Sandesh is a very Bengali thing. That and Rosogolla! Many times when I meet someone new from other parts of India and they come to know that I am a food blogger, I will invariably be asked if I can make Rosogolla. Each time I shake my head regretfully and tell them I can't while thinking that it will be considered nothing less than blasphemy if I tell them I do not like Rosogolla that much that I will go through the entire trouble of making them at home. Same goes with Sandesh! Yeah! Yeah! I know what you are thinking - am I Bengali enough! But at least Sandesh is easier to make than Rosogolla, so I decided to take the plunge and make some to usher in the Bengali New Year - Poila Boishakh. Why now, you ask me? Because the 5.5 yo loves Sandesh. And most other sweets from Bengal. And some more!
I think my aversion towards Sandesh grew from very early on. I was always a picky eater. I always troubled my Ma plenty when it came to eating. And one of the many efforts that she made to make me eat healthy stuff was to mix chhana/chhena/cottage cheese with some sugar and use a Sandesh mould to give it a pretty shape and tell me it was Sandesh. Boom, therein started my love-hate relationship with Sandesh! I love Nolen Gur er Sandesh with all my heart, but nothing else.
With time and age (I guess it has to do with the older-wiser thing), my taste and preferences must have evolved. I thoroughly enjoyed these fresh Strawberry flavored pretty pink Sandesh which were not overly strawberry-ish.
Ingredients: Yield - 4
- Whole Milk - 1 liter (about 4 1/4 Cup)
- Lemon juice - 2 tbsp (add little more if required) plus 1/2 tsp for the strawberry compote.
- Strawberry - 3/4 Cup, roughly chopped
- Sugar - 3 tbsp (add more or less depending on the sweetness of strawberries)
- Water - 2 tbsp
- Some chopped pistachio for garnishing (optional)
In a saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. Add the lemon juice. The milk will start curdling immediately - if it doesn't add a little more lemon juice. Give it a few stirs. Once the whey separates, drain it using a cheesecloth or a muslin cloth. Before squeezing out the liquid run it under the tap if you wish to get rid of the lemony smell. Squeeze out as much water as possible. You can hang the chhena in the cheesecloth for about 30 minutes it or weigh it down with something heavy on it for about 10 minutes to drain out the remaining liquid. Once most of the liquid has drained, knead the chhena/chhana/cottage cheese with your palm. Knead it for 6-7 minutes till you start feeling oil on the palm. Keep aside.
In a separate saucepan, bring the strawberries, water, sugar and lemon juice to a boil on medium low heat. Using a wooden spoon, start breaking down the fruit as it cooks and the sauce thickens. Cook for about 7 to 8 minutes till most of the liquid has evaporated. Take it off the heat and let it cool down completely. Blitz the cooled down strawberry compote in a blender and puree it.
Now fold in the strawberry puree in the chhena gently till fully incorporated. If you see that there is little more moisture in the chhena-strawberry mixture than desired, cook it on low flame for few minutes till the moisture evaporates. Keep stirring and scraping the whole time.
Shape the mixture in your desired shape. I find it easiest to use mini cupcake lines and set them in the muffin tin. Chill for 2-3 hours or till the Sandesh sets. Serve with a smile, and say "Subho Naba Barsha" - that's Happy New Year in Bengali.