Making Paneer

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Having yet another long weekend (Whitsun Monday is a national holiday over here) is wonderful, except when it pours. The weather was so dismal yesterday that walking was out of the question – and believe me I have walked in the rain before.

One way for me to keep busy, when I am not reading, is cooking. So I made Paneer, for the first time.

To be honest, I had no intention of making Paneer when I set out to cook. During my holiday in Hong Kong I had eaten a lovely Paneer Curry based on an Indian recipe. Since I had been given a recipe that looked authentic as it came from an Indian family, I had been tempted to make it again at home. Except that it is impossible to find Paneer on this side of the English Channel so I had used tofu instead.

I can’t possibly be the only one who is not overtly fond of the bland and chewy stuff – if you like it and know how to hide both the taste and the texture, feel free to add suggestions and links in the comment section. Therefore I decided to try the curry again but without tofu. I searched the Internet for an acceptable substitute for paneer but to no avail. What I found though were numerous posts where different people mentioned how easy it is to make homemade Paneer.

Who doesn’t like a little challenge on a rainy Sunday? I then resolved to try, using the wikihow link. I just followed the various steps with only minor changes and it worked.

I used half a litre of semi-skimmed milk instead of the recommended one litre. I had just opened a bottle to top up a cup of tea and always find that small failure are less damaging for the ego than big ones! I then played it by ear, or rather by eye, to bring the milk to boiling point since I do not have a food thermometer and then added lemon juice.

Since I did not have cheesecloth and still have no idea where I can find it – here again suggestions are welcomed – I used two layers of gauze sponges to strain the mixture and was glad I only had half a litre of curdled milk to strain.

I then put it in the fridge for the night and since it had only yielded 100 g of Paneer (weight was something the website had not mentioned), I added it to egg curry and ate it with homemade Indian flatbread. In the end, it proved to be much better than tofu and yes, making Paneer is easy!

Classic Combo

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I was a little optimistic last week when I thought I would manage to write blog posts during my trip. Still one thing that I can easily write about is food.

The food in Hong Kong is quite similar to Cantonese food, with tastes that are more alien to the Western palate than that of Beijing.

One staple element of Chinese food however is soup. At lunch time, people flock to small restaurants and eat all sorts of noodles in broth. Numerous places offer this on their menus for a nominal sum; the only problem being to find one where the menu is in English.

Here is an idea of the kind of combination you can have:
– vegetable broth, sweet and sour broth (mild, medium, hot or very hot) or spicy hot broth – the last two being meat broths
– rice noodles (round), rice vermicelli or udon
– two choices among the following list: vegetables, pickled vegetables, Chinese chive, bean sprouts, mushrooms, fish slices, duck slices, beef slices, pork slices, tofu, soy puffs, bean curd crisp slice, pork intestine (!!)

Ramen Stir-Fry

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Ingredients:
– 2 pkgs. pre-cooked Ramen noodles
– 2-3 eggs
– half a Chinese cabbage, thinly sliced
– 1 clove garlic, crushed
– 1 or 2 carrots, coarsely grated
– soy sauce

Whisk the eggs and make an omelet. Cook it slowly so that it does not brown and remains a little runny. Once it is ready, cut it into small pieces and set aside.

Get a Wok heated up – before putting the oil in! This is important in that it keeps the oil from burning. Test how hot the pan is by putting one to two drops of water; it if sizzles away immediately, it is hot enough.

Put in about 1 tablespoon oil – just enough to cover the pan (or Wok) bottom and sides. Put Chinese cabbage in oil stirring constantly. Add garlic and then carrots. Put soy sauce to taste. After five minutes everything should be cooked quite nicely.

Turn the heat down a little and dd the ramen noodles stirring constantly. Mix in the omelet. Add soy sauce if necessary and serve immediately.