I am a die-hard dessert fan. I love to end my meal with tiny morsel of sweet. It does not have to be fancy , even a small piece of jaggery (palm sugar) works wonderfully. I enjoy good cakes and pastries once in a while but my weakness is all the milk based desserts. Indian dessert are mainly milk based, and one particular region in India makes some amazing varieties. West Bengal is a state in the eastern India. Kolkata (Calcutta) is the capitol which on a side note was also the capital of ‘British India’. West Bengal is known for many things, the ganges delta, the artistic talent, culture, and many famous personalities like Rabindra nath Tagore, Swami Vivekandanda to name a few. Bengalis ( as the people from Bengal are referred to) are connoisseurs, be it poetry, music or food. Some of my favorite musicians are from this state. Coming to food, Bengalis know how to enjoy food and like all other states in India, food is an integral part of the celebrations, festivals. One of the biggest festival is Durga Pooja, a festivals that is celebrated to mark the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon. The diet from this region is rice centric and fish is an integral part. Ganges delta produces some amazing produce and of course the fish. More on this later Back to desserts, my husband, Abhi, is not a huge dessert fan but even he can not say no to Bengali desserts. His favorite, Ras Malai. He is my partner in crime in everything, he supports me in every possible way and truly is a Life partner, through thick and thin. I am so lucky to have him in my life We are celebrating our anniversary soon. He some how figures out the most perfect thing (or things) to give me. This year, I have received 2 gifts so far and I have a feeling that there are more to come. I have always been obsessed with learning about food and culture from different cuisines. Old recipes, forgotten ingredients and stories associated with them, I love it all. Abhi knows that well, so this years two gifts have been 1. Spice from Kashmir 2. A mold from West Bengal . He did not have a lot of time on hand but still made sure to go and look for this for me. It says it all, he remembers and makes an effort Now about the mold ( or mould), I am fascinated by the various molds used across the world and I am collecting them. More on that later . Abhi knew that I have been looking for Sandesh molds ever since I saw them, so when he visited Kolkata he remembered and brought some back for me. Those molds may not cost a lot but they are price less for me. It goes to show how well he knows me, how well he remembers what I like, and how much he love me to get such little things in his busy schedule. I was sitting in the backyard having my morning chai, thinking about what to make for anniversary, and then I thought why not use the gift he got me. So today’s simple recipe is dedicated to our love- ‘Pyaar ka Sandesh’ which translates to ‘a message of love’. How appropriate I thought for the special occasion. I know some of you might think it cheesy, well it is. It is after all made with fresh farmstead indian cheese. 🙂 What is Sondesh/Sandesh/Sandes, it is a sweet or confectionary that is made from sweetened Chenna. Chenna is a cottage cheese made from whole milk and curdled using lemom/lime juice or vinegar. This forms a base for many Bengali desserts that Abhi and I love. Sandesh dates back to many years ago where possible a different version of Sandesh was made, however it is said that the Portugese influence might have introduced the current ‘cheese’ based version. Its a very versatile recipe, can be made quickly and flavored easily. Today I have made a very basic Sandesh, clean and simple like our love and flavored with Orange Blossom. Orange blossom is one of most favorite fragrances along with saffron. I followed the recipe from Sanjeev Kapoor’s web site
Prep Time : 31-40 minutes
Cook time : 16-20 minutes
Serve : 4
Level Of Cooking : Moderate
Taste : Sweet
8 cups Whole Milk
1/2 cup Granulated or powdered Sugar
1/4 cup Lemon juice
1/2 tsp Orange blossom water
Bring the milk to a boil in a deep, thick-bottomed non-stick pan. Add the lemon juice and stir till the milk curdles. Strain and immediately refresh the chhenna in chilled water.
Put the chhenna in a piece of muslin and squeeze till all the water is drained out.
Knead the chhenna well with the heel of your hand. Add caster sugar and knead again.
Cook in a non-stick pan on medium heat for eight minutes. Remove from heat and divide into twelve equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball and make a dent on the top.
When cooled,add the orange blossom water. Shape using the mold or roll them up to a desired shape.