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Paneer platter

Food for thought Paneer’s weakness is the company it keeps during cooking



PACKED WITH PROTEIN Paneer is good but follow low-cal recipes

Paneer is a homemade Indian cottage cheese. It resembles tofu in colour, taste and feel. Ex-meat-eaters swear that paneer is the vegetarian substitute to chicken. Palak paneer, mutter paneer, paneer butter masala, paneer tikka masala, paneer pasanda, chilli paneer, paneer kofta, kadhai paneer and shahi paneer are dishes with iconic status for most restaurant-goers. Even fast food chains now sell pizzas topped with chunks of fried or barbecued paneer.

How to make it

Paneer is surprisingly easy to make, which perhaps explains its popularity with homemakers and chefs. After curdling hot milk with some lemon juice or vinegar, the whey is drained and the curd is pressed dry and cut into firm blocks. Softer varieties of paneer go into the making of sweets such as rasogolla. The cheese does not require maturing. It has a short lifespan: refrigerated paneer keeps for five days while frozen paneer stays fresh for a month.

Paneer is nutritious, and not too high in calories. The calorie count depends on whether whole milk or skimmed milk goes into the making of paneer. It also depends on whether the milk is from a cow or a buffalo – typically, buffalo milk is creamier and higher in calories. A hundred gram of paneer contains 100-160 calories. This is not a high number: many dried legumes contain more calories. Rajmah, for example, contains 335 calories for 100 gm. Paneer is rich in protein: 100 gm contains around 12-14 gm of first-class protein comparable with the protein in egg white and meat.

Fat forms only 5 gm out of a 100 gm block of paneer, but it is predominantly saturated fat. The food is rich in minerals, but there are only insignificant amounts of vitamins and there is no dietary fibre.

Paneer’s weakness is the company it keeps during cooking. As with the potato, butter, ghee and large amounts of oil tend to make paneer dishes fattening. Low-cal paneer recipes are not as popular as the richer ones, but they are worth trying out because very few vegetarian foods contain the high-quality protein that paneer does.

RAJIV. M

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