Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Favorite Fried Cheese "Vegetarian Haloumi"

No fail! Super-easy and super simple. Watch my new video below!

After several months of experiments, today was my first real attempt to make cheese, and thank God it turned out. I am soooo happy!

Okay, so my family's favorite cheese is the salty  Mediterranean (c)haloumi  - I love those gutterals!. It's so good fried, so golden, chewy, and crispy. So when I got those two packages of raw, fresh, milk through a splendid friend, I was excited to try it.

I was not deterred by the fact I didn't have rennet. I planned to make haloumi but  haloumi requires rennet. I was very excited, so I made paneer. Oh yum! It's so good. so GOOD! And like 5x cheaper than haloumi. It's a sustainable recipe, because I don't have to import rennet to make it. Oh am I going to make this again.

It's so simple - if you can boil spaghetti you can make cheese - I mean it!

Lemon Juice
Ingredients for a palm-sized block of traditional paneer
1 liter of whole, raw milk
1 1/2 tbsp  lemon juice

Two stock pots
Wooden spoon
Kitchen cloth - smooth
Spagetti drainer - I used one from IKEA

1) Bring a little water to boil in the pot to sterilize it. Pour the hot water over the wooden spoon and dry the pot.
2) Prepare your draining device in the sink. Firstly, place a clean stock pot in the sink. That will catch the whey, so it won't be wasted. Secondly, place the strainer basket inside the stock pot. Mine fits perfectly, so that's my device.  If you don't have that, use a colander over any pot that can take  hot water. Finally, open your cloth and set it over the colander. That will catch the cheese.
3) Defrost the lemon juice (I squeeze them freeze them in adorable heart shapes)
4) Bring the milk to a gentle boil, watching carefully and stirring gently
5) Pour in a little lemon juice at a time, stirring gently.
6) Stir until the curds (white solids) separate from the whey (greenish liquids). Add a little bit more lemon juice as necessary. Make sure the curds and whey is thoroughly separated.
7) Prepare the cloth and pour the entire mixture into the straining device.  You will have white cheese.
8) Gather the corners of cloth and rinse the cheese under filtered water. Press it under something heavy, like a tub of water, kettle with water, etc. over a tray that can catch liquid.
9) Shape the cheese, and let it be squashed to firm up, at least 20 minutes up to about 2 hours.
10) Cut your cheese.
11) Save the whey to bake, make smoothies, and to make thebrine. 

Now here's the secret I stole from haloumi to make the paneer really tasty!
To make the brine - enough for 1 liter's milk worth of paneer cheese:
3/4 cup whey
3/4 cup boiling hot water
1 heaped tbsp of sea salt

Pour the whey into a container. Warm the water in a mug in the microwave and dissolve the salt inside. Pour that into the container too. Stir well. When the cheese is cut, let is soak in brine for about 5 hours. That will make is really fluffy and salty - yum!

To fry the cheese:
Dill (optional)
Oil (Olive and/or Ghee, or even vegetable oil)
Paneer, brined and drained
Olives (optional)

Fry the cheese until dry, stir until golden brown. There should be a good but not excessive amount of  oil. The cheese will be chewy, crispy, and very much like haloumi only made without rennet, not because I'm a vegetarian but because I don't have rennet on hand.

This cheese is a good accompaniment to salad or rice. It's good with anything Middle Eastern/Mediteranean/Indian/Fusion. It's a bit like feta, too, when it isn't fried. I love the crispy, salty, bits. It will be good with Indian spice, dried chilli, etc. too. mmm... We are having it with curry fried rice tonight. It's going to be a real treat.It's good for Pesach too!