It is rare that I make cottage cheese at home. Not that it is difficult or cumbersome to make but cottage cheese, also popularly known as paneer, is so easily available in India that one seldom needs to make it at home. The easy availability ensures that one just needs to go and grab it from the local dairy. It’s moist and soft texture makes it a versatile ingredient for adding it to curries, vegetables or making it into tikka or kofta.

I often buy it from the local dairy for the paneer dishes that I make at home. But, how much as I may like paneer in a dish (read curry), I simply can’t eat it on its own. As a matter of fact, I started eating paneer much later in my life and despite relishing it in curry and as tikka, I still haven’t developed a taste for eating it in raw form. I guess my palate misses the punch of flavours that it has got accustomed to in curries or the spicy tikka avatar.

That is when I decided to make cottage cheese at home and add that spicy twist so that I could enjoy it as finger food. It turned out just as the dairy made one – soft, creamy and moist but loaded with flavour from the addition of spices and cilantro.

You will need the following:

1.6 L full-fat milk (for softer cheese, full fat milk – 6% – is recommended)
¾ tsp-1 tsp citric acid OR 2-3 tbsp lemon juice
Muslin or Cheese cloth
A heavy bottomed pot

2tsp red chilli flakes
½ tsp dry roasted and crushed cumin
1 tbsp chopped cilantro (hara dhaniya)
Salt to taste

Boil the milk in a heavy bottomed pot. As it comes to a boil, switch off the heat and after about 3-4 minutes add which ever curdling agent you are using – citric acid (add ¾ tsp first and if required add a little more) OR lemon juice (add 2 tbsp and if required add more) and give a stir.
The milk will curdle leaving light greenish whey.
Add the red chilli flakes, crushed cumin and cilantro.

Carefully drain the contents into the muslin cloth to separate the curds from the whey. Wash the contents.
(You may keep the whey & use it to cook dal or knead dough for chapattis or discard it)
Add salt and stir the cheese with spoon to mix it well.
Hang the cloth to drain the excess water and once done, tie the muslin cloth around the cheese in a knot to prevent the curds from escaping.
Put some heavy weight over it. Keep it for 10-15 minutes (depending on the amount of weight you have used).
Remove the paneer from the muslin cloth and serve.
Snack on it or serve it as finger food.
Cut a thick slice of paneer and enjoy it with a buttered slice of toasted bread. Yumm… J

Yield: 300 grams approx.

Suggestion: Try this cottage cheese with cracked black pepper or jalapeno. Basil and sun dried tomatoes make for an interesting flavour too. Let your creativity guide you on this one.

Note: Keeping the weight for too long may release too much moisture and leave the paneer dry.
Note: If you do not have lemon juice or citric acid you can instead use yogurt as the curdling agent. 
Note: For use in curry and tikka, keep the paneer plain i.e. without condiments and herbs. 

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