Koftas and spicy sauce: Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes for homemade paneer (2024)

Making your own paneer for the first time is one of those things that leaves you wondering what took you so long to get around to trying it. It’s so very easy and satisfying, and the results are much silkier than you get with shop-bought. Treat your paneer as a blank canvas, much like tofu, upon which to add whatever spices and sauces you have to hand. You can then eat it as it is or, as I’ve done here, use it as a base for other dishes.

Fresh paneer

Koftas and spicy sauce: Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes for homemade paneer (1)

Freshly made paneer is soft yet firm in texture, and it absorbs flavours very well. Make it with lightly pasteurised, but not hom*ogenised milk, to ensure you get firmly set curds. You’ll be left with plenty of whey afterwards, so save this to make bread, to brine large cuts of meat or to soak grains.

Prep 10 min
Cook 30 min
Cool 45 min
Chill 2 hr+
Makes About 450g

3 litres whole milk
tsp salt
90ml fresh lemon juice (ie, from 3-4 lemons)

Pour the milk and salt into a large saucepan, put on a medium heat and bring up to a simmer, stirring frequently to prevent the milk from catching on the bottom of the pan – it will take about 15 minutes until the top is very frothy and bubbling gently, but the milk is not rising to the top rapidly. Stir in the lemon juice and mix gently, taking care not to break up the curds too much, then take off the heat and leave for two to three minutes, until large curds settle at the surface.

Drape a large, clean tea towel over a large sieve set over a large bowl. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the curds into the tea towel, so the whey drips through and collects in the bowl. Set aside to cool for about 40 minutes, then wring the towel tightly so the curd becomes a compact ball inside it. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible, then put the towel and its curd contents into a bowl and refrigerate for at least two hours, or overnight, if time allows. The finished paneer will be less robust than shop-bought, so take extra care when cutting into it.

If you’re not planning to use the paneer immediately, take it out of the tea towel and wrap (in reusable kitchen wrap, ideally) to stop it drying out. It will now keep in the fridge for up to five days.

Baharat paneer with charred onions and green salsa (pictured top)

Slabs of paneer take well to grilling. If you want to get ahead, marinate the cheese the day before. Feel free to play around with the spices, too, and use up whatever herbs you have in the fridge for the green sauce. This is a great vegetarian main course to serve as a sharing platter with some pitta and a crunchy green salad.

Prep 25 min
Marinate 30 min
Cook 30 min
Serves 4

275g thick-set Greek yoghurt
3 tsp baharat spice mix
1½ tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lime juice
(from 2-3 limes)
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tsp chickpea flour (AKA gram flour)
450g paneer
(homemade or shop-bought)
2 small red onions, peeled and cut into 1cm-thick rounds (240g)
1½ tsp maple syrup
3 tbsp sunflower oil

For the sauce
20g parsley leaves
10g mint leaves
1 green chilli
, roughly chopped (remove and discard the pith and seeds if you prefer less heat)
60ml olive oil
1 tbsp lime juice

First, marinate the paneer. Put 75g yoghurt, the baharat, a tablespoon of olive oil, a tablespoon of lime juice, the garlic, chickpea flour and three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt in a small bowl. Mix well, then tip on to a large tray.

Cut the paneer in half lengthways, then cut each half widthways into five 1½cm-thick pieces. Put these on the tray with the marinade and toss gently until well coated. Cover the tray (with reusable kitchen wrap, ideally) and set aside at room temperature to marinate for 30 minutes (or overnight in the fridge).

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Put the parsley, mint, green chilli and olive oil in the small bowl of a food processor, then pulse four or five times until almost smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice as you go. Scrape into a small bowl, stir in the lime juice and half a teaspoon of salt, then set aside.

Now for the charred onions. Put the onions in a small bowl with the remaining half-tablespoon of olive oil and a third of a teaspoon of salt, and mix gently, taking care not to separate the onion rings. Put a large frying pan on a high heat and, once hot, lay in the onion slices and char for three to four minutes on each side, until nicely blackened and slightly softened. Tip the onions back into their bowl, add the maple syrup and toss well both to separate the rings and to coat them in the syrup. Rinse and dry out the pan.

Return the pan to a medium-high heat, add the sunflower oil and, once hot, fry the paneer slices in two or three batches for two to three minutes on each side, until golden. Transfer to a tray lined with absorbent paper.

Pile the onions on to a large platter and arrange the paneer haphazardly alongside them. Put the remaining 200g yoghurt in a small bowl and swirl in half of the green sauce. Nestle the bowls of yoghurt and green sauce alongside the paneer, and serve at once.

Paneer koftas in creamy tomato sauce

Koftas and spicy sauce: Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes for homemade paneer (2)

A rich, spicy sauce is just what’s needed for these herby kofta balls. If you want to get ahead, make the koftas and sauce the day before, but combinine them only just before serving. Serve with rotis or rice.

Prep 20 min
Cook 40 min
Serves 4

For the koftas
2 tbsp ghee
1 onion
, peeled and finely chopped (180g)
2 tsp garam masala
6 garlic cloves
, peeled and crushed
15g ginger, peeled and finely grated
2½ tbsp chickpea flour (aka gram flour)
20g dill, roughly chopped, plus 1 tsp extra picked leaves
40g parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1½ tsp aleppo chilli
1½ tbsp double cream
450g paneer
(homemade or shop-bought), coarsely crumbled
1½ tbsp rice (or plain) flour
500ml sunflower oil
, for frying

For the tomato sauce
2 tbsp ghee
15g ginger
, peeled and finely grated
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp aleppo chilli
¾ tsp caster sugar
60ml double cream
, plus 1 tbsp extra for drizzling

For the garam masala almonds
2 tbsp ghee
20g flaked almonds
¾ tsp garam masala
Salt and pepper

First make the kofta. Put the ghee in a large saute pan on a medium-high heat and, once hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for eight minutes, until softened and slightly golden. Stir in the garam masala, garlic, ginger and a tablespoon of chickpea flour and cook, stirring occasionally, for another two to three minutes, until fragrant. Add the dill and parsley, fry for another minute, until softened, then transfer to a medium bowl and leave to cool. Wipe the pan clean.

Once the onion mixture is cool, stir in the chilli flakes, cream, paneer, half a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Using your hands, mix well, crumbling the paneer finely but not to a complete mush. Weigh out the mixture into 14 x 45g pieces and, with slightly wet hands, roll each one into a firm ball. Combine the remaining tablespoon and a half of chickpea flour and the rice flour in a small bowl, roll the paneer balls in the flour mixture to coat, then set aside on a tray.

Put the sunflower oil in the same saute pan on a medium-high heat. Once hot, fry half the koftas for two to three minutes on each side, until golden brown, then transfer to a tray lined with absorbent paper and repeat with the remaining koftas. Drain off the oil and save for another use, and wipe clean the pan again.

To make the tomato sauce, put the saute pan on a medium-high heat. Spoon in the ghee and, once hot, add the ginger and garlic and fry, stirring, for two minutes, until fragrant. Stir in the garam masala, cook for another minute, then add the passata, aleppo chilli, sugar, half a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, mix well and cook for seven minutes, until thickened. Stir in 250ml cold water and the cream, then reduce the heat to medium and leave to simmer gently for five minutes, until glossy.

Add the koftas to the sauce, stir gently to coat and cook for another two minutes, until the sauce has thickened slightly and the koftas are warmed through.

Meanwhile, make the almonds. Put the ghee in a small frying pan on a medium-high heat. Once hot, add the almonds, garam masala and a pinch of salt, fry, stirring, for three or four minutes, until golden, then take off the heat.

To serve, drizzle the extra tablespoon of cream all over the koftas. Spoon over half of the almond mixture and scatter with the extra dill. Serve hot with the remaining almonds alongside.

Koftas and spicy sauce: Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes for homemade paneer (2024)
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