My freezer holds all sorts of vegetables ready to mix with homemade paneer for Paneer Tikka Masala. Learn to make cheese at
Every April, I’m focused on two things: what I’m going to grow in my garden this year, and how I’m going to eat up everything I saved from last year’s harvest. Last week’s post used up not just the whey leftover from making yogurt but also the potatoes starting to sprout in my storage bins. This week, I dug deeply into my freezer and found all sorts of vegetables for an Indian dinner: cherry tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, and cilantro pesto. Flavor them with my dwindling supply of home-smoked chilies and homemade curry powder, toss in some freshly made paneer, and the flavors explode.

There are several other fabulous things about this week’s recipes. If you already make Lemon Cheese, you don’t need to learn to make paneer: you just need to learn how to press your cheese. If you don’t yet make this cheese, which also goes by queso blanco, whole-milk ricotta, and farm cheese, you have another reason to learn how.

Ready to give it a try? Full details are in the recipe below, but here are the basics:
You need just 3 ingredients plus some butter muslin or cheesecloth.
1. Heat the milk.
2. Add the acid.
3. Drain off the whey.
4. Shape and press the cheese.
5. Cut into cubes and enjoy.

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Fresh Paneer

  • Servings: 1 pound
  • Difficulty: 3
  • Print
1 gallon milk
8 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon cheese salt, or to taste

Use the same process you use to make Lemon Cheese: In a large, heavy-bottom pot, slowly bring the milk to between 185°F and 190°F, stirring occasionally. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Let it sit, covered, for 15 minutes, until the curds and whey separate; if the whey looks milky, add another 1–2 tablespoons of lemon juice and let the curds sit another 5 minutes. Drain the whey through a butter muslin–lined colander set over a large bowl, collecting the curds in the cloth. Let the curds drain for 10 minutes, until most of the whey has dripped into the bowl; the whey can be reserved for another use.

Stir in the cheese salt, and then set the cheese in its cloth on a rimmed cutting board or plate. Shape the cheese into a 3/4- to 1-inch-thick brick, and fold the cheese cloth smoothly around it.

Place an inverted plate in a clean sink or container and set the cheese packet in the center. Place another inverted plate on top, and then complete the pressing tower with a full teakettle or a large cast-iron pan; leave it to compress for about 20 minutes. Check the cheese; it should feel firm, with little give. If it still easily leaks whey when you press on it with your fingertips, add another couple of pounds of weight and press for another 10 minutes. Refrigerate the pressed paneer for 30 minutes, and then cut it into cubes. The fresh paneer is ready to use (see below) or can be stored in a lidded container in the refrigerator for a few days. Makes about 1 pound.

Tips & Tricks
  • If this is your first home cheesemaking project, check out my Fermenting Dairy primer. It will explain some of the basic techniques and tools involved and give you tips for making tasty cheese. More detailed instructions for making the cheese you’re pressing into paneer can be found here.
  • Pressing paneer is like pressing Dry-Salted Feta, but it takes less time and fewer tools. If you have a wide square mold, you could use it, but I tend to improvise, like I do to press tofu, with something that weighs 3–4 pounds.
  • Once pressed, paneer, holds its shape and won’t melt when heated. This makes it a hugely versatile substitute for just about any dish that calls for bite-size morsels of tofu, chicken, or other meat. Try it in your next Asian stir-fry or in Mexican tacos. Swap it for feta for a milder salad, or drizzle it with warm jam or fruit syrup for a sweet treat.

My freezer holds all sorts of vegetables ready to mix with homemade paneer for Paneer Tikka Masala. Learn to make cheese at

Twice as Tasty

My freezer holds all sorts of vegetables ready to mix with homemade paneer for Paneer Tikka Masala. Learn to make cheese at paneer may seem complicated if you’ve never made cheese, but it takes just a few minutes of hands-on time spread out over a couple of hours. My tikka masala recipe seems even longer and more complex. But that’s only because you’re blending a paste, cooking a sauce, and then pulling everything together. If you plan it right, you can have the dish ready to eat in the time it takes to steam basmati rice.

The secret to making tikka masala a quick and easy dinner is vegetable prep. For me, that means doing the work at harvest time: Pop tomatoes in freezer bags. Grill, chop, and freeze onions and peppers. Mince garlic and cilantro to freeze in ice cube trays. As you plan this year’s garden, plan to save some of your harvest using these techniques. Your winters will be a lot tastier. If you’re using all fresh ingredients, maximize your time by chopping both the paste and the sauce ingredients before you start cooking. Once you heat your pan, you’ll move quickly through the steps.

Ready to give it a try? Full details are in the recipe below, but here are the basics:
You need just 3 main vegetables plus some spices and aromatics—and of course, your freshly made paneer.
1. Blend together the paste ingredients.
2. Cook the vegetables and seasonings into a sauce.
3. Mix the paste and sauce together with the paneer.

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Paneer Tikka Masala

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: 3
  • Print
Masala Paste
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped gingerroot
8 whole almonds or cashews
1 dried chili, preferably smoked
1 cup frozen cherry tomatoes, defrosted
3/4 cup frozen grilled onion, defrosted
1 1-ounce cube frozen cilantro pesto base, defrosted
Tikka Sauce
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup frozen, chopped, grilled onion, defrosted
1/2 cup frozen, chopped, grilled bell pepper, defrosted
1 1-ounce cube frozen garlic in oil, defrosted (or 6 fresh cloves)
1 tablespoon Fresh Yogurt or yogurt whey
1 tablespoon Basic Indian Curry Powder
salt to taste
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup water
12 ounces Fresh Paneer

Prepare the masala paste: Coarsely chop the ginger and add it to a food processor, along with the nuts and chili. Add the defrosted tomato, onion, and cilantro pesto. Grind the mixture into a paste; set aside.

Prepare the tikka sauce: In a medium cast iron or other heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and sauté for about 2 minutes, until warm. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Stir in the yogurt, curry powder, and salt. Cook for another minute, and then pour the mixture into a bowl.

In the skillet, melt the remaining butter over medium heat. Add the masala paste and sauté for another 4–5 minutes, stirring, until it thickens. Pour in the water and simmer for 1–2 minutes, until the paste softens to a gravy. Add the onion and pepper mixture and the paneer; cook for about 1 minute to combine the flavors. Serve over rice and garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired. Serves 4.

Tips & Tricks
  • I’ve set up this recipe to use what’s in my freezer, but it can be made with fresh ingredients. Add an extra 1/4 cup each of fresh onion and pepper, and allow a few extra minutes to sauté the vegetables.
  • If you didn’t defrost your paste ingredients in advance, just melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the skillet over medium-low heat. Add the frozen tomato, onion, and cilantro pesto. Cook for about 5 minutes, until defrosted, and then puree in the food processor.
  • The paste can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator for several days. I prefer to freeze each ingredient separately because I use them in many other dishes, but you could make multiple batches of paste and freeze them in 1-1/2-cup containers. You’ll need 10 ounces of frozen paste for this recipe.
  • The Brits would say it’s not tikka masala without chicken, but they’ve likely never tasted this version. If you want to substitute chicken or tofu, cut about 12 ounces of the protein into 1-inch pieces and marinate it in the onion and bell pepper mixture for 30 to 60 minutes before cooking.
  • Tikka masala makes an easy one-dish meal served over rice. You can also serve it in a bowl on its own and dip in Low-Gluten Sourdough Naan. For a fuller Indian spread, start popping open jars of chutney and pickles, and offer the rest of the paneer and yogurt for nibbling.

Like what you’ve learned? To learn more in a Twice as Tasty workshop—in your own kitchen, among friends, and with my personal help—click here. If you’re not yet a Twice as Tasty subscriber, get newsletters delivered straight to your inbox by clicking here.


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