Little Miss Muffet and her curds and whey

LIVING IN THE KITCHEN Swapna Dutta shows you how to explore the lesser known uses of paneer and its water

Little Miss Muffet and her curds and whey

Do you remember Little Miss Muffet who sat on a tuffet eating her curds and whey? But how many of us actually know what ‘curds and whey’ are? And these curds are not the ones we make curd rice with... The reference here is to what we call “paneer”.

When you boil milk and add lemon, vinegar or yoghurt to it and the solid part of the milk separates and floats up leaving a greenish liquid in the pan, the solid part is called ‘curd’ and the liquid ‘whey’. In other words, curds are home-made soft paneer, also called ‘yoghurt cheese’ in English. Paneer is extremely nutritious although it is much lighter than milk, ideal for those who have digestive problems. In fact it is said to be a ‘healing food’.

The whey or paneer-water is nourishing too and can be used in a variety of ways. In the olden days Greek doctors called it “healing water”. Even Hippocrates and Galen, considered the founders of medicine, are said to have recommended it to their patients. People who cannot tolerate milk can often drink whey because it is free from lactose and contains a fair amount of potassium and vitamins, especially Vitamin B.
Here are a few ideas as to how you can use whey:

- As whey is rather tasteless you can mix it with lemon or any other fruit juice and drink it chilled. Delicious in summer!

-Add it to lassi/buttermilk, both sweet and salted.

- Freeze it into ice cubes and use it for making smoothies.

- Knead your atta dough with whey instead of water for an extra smooth batch of chapattis/parathas/puris.

-Add it to your dal – half and half with water.

- Add it to any curry when making the gravy, especially for non-vegetarian dishes.

-Add it to pulao instead of (or along with) water for an added tang.

-Whey tastes particularly good when added to rajmah or chole when boiling it.
The paneer or as the English called it, “curds” can be used in place of fresh cream in several recipes, especially in desserts. The most important thing to remember is that since it is bland it will take on any flavour you choose – savoury or sweet. Here are some ideas:

n Blend it smoothly with a little salt, pepper, a little crushed garlic, a little green coriander or mint, and green chillies to make a delicious dip.

n Blend it with an equal amount of khoya, sugar and grated coconut and a dash of vanilla and stir over the fire until the mixture leaves the side of the pan. Use this as a filling for sweet pancakes. Or simply roll it up to make laddoos.

n Blend it smoothly with powdered sugar and a little green cardamom powder. Stir over the fire until the mixture is smooth. Spread on a buttered dish and cut into squares when cold. This is the simplest form of sandesh, a popular Bengali sweet.

n Grind crispy cashews in a grinder to a coarse powder. Add the same amount of paneer, enough honey to give it a sweet taste and a few drops of vanilla. Blend them in the mixer and you have a sweet dip that you can spread on your bread.

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