A traditional Bengali sweet “Narom Paak Sondesh” made at home with fresh Chenna (milk solids).
The ‘sondesh’ is a popular sweet from Bengal that is made using fresh chenna or fresh milk solids (better known as the Paneer or Cottage Cheese). Sondesh isn’t popular for no reason, its absolutely delicious and much healthier when compared to most of our other Indian ghee or sugar coated sweets. It was about 7 years back that I had the best sondesh of my life in Calcutta, can’t really recall the shop but our generous Guest house attendant had brought us some in a small sal leaf plate from some place that he claimed made the best and most authentic Sondesh across the city. The soft melting sondesh filled with the fresh date palm jaggery that came out oozing of the Sondesh simply lingers onto my memory till date and in my quest to re-live the experience I stumbled upon this awesome (as close as it can get to the best) Sondesh Recipe by my mom’s friend.
My knowledge about the sweet is limited, but I know for sure that the jaggery filled variety is seasonal and is only made during winters with fresh date palm jaggery. However, there is another called ‘Kachagola’ which is the simplest of the sondesh varieties as it does not require cooking, so if short of time then do follow the recipe below till only step 3, then add cardamom pwd and shape into rounds, allow to set in the fridge for some time and your Sondesh is ready. I however made what is called the ‘Naram Paak Sondesh’ with a little twist, for I filled the ‘jaggery’ in the centre instead of mashing it along with sugar into the chenna in my Sondesh recipe.
Ingredients (makes 8 Sondesh):
- 1 ltr Milk, full fat
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 and ½ tbsp Castor sugar
- 1 tbsp crushed Date Palm Jaggery
- 2 pinch cardamom pwd
- Few Saffron strands, soaked in 6-7 drops of milk
- Few chopped pistachio to garnish
- Bring the milk to a full boil, reduce the heat to low and add the entire lemon juice stirring occasionally. Cook until the milk solids have separated.
- Drain and wrap the chhena in muslin cloth and press with something heavy for approx ½ hr to drain out all the excess water.
- Now take the ‘chhenna’ in a large bowl and mash it continuously and rigorously with the palm of your hand until smooth. Add the sugar and continue mashing untill a smooth ball is formed.
- Now spread this mixture on a non-stick thick bottom pan and place it over a low heat. Cook for 5 minutes using a flat spatula or tablespoon to stir and mix occasionally.
- Remove from heat and mix the cardamom pwd. Divide the warm chhena into 8 parts, roll each part into a ball immediately and make a small depression in the centre, fill it with a little (approx 2 pinch) of crushed jaggery. Seal and toss into a balls.
- The chhana should be shaped while it is warm for it will harden on cooling and cannot be moulded. So get all the extra hands you can while shaping.
- Dot the top with a little milk soaked strands of saffron and a chopped pista.
Dos and Don’ts:
- Do mash the chenna (in step 3) until it is very soft and smoth, the longer you work the better.
- Make sure to quickly shape up the Sondesh while the cooked chenna is still warm enough.