28 Mar Sandesh( The milky sweet from the eastern culture)
My team member at work is off to Kolkata for a holiday and guess what, my first reaction was a request to bring back a box of the customary Bengali “Sandesh” .How I love to relish them.
“Sandesh”, the erthswile Bengali sweet, is synonymous with the eastern culture and is a gastronomy delight . Any festivals, good news, a promotion, a new house or even a small happiness is not complete without a box of sandesh as offerings or giveaways. That completes the pleasantries and the happiness.That is how sandesh is imbued into this culture.. A milky sweet with absolute no cooking required nor oil/butter, it is quite fascinating to believe in its simplistic technique and yet outstanding taste..And as it is one of the easiest of all sweets to be made, because it needs nothing except milk (esp full cream milk), with zero calories, yet ironically enough; its easy accessibility and availability and low pricing across the sweet shops in this part of the region(the eastern belt in India) is the reason perhaps of this sweet not being prepared at home often..
Nor do I make them, only when my milk curdles at times, having being kept out for long.That’s the only time I make these wonderfully moist sweet delights and that’s the only time this yummy sweet makes an appearance in my house, beautiful soft yummy milky morsels .
So today was one of those days when while warming my milk, it curdled on its own, a consequence of the packet being kept out for long is what I would like to believe..
So I had a choice of converting this ‘chenna’ (the milk solids are called so when curdled)into either home made cottage cheese and use it for cottage cheese curry or anything else, the other option being to make sweets be it Sandesh, Ras malai, Malai chom chom or Kalakand.
I choose to make a sweet since I dont really get to savor this sweet in Mumbai that often. Not one of the favorites in the list of sweets in Mumbai , you generally don’t find Sandesh in Mumbai except in the few exclusive Bengali sweet shops( Sweet Bengal and Makhan Bhog) and some other sweet marts.
Another variation is zaffrani sandesh, where saffron is added to the milk . It will attain a rich saffron colored look and that is your “Zaffrani Sandesh”. Zaffran connotes Saffron.
For Indians like me, born into the eastern culture , this needs no explanation. Its been on of my favorite sweets, having born in that culture where “sandesh” is ingrained into our rituals and connotes with our happy and joyous moments of life. In short, its synonymous with the good things in life. Its so soft with minimal calories, hence light on the system that its almost impossible to stop at one ..Soft and juicy, it just melts in your mouth. Isn’t its just amazing?
So don’t wait, just try, make these sweets and celebrate with your family and friends. For the lesser known audience , this represents a new sweet , new taste , and wont fail to satiate you for sure. Away from the fatty oily ghee rich sweets in the market this one is a total breakaway , a simple yet deliciously moist and absolutely healthy with calcium of the milk intact…And yes, no calories. isn’t it enough to motivate you for warming up to this beautiful delight ??
- Milk ½ litre
- Juice of half a lemon
- Sugar ½ cup powdered or ¾th cup ungrinded
- Pistas/dry fruits a few for garnishing
- few strands of saffron soaked in warm milk for decor
- few drops vanilla essence/ pinch of cardamon powder( any one)
- In a big heavy bottom pot on high heat, bring the milk to a boil and reduce the heat.
- Reduce the heat to low and add the lemon juice, stirring occasionally.
- Let it rest for 2 to 3 minutes, until the milk solids have been separated.
- Strain the water out and reserve the solids.
- This will be your 'chhana'(the milk solids).
- In a large bowl or a plate, start mashing it with your hands until smooth and soft .
- Now add powdered sugar and cardamom powder/ vanilla essence. Mix well with hands.
- You need to keep mashing for quite a white to get the smooth texture.
- Take a deep pan,and cook the mixture on a very low flame for a few minutes
- Stir continuously with a flat wooden spoon.
- But ensure that you cook just for a few minutes otherwise the mixture will break into small separate granules and it will be impossible to form balls then.
- The chenna is done when the mixture leaves the side of the pan and it is neither too dry nor too moist.
- Take off from the pan and for a smooth texture, blend the mixture just for a few seconds.
- Take small balls of the mix and shape them into sandesh by pressing a little from the top.