Paneer, also called Indian cottage cheese, is one of the most popular cheeses used in Indian cuisine. It certainly plays an important role in the cuisine of Purple Poppadom and to celebrate it, we have created the little guide to paneer and its uses.
Did you know that?
- Paneer is non-melting and has a firm texture
- The word ‘Paneer’ is Persian and translates to “cheese”
- It is non-aged and does not have a long ‘shelf-life – eat fresh!
- It is one of the most common cheeses of the entire Indian subcontinent
The Origin of Paneer in Indian Cuisines
Paneer, also known as the Indian cottage cheese, is a cultured, creamy, unsalted cheese. There are various theories about its origin.
Some say it was invented by the Portuguese; and that a Portuguese person was the first to prepare paneer in Bengal, India, in the 17th century.
Other sources say that paneer originated from Persia and reached the Indian subcontinent under Muslim rule. According to this theory, paneer comes from Persia and significantly, the term “paneer” is derived from the word “peynir” or “cheese in Turkish and Persian languages.
Still, another theory argues that paneer was introduced in India by Iranian and Afghan travellers. It’s thought that they brought it from the north-western region of South Asia.
Though nobody can clearly define its origin, it’s undeniable that paneer is a common native dairy food across India, Iran, and Afghanistan.
Today, paneer is a popular food present in many Indian meals. Nothing can separate paneer lovers from their favourite delicacy! Being a versatile ingredient, it can be enjoyed as a starter, as the main course, or as a side dish. In fact, at Purple Poppadom, paneer features in all three courses on our menu.
Although paneer is most prevalent in Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan (Indian subcontinent), its palatability has also spread across Southeast and Middle Eastern Asia. It is also an ideal source of protein for Lacto-vegetarians across Afghanistan and Nepal as well.
Paneer is made by adding an acidic food component to hot milk, causing it to ‘split’ and create the whey curds from which paneer is formed. In times past people used buffalo milk, but these days cow milk makes for equally tasty paneer.
Vinegar, lemon juice, yoghurt, or citric acid can be ideal for splitting the whey curds. It is strained through a cheesecloth to separate the whey solids and refrigerated for roughly three hours to enhance its feel and look.
The paneer is then pressed for a number of hours to create a solid portion of cheese. If softer and fluffier paneer, is required, it is pressed for a relatively shorter time, say 20 minutes.
When the paneer is ready, it is cut into cubes and another batch is ready to enter the world of great Indian cuisine!
Vegetarians enjoy assorted paneer based delicacies as a perfect substitute for meat dishes. Below are some popular paneer dishes served at Purple Poppadom Indian restaurant in Cardiff.
Here, slices of fresh paneer are marinated in various seasonings and grilled in the tandoor. This shows just how robust the paneer is as it can easily cope with the intense heat of the oven without melting or changing in form.
At Purple Poppadom our Paneer Tikka starter is marinated with Kashmiri red chillies and spices, giving it a great depth of flavour without excessive heat.
Paneer Lababdar is a flavourful dish made in the Mughal style of cuisine in the North of India. Some say that Lababdar means to surrender to a strong desire for something, and the way that Paneer features in this dish does make it irresistible!
It is certainly very popular on our menu, created it as it is in a spiced onion and tomato sauce.
Paneer makhani, also known as paneer butter masala, is a deliciously luscious dish from the state of Punjab in North India.
At Purple Poppadom our chefs prepare it by steeping the paneer in a rich tomato sauce flavoured with fenugreek leaves.
Whichever way you prefer your paneer, we love presenting this highly versatile and accommodating ingredient in all its variety and splendour.
Of course, we would say that the best way to enjoy paneer dishes is to experience them by dining-in or with a takeaway, from Purple Poppadom!
But, if you like to try your hand by cooking with it at home, here is a recipe from the book of our founder, Anand George, entitled: ‘The 5,000 Mile Journey.’
By Anand George
Chatpata Sauce – 1000gms (see recipe below)
Paneer – 600gms
Bell pepper, red – 1piece
Bell pepper, green – 1 piece
Bell pepper, yellow – 1 piece
Coriander leaves chopped – 10gms
Kadai masala powder – 20gms see recipe below
Kasoori methi leaves – 4gms
Oil – to fry the paneer
- Cut the paneer into batons of 30 gms each giving you 20 pieces. Deep fry in hot oil for 2-3 minutes. Take off the oil and leave it in water to soften
- Remove the core of the bell peppers and cut them into thick batons In a thick bottomed pan heat the Chatpata Sauce. Loosen the sauce with 200ml of water.
- Once the sauce starts bubbling, add the paneer and bell pepper batons. Stir fry for another 3-4 minutes. Now sprinkle on the kadhai masala powder, coriander leaves, Kasoori methi leaves. Make sure the masala coats the paneer and the peppers. Check the seasoning and serve hot.
Makes 1200 gms
Oil – 100ml
Onions chopped – 1 kg
Cumin seeds – 4 gms
Turmeric powder – 5 gms
Coriander powder – 5 gms
Kashmiri chilli powder – 5 gms
Salt – 10 gms
Ginger garlic paste – 35 gms
Ginger chopped – 15 gms
Garlic chopped – 10 gms
Kasoori methi leaves – 1 gm
Kitchen king powder – 5 gms
Tomato puree – 500 gms
- Heat the oil in a thick-bottomed pan. Add cumin seeds and allow them to crackle. Now add the chopped garlic, ginger and green chilli and allow to turn slightly brown. Now add the onions and sauté for at least half an hour until they are soft but not browned.
- Now add the ginger-garlic paste and cook for a further 5-7 minutes.
- Lower the heat and add the Turner I powder, coriander powder, Kashmiri chilli powder, Kitchen king powder and salt and stir for a couple of minutes. Now add the tomato purée and cook for another half an hour until the onion and tomatoes are cooked and form a Masala paste texture. Sprinkle in the Kasoori methi leaves, check the seasoning and keep aside.
- Once cooled keep in an airtight container and refrigerate.
Kashai Masala Powder
Makes 40 gms
Kashmiri whole dry red chilli – 10 gms
Cumin seeds – 10 gms
Coriander seeds – 10 gms
Dry roast the spices individually on low heat. In a blender crush the Kashmiri chilli first, then combine the cumin, coriander and black peppercorns and make a coarse spice powder. Store in an airtight container.