As a type of compressed cheese, Paneer sounds exotic and traces its origins from the colorful country of India. Its exotic nature is reflected in its tangy, lemony flavor, which is perfect for making delicious party dishes for your dinner or house party. Although made using compression to separate the water from the curdled milk, Paneer looks and feels like cottage cheese when served fresh and like tofu when served as cubes fried or cooked in a soup. In general, dishes with Paneer may be served with sweet or dry wine, cold beer, or apple cider to round out its fruity flavor.
If you fail to find commercially sold paneer at your local store, then try making your own at home. It's fairly easy and won't take a long time to finish. Make sure you are using fresh cow's milk or goat's milk. More importantly, you must be careful with your ratio of milk to the amount of food acid, such as lemon, lime, vinegar, or leftover whey from a previous paneer-making process.
First, take anywhere from a half-gallon to a liter of either whole milk or milk with at least 2% fat in it. The more butterfat in milk, the more paneer you can make. It's not the amount of lemon or lime you put into the milk that produces the greater amount of curd to turn into cheese. Generally, place 2 to 4 tablespoons of pure lemon or lime juice into half a gallon to one liter of whole milk.
Simmer in low to medium heat the milk mixed with food acid until it curdles. Turn off the heat and let the milk cool down to a warm temperature before separating the curds from the milk. Pour the contents through cheesecloth or any finely meshed cloth placed on top of a small pail or pitcher. Then, pull up the ends of the cloth and twist them tightly to carefully squeeze out the remaining water from the curds. Next, press down on the gathered curds inside the cloth by placing a heavy object on top of it.
It's fun to experiment with your homemade paneer. Drop a pinch or two of spices or aromatic flavoring into the simmering milk to add flavor. Later, you may press some herbs like thyme or spices like chili flakes into the paneer as it solidifies into cheese. Put aside the paneer for a couple of hours to dry naturally, or you can store it in the fridge where it will dry up and harden faster than at room temperature. When your paneer has solidified into a semi-soft texture, it's ready to use for cooking.