Paneer is an acid-set fresh curd cheese made from cows milk that is popular in northern India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh where milk is a regular part of those cultures. I made this cheese for the first time in my tiny college kitchen at University of California at Santa Cruz. My housemate and I loved to make Indian food, and paneer was tough to find at the store. A very simple cheese to make, paneer is essentially ricotta which has been drained and pressed. It doesn’t take any special equipment or cultures. The fresh cheese tastes creamy and milky, with a slightly grainy texture.
If you eat a lot of Indian food, you’ve probably had paneer in saag paneer, which is creamed curried spinach with paneer. The cheese does not melt when cooked or fried, making it easy to use in sauces, curries and soups. Paneer can also be aged into a dry, grating cheese called ricotta salata in Italy or ponir in India.
Below is a recipe for making paneer cheese. It makes enough cheese for one recipe of saag paneer. Indian cookbook author Madher Jaffrey has a great saag paneer recipe. Be sure to save the whey which goes great in pancakes, breads and creamed soups.