Recipe : Making panneer. (Indian Cheese)

pāka-śāstra or the science of cooking is one of the important traditional skills for both men and women. Cooking converts raw material into food or anna, by making it easy to digest, good to taste and appealing to sight and smell. Cooking done with a thought of the divine becomes a yagnya. And the gītā says that brahma created the yagnya and gave it to people as the wish-fulfilling-cow, iSTa-kAma-dhuk. At one time svayam pākam or cooking for oneself was a requirement for spiritual aspirants.

Having read a lot about processed food and watching programs like Food Tech on T.V. ,  I decided it would be better, to make panneer in the traditional Indian way. A freshly made panneer parāTha may be healthier for us than a pizza made of pizza base and cheese processed in a factory. Besides the processing itself… there are also the preservatives and emulsifers, flavours and other additives in store bought cheese. ( Pizza made in Italian homes is probably very healthy).

I find that adding curds (dadhi, yoghurt) to capāti dough and keeping it for a long time (24 hours – use your own judgement), makes it reasonably fluffy when baked. Not like baking powder and yeast.. but pretty good. And you can add healthy spices or honey (madhu) instead of sugar (śakkara).

My friend, madhu is a proper bengali who learned to make panneer as a girl. And she showed me how to do this. She heated the milk (kSIra) slowly on a low flame while stirring and squeezed the lemon little by little when the milk was almost boiling and just started rising. She went on stirring till all the milk solids separated out. Then she filtered it through a clean thin cotton cloth and squeezed water  out of the the panneer. We saved the panneer water for making future panneer. Or for use in cooking vegetables.

The panneer tastes and smells fantastic. This activity requires patience and helps us become calm and happy. Just like dhyāna. It can be a sādhana.