A desi twist to your traditional grilled cheese sandwich. These were a hit at high tea I hosted for my mom’s birthday a few weeks back.
What is Paneer?
Paneer is a firm cows milk cheese. Made from curdled milk, the cheese is not aged and remains firm and does not melt when heated. Which makes it hold up really well to cooking. It makes a great vegetarian protein in curries such as muttar paneer, palak paneer – two of my favourite curries! Or even marinate and BBQ it as a paneer tikka!
Paneer has no real flavour of its own and will soak up whatever flavour it is cooked in. The texture is very much like a firm tofu. So it is very versatile! No wonder it is very popular in Indian cooking!
It is also very easy to make at home.
Where to buy Paneer?
In Toronto its really easy to find paneer at most grocery stores. Normally it is in the refrigerator aisle beside the cheese or yogurt. Of course if you are lucky enough to have a desi store then you will very easily find it in the refrigerator or even in the freezer aisles.
Can’t find paneer anywhere? It is so simple to make it at home! You just need two ingredients and a cheese cloth and you can have paneer in about 20 minutes!
Make Paneer At Home
If you can’t find Paneer in store, you can easily make some at home with two ingredients:
- 8 cups whole milk
- juice of 1/2 a lemon (about 2-3 Tbsp)
Line a sieve with a large double layer of cheesecloth or a thin clean kitchen towel and set it in the sink. Bring 8 cups of whole milk to a gentle boil over medium heat while stirring. Once the milk is boiling, add in your lemon juice (about 1/2 a lemon) and turn the heat to low. As you continue to stir, the curds will start forming! Remove from heat and pour the whole thing into your cheesecloth lined sieve and rinse with cold water. Pick up the cheesecloth from the corners with your hands and twist to squeeze out the excess liquid. (Some people save this liquid and drink it as it is said to aid in digestion!).
Give the remaining curds in the cheesecloth it a good squeeze with your hands to get out any remaining liquid then tie it to your faucet to let it hang. The remaining liquid will drip and drain out. Leave it for about 5-10 minutes to dry out. After that, twist the ball tight with the cheesecloth and place in a bowl with another plate on top and weigh it down with a heavy pot to ensure smooth cheese. Refrigerate it like this for about 20 minutes. And that’s it. Remove from the cheesecloth and your paneer is ready to enjoy!
I love slicing up the fresh paneer and lightly frying it in some oil so it gets golden brown on both sides. Sprinkle salt and pepper on it and just eat it straight up! So yummy!
In a lot of cases you can also substitute firm tofu for paneer if you can’t find paneer, or wish to make a recipe vegan friendly. The texture is very similar. Although personally I much prefer the flavour of paneer to tofu!
A Desi Grilled Cheese
For these Paneer Cheddar Sandwiches I took a spin on the traditional grilled cheese sandwich by grating the paneer and cooking it up with onions a few spices like mustard and cumin seeds for the filling. Adding some aged cheddar gives it that perfectly melty texture.
I added to the desi flavour by spreading green chutney on the bread. Homemade or store bought is fine. And added a little sweetness with some red pepper jelly too. Or you could add some tamarind chutney instead. Grill up the sandwiches with a pat of butter in a pan or in a sandwich maker and voila! You have a really flavourful desi grilled cheese!
Give it a go and tell me what you think!
Paneer & Cheddar Grilled Cheese Sandwich
For the Paneer Filling
- 2-3 tbsp oil
- 1 tbsp mustard seeds
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1-2 green chillies, diced optional
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 brick Paneer, grated (approx. 350g)
- 1 cup aged cheddar cheese, grated
- fresh cilantro or chives, finely chopped
For the Sandwiches
- 6-8 slices sandwich bread
- green chutney any mint or cilantro chutney of choice (see below if you want to make this at home)
- red pepper jelly
- unsalted butter, room temperature
Prepare the Paneer Filling
- Grate the paneer and set aside. Dice the onions, slice green chillies and set aside.
- In a large pan or wok, heat the oil on medium heat and add the mustard seeds and whole cumin seeds. Cook for 2-3 minutes till the seeds start popping and sputtering.
- Add the diced onions and cook for 5-10 minutes till the onions start to caramelize and turn brown.
- Add the green chillies, turmeric and salt and pepper. Mix well to combine. And adjust salt and pepper to taste.
- Transfer the paneer mixture into a large bowl, add the cheddar cheese and fresh cilantro or chives and mix well. This mixture can be made in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Make the Sandwiches
- If you have a sandwich maker, now is the time to plug it in to heat up. Or heat a clean frying pan on medium heat.
- Spread butter on the outside of two slices of bread. Place them butter side down on a plate.
- Spread the green chutney on one slice and red pepper jelly on the other slice. Add the paneer mixture onto one slice and cover with the other. Making sure butter side is facing out.
- Place the sandwich in your sandwich maker and close it up to do its thing, or place it on the pre-heated pan to toast. Making sure to press down with a spatula so the cheese can melt and stick the two sides together. After about 2-3 minutes, flip the sandwich and continue to cook till the bottom is also browned. About 2 minutes.
- Serve the sandwich warm with more green chutney for dipping.