Its festival time and today we are celebrating Bijoya Dashami and Dusshera.
Indian festivals mean colours, lights, extravaganza and loads and loads of sweets. Every festival has a specially dedicated sweet.
Recently in an article by Pritha Sen, I was enlightened about chenna sweets not being offered to Ma Durga because chenna is essentially split milk or in other words milk that has gone bad. To me that was quite an eye opener. Even though I have grown up in Calcutta, I have never been interested in its food history or for that matter anyone else's. Its my recent passion and obsession to learn more about food and I have found a natural calling in everything sweet..be it cakes, tarts or traditional Indian sweets.
Ever since I experimented with making chenna at home, I am addicted to the sandesh making fun. I find it so versatile and love to experiment with flavours and presentations.
Sadly, the art of making sandesh at home is dying a slow death. Recently on my trip to Kalighat to procure sandesh moulds , I found an old shopkeeper who sadly confessed that the moulds are no longer bought. I was surprised to know that in my local market there is only one old man who makes banana leaf wrappers for sandesh. People no longer need these things. We seem to have evolved and are slowly moving away from traditions.
Todays recipe is my humble attempt to hold on to our glorious traditions and rejoice in it. I have used Kodom phool made out of Shola which is traditionally very significant in Bengal as backdrops to celebrate the festivity.
Ingredients : Yields about 6 in number
- 500 ml cow's milk (or full cream milk)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice/a pinch of citric acid
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cup water
- a tsp each of chopped almonds, pista and raisins
- few strands of saffron in little warm milk
- 2 tbsp powdered sugar
Heat milk in a pan and let it come to a boil.
Add citric acid/lemon juice and stir well.
Soon you will see the milk curdling and whey separating.
Wait till the whey separates well.
Remove from heat and using a muslin cloth drain the chenna(curdled milk) from whey.
Hang the muslin cloth to drain excess water for half an hour.
Remove and put on a plate. Cover with another plate and put a heavy object to drain any remaining liquid for about half an hour.
Take out the chenna and knead with the heel of your palm till smooth and reaches dough consistency. This requires patience and strong arm muscles and can take around 10 minutes.
Make cylindrical shapes out of 1/3 rd of the kneaded chenna and keep remaining aside.
Make sugar syrup by boiling 1/2 cup sugar and 1 1/2 cup water in a wide mouthed pan.
Lower the log shaped chenna very gently in the sugar syrup.
Let them simmer on medium heat for 15-20 minutes or till they begin floating on the surface.
Strain out the chenna cylinders and reserve for further use.
Alternatively, take sugar and water in a pressure cooker and as the syrup comes to a rolling boil, lower the chenna cylinders. Put the lid on and cook on medium heat for 2 whistles. Allow the heat to dissipate naturally and take out the cooked chenna cylinders.
Divide the remaining kneaded chenna again into two. To one part add 1 tbsp powdered sugar, chopped nuts and saffron infused milk.
Cut the chenna cylinders into half and sandwich with the nuts and saffron milk added chenna.
Place these sandwiched logs in Banana leaf wrappers.
Add 1 tbsp of milk and 1 tbsp powdered sugar to the 1/3rd remaining chenna and mix it well. Add more milk if required to get a diluted consistency. Fill the banana leaf wrappers with this diluted chenna.
Refrigerate for it to set.
Garnish with saffron coloured streaks on top and a pista.
Banana leaf wrapper can be made very easily at home. Here is a picture tutorial.
Happy Bijoya Dashami and Dusshera