As a Bengali brought up in the North India the word Sandesh or Shondesh had two specific meanings. In Hindi it means as News. And in Bangla it means a Cottage Cheese based sweet.
Legend has it that in early 18th century a sweet shop owner from Bengal called Bhim Nag had mastered in the art of preparing shondesh and after tasting which the Lady Viceroy of India was smitten by it and from there after there was no looking back for this sweet. It surely has stood the test of time and there is no other traditional sweet which could be prepared in so many varied way. Recently I had prepared this for a baker’s meet at a popular hotel inChennai hosted by renowned food critic Rashmi Uday Singh. To my delight she liked it and featured it in the TOI Chennai edition.
I remember once I had put Sandesh molds on my Facebook page and got plenty of requests to share the source of molds as well as the recipe. Few of my friends were pestering me to post the much awaited recipe on my site. So here it is...
1 ltr Full fat milk
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
1-2 tbsp powdered Sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp Date palm Jaggery (Nolen Gur)
What else you need: Few wooden or stone carved molds.I have got mine from my Mom and Granny. I just love collecting various shapes and designs.
A big Sieve and a clean muslin cloth.
To make chana/ chena, boil milk in a heavy bottom pan over medium heat. Keep stirring so that milk doesn't get burnt at the bottom. pour lemon juice over milk and stir. The milk will curdle just wait for 1 more minute and place the sieve with a muslin cloth. Strained the curdles milk and run it under tap water to remove the lemon trace. Tie the loose ends and hang it to the tap to drain our excess water for half an hour. Now my Aunt and Mom used to place this chena potli under a heavy utensil like Sheelnora but I like the little moist chenna for my sondesh so I skip this process.
Now comes the kneading part where after transferring the chana/ chena to a clean flat plate you have to knead it with your finger and heel of your palm. Once the lumpy thing starts looking as smooth ball add powdered sugar in it and knead again for another 10-12 minutes.
Take a non stick pan and add grated jaggery in it and keep stirring it on low heat. Once you get melted jaggery, add chena/chana mixture and mix thoroughly. Keep stirring this mixture for 2-3 minutes and you will see the mixture will tend to release the sides of the pan. Switch off the pan but stir it in between. Grease a plate with 1/2 tsp ghee and brush little ghee on the molds ( this step is done to avoid the stickiness of sandesh inside the molds). Let this cool down for 2-3 minutes or else you will have tough time rolling the lemon size balls between your palm. This stage is called Makha as it is yet to be shaped or go in various molds.
|The last stage of mixture is called Makha|
Make small balls from Makha and press into the molds. Now carefully remove from the molds and place these in a serving pate.
Cool until firm or you can have it warm also. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to Sondesh :-)These can be stored in refrigerator section provided they are in an air tight box.
- It is better if you keep an eye on chena while cooking as no one enjoys eating chewy outcome.
- If you don't have sondesh molds, just roll them into tiny balls or you can flatten them also. Works fine as long as taste is there ;-)
- Do not let the Makha cool down completely or else the mixture will get hard. So mold it when the Makha is still warm.