As the region’s undisputed Curry King (well, that’s what
people say!) customers are always asking me for culinary tips to help them create their favourite dishes
I get asked about spices a lot. Should they be ground at home? Where can you get hold of the most authentic spices? How long before they lose their flavour?
Then there are the questions from the health conscious. Can I get an authentic taste without ghee? Is it okay to use reduced fat coconut milk?
One thing I never get asked about, however, is cheese.
I think it’s fair to say that cheese is not the first ingredient that springs to mind when visiting an Indian restaurant.
But it just so happens that this week is British Cheese Week – so if I can’t write about it now, when can I?
However, it’s not such an alien concept. In fact, as any well-informed lover of Indian food will know, cheese is very much on the menu at any restaurant worth its salt.
And the Indian cheese of choice is paneer – a simple yet wonderfully adaptable ingredient that brings comforting ‘yumminess’ to countless dishes.
Unlike Indian Tapas – a new concept in Indian cuisine launched this week by Raval – paneer has a long and rich heritage.
In fact, I’ve done a little research and apparently the first recorded mention of it was about 6,000BC – but it was probably being made long before this.
Indeed, it is believed to have been introduced into India by the invaders from Iran and Afghanistan.
Here at Raval, customers are especially fond of our A La Carte dish Paneer Hari Mirch – marinated paneer with onion, tomato, chilli, peppercorn and fresh coriander.
We do a mouth-wateringly delicious paneer-based starter too – Kalonji Paneer, also marinated and served with bell pepper, tamarind and nigella seeds.
Paneer is very popular in South Indian cooking, and it’s also made right here in the UK too!
For home cooking you can, of course, buy paneer at most good supermarkets.
However, with the help of one of my expert chefs, I thought it might be fun to tell you how to make your own – it’s nowhere near as tricky as you might think.
The ingredients are abundant and the only item of equipment that really is essential is a good muslin cloth. So, here goes…
1 litre full-cream milk (use lean milk for a low-fat version)
½ tsp citric acid/lemon juice
½ cup warm water
1) Set the milk up to boil.
2) As the milk is readied, dissolve the citric acid/lemon juice in half a cup of warm water.
3) When the milk comes to a boil, pour the acid-water/lemon juice-water mix into it.
4) Reduce the heat and stir continuously until the milk is completely curdled.
5) Remove from the heat when the separation of the curds and yellowish whey is complete.
6) Strain the mixture through a clean muslin cloth.
7) Hold it under running water for a minute and then press out the excess water.
8) Hang the muslin for 15-20 minutes so that all the whey is drained out.
9) To make the paneer into a block tie the muslin and place it under something heavy.
10) The paneer can now be cut into chunks and used as required.