eat warm or allow to cool.
Last but certainly not least comes the divine and delicious dessert known as sandesh. A sweet treat from the state of Bengal, sandesh is a versatile delicacy created predominantly with paneer and sugar. There are several variations but one of the easiest methods is to lightly toss the cheese with sugar over a low heat before shaping it into patties or balls. However, a more complex preparation might involve filling the sweets with syrup or flavouring with fruit, coconut or jaggery.