Making cheese has always seemed difficult and outside of my capabilities, something best left to other people who know what they’re doing.
Like the French.
If you think that, this recipe could change your view. Paneer is a type of Indian cheese that’s used as the protein element of several classic vegetarian dishes from the sub-continent. It’s very soft and fresh, and doesn’t need pressing or aging in the same way that hard cheeses do.
Paneer has a very mild taste indeed. It’s best thought of as a blank canvas for a wealth of Indian spices. The cheese bursts into life when you combine it with cumin, coriander, turmeric and the like, soaking up their flavours.
Most importantly, though, it’s easy to make. Embarrassingly so.
All you need is one litre of whole milk, which you should bring to the boil in a large pan. Once just about at boiling point, squeeze the juice of half a lemon into the milk, turn the heat right down and keep stirring.
The acidic lemon juice will cause the milk to curdle and split, gradually separating int curds and whey.
When the separation is complete, drain the curds in a sieve lined with a piece of muslin or a cheese cloth, then draw the ends of the cloth together, tie them with string and hang the bundle over a bowl to drain for a couple of hours. A few gentle squeezes will help it along a little.
When the cheese has completely drained, mould it into a flat-ish patty, still wrapped in the muslin, and sandwich it between two plates. Rest something heavy, like a bag of flour, on top. Place the whole lot in the fridge and leave to the cheese to firm up for a few hours or overnight.
That’s it. You’ve made cheese. Granted, it’s cheese in its most basic form, but it’s still cheese.