We have a bit of a Bollywood obsession going on in our house at the moment. The source of it is our 8-year old daughter who - after seeing the dance numbers from the film Om Shanti Om – has decided that nothing is better than saris and bindis. For someone who already loved fancy, the Indian spectacle took it to another level and lately she can be found in her own improvised version of a sari, striking dramatic dance poses and planning the details of her upcoming Bollywood birthday party. Hungry for more, we next watched Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, an epic drama which is still running in theaters in India since it’s premier in 1995, starring the dreamy Shahrukh Khan and Kajol, . We are now on a family quest to watch every SRK movie (appropriate for kids – which, admittedly, might be very few), and the latest was Chak De! India, a Hindi film about a girls field hockey team that has no dance numbers. I wasn’t sure the girls would sit through a film of that description, and frankly, I wasn’t sure I could either – having no interest in field hockey. But, it was completely and utterly riveting! I cannot recommend this film highly enough – if you have girls, they should see it.
Our near constant Bollywood soundtrack – provided by Saavn (the Desi Spotify) – has been putting us in the mood for Indian food and so I set out the other day to try making one of my favorite dishes: Matar Paneer – that delicious combination of peas and cheese. Paneer is the first cheese I ever made and I love it because its simplicity so perfectly illustrates the most basic elements of cheesemaking: the separation of the curds and whey. Plus, it doesn’t take any fancy starters or equipment. All you need is some milk, lemon juice, a clean pot and a thermometer.
Once you have achieved your desired density, soak the cheese in cold water for 2-3 hours prior to use. I made my cheese one afternoon and stashed it in the fridge until I could cook with it the next day. I found a delicious recipe for Matar Paneer from the Indian cooking and garden blog Mahanandi, which I love both for its recipes as well as the photos. With the paneer already made, the dish took almost no time and was a total success! I have to say I was surprised, as most of my attempts at Indian cooking are a bit off the mark.
So the question remains, what to do with all that whey? Save it in a jar – it will keep in your fridge for up to 6 months and you can use it in a variety of ways. Many people like to add it to breads and pizza doughs. Some drink it straight for its healing properties, and others feed it to their plants. I’m learning all about whey these days and hope to have more to say on the subject soon. For now, mine is in a jar, awaiting the perfect dough.
So, are you inspired to whip up your own batch of paneer? I thought so! Before getting started, you should prepare your mind with a little Bollywood dance number – from our house to yours: