How to make Chaina – a version of paneer
Dairy products are a huge part of our culture and has played a very important part in my nutritional upbringing..:P. I believe that dairy is a big part of a healthy development of a human being because that’s how it has been done since ages. Milk and milk products have nourished our babies, provided vital elements and minerals to grown ups and have healed the ailing. When we found that Mr. little V was allergic to cow’s milk protein, I was heartbroken. My constant concern was that once I wean him off of breast milk, how is he going to get his nutrition. Luckily, there are so many great options these days like goat’s milk, soy milk, nut milks and so on. He happily adapted to goat’s milk and it remained his milk choice till he recently outgrew the allergy and now loves all the cow’s milk products. I am a happy mamma.
Despite all the debate going around on including alternatives to dairy in your diet, I would say it remains a big part of our daily food consumption – may it be milk, yoghurt, butter, desserts made with milk etc.
Chaina is a soft, crumbly form of paneer made by adding some sort of acid to whole milk. It is the starting point of so many wonderful recipes. A while ago I shared the recipe of Rusgullas – a popular Indian dessert, which uses chaina as the base of the recipe. It is also the beginning of making paneer, which is basically chaina pressed with a heavy weight to drain out excess moisture and forming it into a cake so that it can be cut into desired shapes and used in other recipes. Chaina is also used in making many other desserts, stuffed flatbreads called parantha, sandwiches and also paneer bhurjee – to name a few.
Whole milk – 1 quart or 4 cups
White vinegar – 2 teaspoon
In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, set the milk to boil on a medium low heat. Once the milk starts to boil and you can see bubbles on the edge of milk surface, turn the heat off. At this point add the vinegar, 1 teaspoon at a time and stir. You may end up using more or less than 2 teaspoons. I always start with 1 teaspoon and then keep adding more till the milk solids and the whey separate completely. You will see chaina curds separating from a yellowish translucent liquid. Let it sit in the pan to cool. This will also help the curds to develop further. After about 20 minutes, line a sieve with muslin cloth or several layers of cheese cloth. In a sink, drain the water/whey from the curds into the sieve. Run cold water over the curds and collect all the four corners of your cloth and twist it. Squeeze as much water as you can get out and then tie it on your faucet or keep at a place where it can further drain for 15-20 minutes. After that time, give it one more squeeze and your chaina is ready to be used in many forms (see pictures).
Love – Vaishali.
P.S – you can use chaina just like ricotta cheese, its not as creamy but add honey to it and slather on a toast or add salt and pepper to make yourself a healthy savory toast.
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