I started out pretty much as basic as you get--paneer. I figured the non-aged, unflavored farmers' cheese would be a good place to start. Plus, as a big Indian food fan, I LOVE paneer, and I had a curry recipe that I bet it would go great in.
I followed the recipe for whole milk paneer from 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer. It's really not much of a recipe, it's so simple: bring milk to a boil, stir in a curdling agent, then separate the curds and whey and press to drain out as much liquid as possible.
This really was an easy, if slightly time-consuming process. I brought a gallon of whole to a boil, which took about an hour, stirring the whole time. Once it reached a boil, I poured in 1/4 cup white vinegar. The directions said that curds would appear within 15 seconds or so, and it really did happen much more instantaneously than I expected.
I poured the contents of the pot into a colander lined with cheesecloth (this is it's true purpose!) and wrapped it tightly before setting a water-filled tea kettle on top. I let this sit for the next five hours, pushing down on the kettle occasionally to make sure as much liquid as possible was squeezed out.
My paneer, after draining/pressing for 5 hours and then chilling in a mold (read: tupperware) in the fridge
The cheese had a pleasant, if mild, taste, which was to be expected since I hadn't added even so much as salt for seasoning; it was crumbly in a way similar to feta but a little rubberier.
The crumbliness had me worried; after all, I was supposed to cube the cheese. In the end, the edges crumbled but I was able to cut most of it into nice neat cubes which I then fried in a bit of vegetable oil. I am a reluctant pan-fryer; I don't like hot oil splashing all over my hands and arms. But I thought that crisping up some of the edges would help the paneer stay intact after being stirred into the curry. Also, browning = flavor.
I then proceeded to whip up Mark Bittman's recipe for curry with spinach (originally designed to be used with leftover thanksgiving turkey) and mixed in the paneer:
Mmm...tomato-coconut milk curry, spinach, and homemade paneer--what's not to love?
The process of making paneer was altogether really easy and one that I would repeat. I look forward to trying more cheeses. I plan to try the Homesick Texan's queso blanco with herbs and chiles next, and hopefully move into rennet-based and aged cheeses.
Did I mention I'm a cheese fiend?