Paneer, also called curd, fresh cheese, or farmer's cheese, is an important and versatile ingredient in a lot of Indian lacto-vegetarian recipes. Its appeal is universal; you can buy this preparation even in some stores in Wisconsin. Unlike typical market cheese, this product is not aged and does not melt or disintegrate under heat.

One very typical Indian festival preparation is saag paneer, which is a dish made from spinach and pressed fresh cheese.



Put the milk in a stainless steel pot and start boiling it. It's best if you stir it with a wooden sppon. You must stir it regularly, to make sure it doesn't burn (if it burns, it will be absolutely unusable).

Once the milk is thoroughly boiling, remove the heat and add the lemon juice. The milk starts curdling right now. In fact, what you have at this point is curds and whey -- what Little Miss Muffet was eating when the spider scared her away (whey is the liquid portion and curds are the milk solids).

Have another pot ready. Also, you'll need a strainer covered with a cheesecloth. Scoop the curds and whey into the strainer, dripping the liquids into the pot. The whey is not used in paneer, but is a useful ingredient in general. You can make lemonade with it, cook your rice with it, use it in steamed vegetable preparations, soups, etc. Or you can just throw it out, if you're the wasteful type.

The curds should all have remained in the cheesecloth. Wrap the cheesecloth so as to cover the curds completely. Press the cheesecloth a little bit with your hands or a spoon. The point is to squeeze every last bit of whey out of the paneer.

Now you have a block of paneer. This has a good consistency. When using it in vegetable preps, you'll want to use it in chunks or cubes, sometimes having fried those cubes separately before adding them to the preparation. Fried paneer cubes are a great addition to rice or peas.

Another popular item is to scramble this -- it can look like scrambled eggs and you can fool your meat-eater friends. For the recipe of how to do that, modify the recipe in tofu rancheros.