The inspiration for this dish comes from the west & our past. I have often seen people in the west eating meat with pomegranate sauce or glaze. So, why not try it with our vegetarians eaters favourite ‘Paneer’. I say Paneer is great pretender, why? because it will taste the way you want it to.
Paneer was well-known to both Persians and Persian-influenced Indian cultures. If you scroll through Iranian cookbooks, you will find mention of making ‘Panir’ by splitting milk. Even Shah Jahan’s kitchen had a paneer biryani, documented recipe can be found in Nuskha-e-Shahjhani. So you see, its safe to say that Paneer is pretentious!
If texts are believed Paneer was prepared as early as the times of the Indus Valley Civilization, when milk was curdled with a variety of sour green leaves, barks, berries and yoghurt. The ancient Vedas refer to two types of cheese: with pores and without, very similar to modern-day paneer. But later, the Aryans who invaded the region then introduced a taboo on curdling cow’s milk due to the extreme reverence given to the animal. Milk was highly valued so ‘spoiling’ it by curdling remained a taboo for many centuries.
After all this time and through different rulers and travellers, from Afghans to Persians to Mughals and later to the Portuguese, who settled in Calcutta in the seventeenth century, brought their traditional fresh cheeses, queijos frescos, thereby introducing the technique of curdling cow’s milk to this region and lifting the old taboo once and for all.
Fact: Traditional paneer differs from chhena not only from its historical origins. It has mild flavours of caramelised lactose and subtle tanginess of lactic acid.