Paneer (Indian Cottage Cheese) is a type of fresh, soft cottage cheese native to the Indian subcontinent. Paneer represents one of the soft varieties of cheese and is a versatile dairy product which is used in an assortment of dishes, curries, snacks and as base for many sweets.
Paneer being bland or mild in taste, can be easily flavored with spices to an individual’s taste and comfortably pairs with many other ingredients lending itself to be consumed in an easy and hassle free manner.
With the exception of lentils (dals), Indian diet is heavily cereal oriented which lack proteins. Paneer is a healthy food which is rich in proteins and calcium and is many times opted by vegetarians as a means of supplementing their protein intake.
With its delicate, spongy and milky flavor, paneer can be used in curries or served grilled as a side and is famous for some of the best known Indian dishes. Fresh paneer or chhena is used as a base to make some of the much delicious sweets like rasgulla, rasmalai, chhena murki etc. It can also be used as spread on pizzas, as a stuffing in parathas, sandwiches and rolls.
How To Make Paneer at Home
In the Indian subcontinent Paneer is prepared by acid and heat coagulation of milk. After coagulation, the curd is allowed to settle and the curd along with the whey are transferred to a sieve or muslin cloth to remove the whey and is pressed to obtain a paneer block.
The resultant Paneer has a white color, mildly sweet and acidic taste, sponginess and a smooth texture. Various types of milk can be used for the manufacture of Paneer. The quality of Paneer is determined by the quality of milk from which it is produced.
To make paneer at home :
- Take full fat or whole milk. Heat the milk till it boils.
- Stir the milk as it boils. Add any of the ingredients from curd, lemon juice, left Paneer whey water, vinegar or citric acid in small amounts say a teaspoon at a time till milk separates into a somewhat solid curd part from the watery whey.
- If you want to go for a less fat (less creamy) version of Paneer then let the milk cool off after boiling. Keep it for 2-3 hours till a creamy layer comes on top of it and remove the cream before making the paneer.
- When adding these ingredients, we are looking for just the right amount of acid to cause the boiling or hot milk to curdle.
- Use a sieve to separate the solid part. Press the solid content to remove extra water.
- Alternatively you add the paneer in a muslin cloth all paneer. This can be tied, pressed and hanged so that the liquid slowly drains out over a period of time.
- To give a shape to Paneer, put it in a tray or utensil and keep some weight on it so that it takes a solid shape. The weight can be pressed to create slabs. It is not necessary to make slabs and in quite a few dishes the granular form of Paneer is preferred.
How to use Paneer
Paneer is an all-rounder when it comes to cooking and tastes delicious in any form. In the Indian subcontinent, Paneer is an ingredient in several curries, snacks and is used as a taste enhancer in many preparations. Here is a list of some delicious Paneer recipes that can be easily prepared at home.
Following are the most common uses of Paneer:
- With its delicate, spongy and milky flavor, paneer can be used in curries on it own as the main ingredient. There are many Indian dishes with different preparation methods where Paneer is the main ingredient both in dry form as well in gravy form.
- Paneer combines very well with a host of other vegetables like spinach, peas, fenugreek, onion, potato and an assortment of mixed vegetables. It can also be added to many types of biryani as well as used to make stuffed vegetables like capsicum, tomato etc.
- Fresh Paneer or Chhena is used as the base to make some of the much delicious sweets like rasgulla, rasmalai, chhena murki, kalakand etc.
- It can also be used as a stuffing in parathas, sandwiches and rolls or as spreads on pizzas.
- Paneer retains its shape when fried which makes it easy to be used in a lot of snacks and starters.
- Paneer is frequently a part of Indo-chinese dishes manchurians, sizzlers etc.
- Paneer can be used in Salads, to garnish stews and soups and in this role adds to their taste, visual appeal and nutrition.
Nutritional information: Paneer (100 g)
Take a look at the nutritional profile for 100g of fresh Paneer based as per various generic sources. For reference, 1 cup of crushed Paneer weights about 125g.
|Dietary fiber||1 g|
Major Health Benefits of Paneer
1. Good for weight watchers
The low content of carbohydrate in Paneer along with ample quantity of proteins makes it a good choice for inclusion in a diet for restricting weight gain. Though Paneer contains a good amount of fat, it is in form of medium-chain fatty acids which together with proteins and minerals contribute to its beneficial effect on body weight as well as body fat.
Paneer is also rich in Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) which is known to promote weight loss by increasing the fat burning process in the body. In a controlled study of forty healthy, overweight subjects, there was evidence to suggest that CLA, a naturally occurring dietary fatty acid, reduces weight gain.
2. Has good nutritive value
Paneer contains a fairly high level of minerals like calcium and phosphorus and is a good source of fat soluble vitamins A and D. The presence of whey proteins which are rich source of essential amino acids further adds to its nutritive value making it a good choice as a food for growing children, adolescents, expectant mothers and adults.
3. Good for diabetics
The high protein component of paneer also helps in slowing down the release of sugar into the blood and prevents abrupt hike and decline in blood sugar levels. A Systematic Review of the Clinical Evidence of Dairy Foods and Dairy Proteins in the Management of Type 2 Diabetes indicated that he consistent consumption of protein-rich dairy foods, cultured dairy foods, and dairy protein supplements may likely work to improve the glycemic health of many individuals and are generally superior to other protein rich foods like eggs.
4. Good for digestive system
Like other cottage cheese, Paneer can also aid digestion. Paneer is high in dietary fiber that helps in digestion of food. Paneer has good amount of phosphorous which helps in digestion and excretion, while the magnesium present in it can have a laxative effect. It thus prevents constipation by drawing water into the stools and in turn making them softer. In a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, participants, active young women in their early 20 ate samples of cottage cheese 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. This appeared to have a positive effect on muscle quality, metabolism and overall health.
5. Good for heart and keeps hypertension in check
A meta-analysis of prospective observational studies was conducted to evaluate the risks of total CVD (Cardiovascular disease), coronary heart disease (CHD), and stroke associated with cheese consumption. The study which was published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that about 40 gm cheese daily results in risk reduction of developing coronary heart disease as well strokes.
6. Good for bones and teeth
Paneer is one of the best sources of calcium which is important for strong teeth, bones and the skeletal system. Paneer like other cheese has a lower content of lactose which causes harm to the teeth. Paneer also helps in prevention of gum decay. The Omega Fatty acids in Paneer namely Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Omega-6 Fatty Acids, along with minerals like calcium, phosphorus etc. are considered beneficial in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, joints pain, osteoporosis etc. and also are helpful for healthy teeth.
7. Good for skin and hair
A Protein rich diet is good for skin and healthy hair. The presence of selenium and other vitamins in Paneer helps in maintaining a glowing skin.
8. Reduces risk of some forms of cancer
Paneer is considered to reduce the risk factors towards developing stomach cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer and breast cancer.
9. Reduces risk of osteoporosis
Paneer is among some foods that are rich in phytoestrogen, a naturally occurring substance that slightly mimics the action of estrogen, a key hormone which is considered vital for healthy functioning of many systems in women. Calcium, Vitamin D and phytoestrogens from food, have shown to reduce the risk of osteoporosis in women post menopause.
10. Helpful in painful menstrual periods
Sufficient calcium in foods like Paneer is helpful as it helps in relieving muscle tension and maintaining normal muscle tone during this period. Further Paneer contains Omega-3 fatty acids which have anti-inflammatory properties, which helps reduces the pain and also reduces the production of some chemicals which are active during menstrual periods.
What is the shelf life of Paneer and how to store it?
Paneer is a perishable commodity and highly susceptible to chemical and microbiological changes. It spoils at room temperature in a few hours. To store it for more time, paneer needs to be kept in a refrigerator. Paneer from the market should be bought with caution as there is need for cold storage/ cold chain being maintained throughout the supply chain cycle. Vacuum packaging of Paneer is done by some companies to enhance its shelf life to few weeks. Open Paneer kept in a Fridge should be used in 2-3 days time.
Other techniques to prolong life by 1-2 days include use of a wet muslin cloth and keep it in the fridge or submerge the paneer block in a bowl of water and close the lid. However Paneer is high susceptible to changes and it should be used in 1-4 days time.
Are there any side effects of eating Paneer?
Consumption of paneer can trigger allergic reactions in people who have a history of allergies from dairy products.
Is Paneer known to interfere with some medications?
Dairy products such as Paneer can interfere with certain medications, including antibiotics such as tetracycline, doxycycline, and ciprofloxacin. These antibiotics may bind to the calcium in these products, forming an insoluble substance in stomach and upper small intestine that the body is unable to absorb. One should invariably consult his doctor in this regard.
To sum up
Paneer is a delicious, nourishing and healthy food which is an important part of the Indian cuisine. It can be used as a main ingredient for starters, curries etc or be used to enhance the nutrition, taste and visual appeal for a wide variety of culinary dishes and sweets etc.
Paneer is an easy ingredient to incorporate into your food to enhance its taste and nutritional value. Do let us know in the comments below on how you use Paneer as a part of your diet.
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