Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Paneer Cafreal

Paneer Cafreal

I was unfamiliar with this dish until very recently. According to my sources at Wikipedia, Cafreal is a type of preparation introduced to India by the Portuguese. While it is generally prepared with chicken in the Indian state of Goa, I chose to prepare a vegetarian version of this dish by using Paneer, an Indian cheese. I may try this again with extra-firm tofu, in place of Paneer.

For more on the beautiful coastal state of Goa, see

I will also share some pictures of my travels around this tropical paradise in my next post.

Recipe for Paneer Cafreal

For the marinade

  • 2 medium sized bunches fresh cilantro (reserve a few sprigs for garnish)
  • 6 small green chilis (I used Indian, but you can substitute with 3-4 serrano peppers)
  • 6 cloves garlic, or more if you love garlic 1 inch fresh ginger root
  • 2 T white vinegar
  • 2 T oil
  • 1 t. sugar
  • 1 t cumin seed
  • 1/2 t. turmeric powder
  • 1 pinch cardamom powder (optional)
  • 2 cloves (optional)
  • 1 C yogurt (an extra sour variety is especially good)

Grind all ingredients, except yogurt, into smooth paste and set aside.

Cut Paneer into 1-inch cubes and add to marinade. Add yogurt and mix well with your fingers; set aside for 15 minutes.

Heat a skillet on medium-high heat and add 1T oil.

Add marinated Paneer in a single layer into skillet and allow it to brown, tossing periodically to prevent sticking. This should take 5-7 minutes per side.

Serve with freshly cut cilantro or a dash of lime juice. Enjoy with Basmati rice or Naan (Indian flat-bread).

To make Fresh Paneer

Paneer is an acid-set rennet-less cheese that is commonly used in Indian cuisine. You can prepare this from scratch as described below or purchase it pre-made from an Indian grocery store. If you are going to make it yourself, you will need:

  • 1/2 gallon milk
  • Lemon juice or vinegar
  • Cheese cloth

Bring 1/2 gallon of milk (or more) to boil with constant stirring.

You can even use skim milk here if you're counting calories. The 1/2 gallon of milk will give you enough paneer for 2-3 people, but I don't recommend making this in batches larger than 1 gallon.

As milk comes to a boil, take off heat and slowly add lemon/lime juice (citric acid) or vinegar (acetic acid) while stirring.

I much prefer the taste of paneer made with citric acid. Amount required will vary; add just enough until your milk splits.

Drain the liquid portion (whey) or reserve for use in a stock or pancake batter etc. Rinse the cheese curds under running water.

Transfer curds to a cheesecloth and put it under a heavy weight to press out the remaining water. Do this for at least 20 minutes, or for firmer paneer, place in refrigerator overnight.

I usually put the cheesecloth with curds on a stack of tissues, place a flat plate on top and a gallon jug of milk/water on top.

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