Last year when we were in Crete, we drove past a tyrokomeio. I, in all honesty and thinking it was perfectly logical, said to Mr Zeus "That's where people go when they want to make cheese? I mean when it's not turning out right, to get advice on what went wrong?" He laughed till he cried. I mean who can blame me? Tyrokomeio, nosokomeio, same thing, right?
Well, in order to set up your own basic tyrokomeio all you need is milk and lemon juice. Paneer is persian for cheese, and it's a very young, basic type of cheese (milk solids, rather) that is used a lot in Indian vegetarian cooking. It has a bland taste, so it's sort of like a milky version of tofu. And it's dead easy to make.
The last time I was in the UK, just before we hit the Asian shops to investigate wedding attire, we stopped off at a place called Khazana where I ate till I was ready to burst and then moaned about it up and down Handsworth High Street. That's what I do, I eat till I'm going to pop and then complain about it. Most recently I did that last Friday night and thought guiltily of starving African orphans as I nursed my Bump O' Gluttony (3-months-pregnant-look) and listened to the garbage collectors roll about in the wee hours thanks to greed-induced insomnia.
But I digress! Oh Khazana... the sweet and tangy burst of tamarind sauce and yoghurt on the papdi chaat, the spicy pop of a goll gappa crunching in your mouth, and chilli paneer with so much chilli that you smelt the peppers before you ate them, with one hand free to wipe your sweat and running nose. No bother, that's why God invented mango lassi, so us South Asians could fry our taste buds and then deliciously douse the fire.
My sister has the recipe for the chilli paneer and she also has the convenience of being able to buy paneer at a supermarket. Not a hope of hell for that in Athens, but paneer is so easy to make you needn't bother anyway.
Paneer for 3 people:
1.5 litres whole milk
3 tablespoons strained lemon juice
Boil the milk and reduce the heat, stirring so it won't stick. Add the lemon juice and swirl the pot to get the process of the curds and whey separating. Eventually in a few minutes you should end up with white lumps of curd and almost clear yellow whey. Add a bit more lemon juice if it seems to be taking too long, or add the pot back onto a low heat.
Line a colander with the muslin and pour all the curds and whey into the cloth. Gather up the corners and twist to squeeze out the liquids. Give the muslin bag a rinse under the tap to wash off the whey and squeeze again. Tie the bag from the kitchen tap and leave to drain for an hour or two. Squeeze under a plate with a weight on top (cans of tomatoes or a stone mortar). Leave for an hour.
Chop and use!