Sunday, April 20, 2008
Dressing Up Paneer
Cilantro is probably my most favorite herb. I use it almost every day in one form or the other. The subtle flavors it imparts is what I look for. I love the leaves as a garnish. I cook the stems in rasam to give a sudden burst of flavor.
Since most people are familiar with cilantro, I thought I'd mention some lesser-known facts about it here:
1. Coriander is thought to have been introduced to Britain by the Romans as a meat preserver. Coriander seed and leaf was very widely used in medieval cuisine. Even today, coriander seed is an important ingredient in many sausage products. Coriander was brought to the British colonies in North America in 1670 and was one of the first spices cultivated by early settlers.
2. The seeds have a lemony citrus flavour when crushed, due to the presence of the terpenes linalool and pinene. It is also described as warm, nutty, spicy, and orange-flavoured. They are usually dried but can be eaten green.
3. Some people perceive an unpleasant "soapy" taste and/or a rank smell when dealing with cilantro. This is believed to be a result of an enzyme that changes the way they taste coriander leaves, a genetic trait, but has yet to be fully researched
I've been making paneer at home for about 3-4 months now. I was always a bit apprehensive about it, but it all worked out well the very first try, and I haven't looked back since. Home-made paneer has a lovely crumbly, soft texture which I can't find in the store-bought varieties.
I was minding my own business, making my paneer (and from non-fat milk - a healthy bonus!), when I chanced upon this post by Allen at Eating Out Loud (be sure to check out his blog - its quite amazing). He totally changed my view of paneer.
Deciding that I needed to dress it up, I followed his simple steps but made mine from fat-free milk, added cilantro and went a step further and added crushed walnuts as well (just to give it a little crunch).
1 1/2 liters fat-free milk
Juice of 1 lemon
2 sprigs cilantro leaves, chopped
4-5 walnuts, crushed
You can see a detailed log of making paneer here.
Heat the milk. When the milk has begun to boil, add the lemon juice. It should curdle in a minute or two. If not fully curdled, add more lemon juice. When curdled, strain the mixture and transfer to a muslin cloth. At this point, I added the cilantro and walnuts.
Tie the mixture tight and hang the muslin cloth (I hang the muslin from the tap in my kitchen sink, so the water drains into the sink). Allow to drain for a full 10-15 minutes. Squeeze the muslin once more. It should look something like this:
Now keep the strained mixture under a heavy weight (I used a pressure cooker filled with water!).
Leave it alone for about 1/2 hour. It should now resemble this:
That's it. It came out perfectly. We ate the paneer on wholewheat crackers, with a little chaat masala sprinkled on top (had to introduce a little bit of the Indian element with the chaat masala!). The possibilities for dressing up paneer are endless - I've already tried cumin (jeera); crushed red peppers; bits of apple. Its all been delicious so far!
This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook, and originally created by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen. Thank you for hosting!