As an ancient legend suggests, a creamy accident by an Arab merchant gave us something to smile about. Cheese came into our lives about 8000 BC and as evidence suggests it gained popularity in the Middle East, Europe and Central Asia.
Cheesemaking is no rocket science if you have the right kind of ingredients and equipment. Cheeses come in varied texture, colour and dryness which can be ripened or un-ripened. Most Indians prefer un-ripened cheese. Un-ripened cheese is soft creamy and less time-consuming than the ripened one. Ripened, as the name suggests, are aged in particular temperatures and specific humidity.
Let us share a few ways to make this milky goodness.
The commonly used cheese in India is the cottage cheese. Cottage cheese, also known as paneer, is a beloved ingredient in many recipes in Indian households. A simple recipe of silky melt-in-the-mouth cottage cheese is described below.
You would need:
2 litres of full cream milk.
1 tbsp. of lemon juice/vinegar
(Full cream milk yields a richer and creamier cottage cheese)
Heat the milk till bubbles form at the sides. Lower the heat and add the lemon juice/ vinegar till the milk curdles. Keep stirring and once the whey (the liquid part) is clear. Take the curdled mixture off the heat. Let it rest for 5 mins. Pour the mixture into a muslin cloth to drain off the whey. Leave it for an hour- hour and a half. You can also put a weight on the muslin cloth to drain off the whey well. This gives a firmer cottage cheese if you want to dice into pieces.
The whey is nutritious and packed with protein. It is recommended to use the whey to make dal or knead the dough for roti or in any other way while cooking.
If cottage cheese rules the roost in the Indian household, mozzarella is the king of pizzerias, cafes and restaurants. This soft, milky and stretchy cheese can easily be made at home. Buffalo’s milk is considered best to make mozzarella cheese. You can use a combination of rennet and citric acid to make the same, but rennet is a non-vegetarian coagulant. We are sharing the vegetarian version here.
To make mozzarella at home, you would need
1 litre of full cream/ buffalo milk
½ cup vinegar
1 tsp salt
Heat the milk till you see bubbles in the edges of the vessel. The simple 30-second rule says if you put in your finger and cannot hold in for more than 30 secs, the milk is hot enough. You can also use your kitchen thermometer. The temperature should be 90℉. Lower the heat and add in the vinegar while continually stirring. After a minute or two, you can see the curds completely separated from the whey. Leave it for 2-3 minutes. Collect the curds and squeeze out all the whey. In the whey, add a teaspoon of salt and put it on a slow flame. Drop the curd ball into the hot whey for a minute. Collect it again, squeeze out the whey, stretch the mass and form it into a ball again. Drop the ball into the whey for two more times while repeating the process. You can use this fresh or store for future use.
A creamier form of cheese that is widely used in desserts is cream cheese. For cream cheese, you would need
1-litre full cream milk
¼ cup lemon juice/vinegar
A pinch of salt.
Start with boiling the milk. Lower the heat once boiled and add lemon juice/vinegar. Stir constantly while scrapping the sides. Once the curd separates completely, take it off the heat and leave it for 2-3 minutes. Cover a fine sieve with a muslin cloth and pour the curd. When the whey is completely drained off, put the curd into a blender. Add a pinch of salt and churn. If it is not in a spreadable consistency, add a tablespoon of whey. The rich and organic cream cheese is ready to serve.
Some recipes to use your home-made cheese
Each type of cheese can be served or used as a starter, a main course or a dessert. A platter of cheese alone can become a party pleaser. You can plan up your cheese board with the readily available ingredients. You can even notch it up with a cheesy fondue.
Mini baguette pizza
We are sharing a simple mini pizza recipe with mozzarella and baguette.
A loaf of baguette
1 each of onion and bell peppers (different coloured) finely chopped
1 deseeded and finely chopped large tomato
1 tbsps. of mixed herb
Salt and pepper to taste.
250 g mozzarella cheese
Preheat the oven at 230℃.
In a bowl mix all the vegetable and herbs. Slice up the loaf. Top the slice with the chopped vegetables, salt and pepper. Place a slice of mozzarella on it and bake for 10-12 mins. Your hot and delicious mini pizza is ready to serve.
Paneer butter masala
Use up the cottage cheese for a delicious and yummy paneer butter masala. For this, you would require
250g cottage cheese cut in cubes
1 cup tomato puree
1 cup boiled onion puree
3 tbsps. Heavy cream
4 cashews soaked and ground into a paste
2 tsp. Ginger garlic paste
1 bay leaf
1-inch cinnamon stick
2 each of clove and cardamom
½ tsp pepper powder
1 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
3-4 tbsps. Butter
Salt to taste
Heat butter in a pan. Add a tsp of oil to prevent the butter from burning. When the butter melts add bay leaf, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon. Add the onion puree and fry well till oil separates. Add in tomato puree, ginger garlic paste and all the spice powders. Sauté well till fat separates. Now add cashew paste, salt and enough water to adjust consistency. Add the cubed cottage cheese and finish off with cream. Serve this with hot naan.
Finish off your meal with delectable mango cheesecake. You would need
½ cup mango puree
250g cream cheese
1 ½ cups powdered digestive biscuits
¼ cup butter
Powdered sugar to taste
Take a springform tin. Combine biscuit powder and butter and spread it well at the bottom of the tin. Put it in the freezer for 30 mins. Mix mango puree and cream cheese. Adjust sweetness with some sugar. You can also add a tbsp of bloomed gelatine. Put this mixture onto the biscuit base and let it set overnight. You can serve this up with fresh mango slices.
Now that you know basic cheese making, you can spice it up or create sweet magical moments. Do not miss an opportunity to enjoy your favourite cheese in varied ways. These tips and tricks would definitely put your local cheesemonger out of business. Say cheese!!!