Monday, 1 July 2013

Travels from my armchair

Well two weeks of resting and recuperating from my end of year exam has left me feeling... hungry! I think 4 weeks of bad eating and even worse sleep caught up with me. A bit of R & R was required. So feet up, out in the garden with Pip and my hook has been my regular spot.
And when my hands started to ache, I read books that I had chosen myself - believe me, it wonderful to read for pleasure after a year of reading and studying nineteenth century novels. For a part time correspondence course, this module from The Open University has hard going! So I've read some modern and some contemporary fiction. BLISS! What a shame I can't read and crochet though... so I have no updates of interest to report about my rainbow blanket or my Hippopotamus just yet.

So, I thought I'd tell you about what I've been up to... As I say, I've recovered my appetite for good food - and for me good food means CURRY. And by some extraordinary coincidence, Rick Stein has a new TV show about his travels around India collecting and adapting Indian recipes. So immediately went out and bought the book that accompanies the series...
Hey hang on a minute, how did a second book get into my basket?

Reading through these books reminded me of my own Indian Odyssey. I was lucky enough to travel around India in 2001 - I can't believe it's 12 years ago. I can still smell India, and taste the food, as if it were yesterday.

Lorries by TATA - these carried people on the ROOF and were often highly decorated, and always to be heard tooting their horns
India is chaos - I kid you not, it's just nuts. Traffic fumes everywhere, noise everywhere and people... yes, they're everywhere too!

Train station at Gorakhpur

I was really fortunate when I visited India. I was part of a group of people who went there to help at a free school and at health centres. We also distributed food in some of the more remote villages in Bihar. I can't imagine getting another opportunity to meet real people and see how they live - nor to experience such generosity among really really poverty striken families. And we made friends for life with the family who hosted us and whose work the school and health camps are.
Grace School

Health Camp - villagers are listening to a talk on the importance of boiling water

After spending time in the remote northern region of Bihar, a few of us went travelling around - here's a few of my favourite snaps.
Mist over the Taj Mahal at dawn

Me looking really rather young

Really random... This child was plonked on my lap by a family who wanted a picture of me with the wife and baby!

The Merchant Palace at Udaipur - now THAT's what I call decor!

It was while we stayed at The Merchant's Palace in Udaipur that I tasted paneer for the first time. It's basically a kind of cottage cheese - in India it was made with buffalo milk - great news for me as I am allergic to cow's milk, but I LOVE cheese. Here in UK you can buy paneer ready made, but it's made using cow milk, so I make my own from full fat goat's milk. I thought I'd share how...

You will need:
2 litres full fat milk
3 tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar

To make paneer you need to use full fat milk - 2 litres for 4 people. Put it in a pan and heat it gently until it boils.

You use 3 tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar to make the hot milk separate in curds and whey. 

OK - the milk's boiling.

Add the lemon juice.

Line a colandar with a clean tea towel and tip the contents of the pan in - try not to splash yourself!

When the whey has drained through the cloth, scrunch up the cloth and press down hard to squeeze as much whey out as you can.

Use the milk pan filled with water as a weight to squeeze out as much liquid as possible - leave it for an hour or so in the sink to drain.

Line a container with strong kitchen towel.

The curd is left behind in the tea towel. Now you can make a block of the cheese.

Scrape the curds off the tea towel (I'm a miser so I literally scrape every last crumb of curds off! Don't want to waste any) and fill your lined box. Press down with the back of a spoon to make an even layer of cheese.

Bring the sides of your paper towel over the top of the cheese and pop in the fridge.

Once the cheese is chilled you can cook with it. I love palak paneer and will be making some later today. Cheese, spinach, curry - HEAVEN!

PS apologies for the slightly odd photos - I tried saving them with transparent backgrounds - thought I'd cracked it, but they've got black backgrounds instead. Damn you technology!

I love to hear your comments about my blog. Let me know if you tackle home made paneer yourself. I'll be posting my palak paneer recipe - and some photos of my dinner - soon :-)


  1. I've been meaning to try making paneer for ages but it has slightly scared me - you make it sound less scary so will have a go. I can't wait for your recipe as well :-)

    1. I'll be cooking later today and will have my camera poised and ready :-)

  2. Ooh I don't really cook, but now I want to go to the Indian restaurant down the street for some palak paneer - yum!