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Bengali Kitchen: Come and Taste-Test my Home-made Cuisines

Sharika Ferdous ,Currently studying Microbiology

Cook Social

The vast blend of feelings induced when one is in the presence of food, is a universal language that is unspoken, yet familiar to all. It does not solely arise on one’s tongue, but is produced with the perfect combination of the senses of smell, sight and touch. Be it spurred by hunger, or in search of comfort after a bad day, every one of our lives undeniably revolve around what we are eating, what we will eat and the memories of what we have eaten.

Among the hundreds of food related stereotypes that Bengalis face, one that strongly sticks is the fact that we ‘always eat a lot’. Although this may not be entirely true, who can blame us if the flavors in our cuisine are so mouthwatering? Thanks to our grandmothers for the culinary genes and the amazing bunch of recipes that we inherited, Bengali cuisine has thrived to remain rich throughout the ages. The home-made dishes, however similar they may be, tend to have a slight characteristic variation on the flavor palette from one family to the next. Not only is that a way to make each recipe our own, but also brings on a fresh new spin on the classics as we walk down the generations. The mix of the exotic blend of spices and the naturally vibrant colors of the tropical ingredients is a match made in heaven, when home cooked into a perfect meal.

The beauty of our home made dishes does not only arise from the fresh seasonal ingredients used but also from the love that we put into making it. The most fundamental aspect of a Bengali home cooked dish lies in the preparation process, and we believe it is an art that requires mastering. There may be millions of recipes that call for specific portions of ingredients, but we Bengalis regard the ‘dash of this’ and ‘pinch of that’ proportions to be the best way to create a meal that is much more personal. Nevertheless, let’s dive into some of the classical recipes…

Savory Dishes

BIRIYANI

It is a word that immediately tingles the taste-buds of anyone who has ever had the pleasure of eating Biriyani. Originating from South Asia, biriyani is a rice based dish, that also incorporates different kinds of meats, potatoes and gravy. The mixture of all of these with some of the most flavorful spices, take the taste of each individual component to a whole new level.

There are many theories on the inception of biriyani, with each historian arguing for their own. Some claim its origins to be Arabia or Persia, from where it traveled to North India. Some others claim that Taimur Lang had brought biriyani to Northern India from Kazakhstan.

One of the most prominent theory claims that biriyani originated from the Mughal empire. It is believed, that during the 1600s, the soldiers of the Indian army did not receive a proper diet and also did not have the time or facilities, to cook a proper meal. Mumtaz Mahal, the wife of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, seeing the condition of these malnourished soldiers, had requested a chef to prepare a meal that incorporates carbohydrates and protein onto one dish. Hence, came about this beautiful concoction that is most commonly seen to appear on special occasions such as weddings in places like India and Bangladesh or in family get-together among the Muslim communities, even today.

The word biriyani stems from the Persian word ‘birinj’, that means rice. Unlike the usual method of just boiling rice in water, biriyani calls for mixing the rice in what we call ‘ghee’ to instill a hint of a nutty flavor and also to prevent the rice from sticking when mixed with the meat and potatoes. Basmati rice is preferred when cooking biriyani with the choice of meat varying from lamb, chicken or beef. Cardamom and cinnamon are the staple spices with the addition of cloves, anise and saffron that impart a breathtaking aroma.

BIRIYANI RECIPE

Recipe details—
Preparation time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Yield: 7 servings

Ingredients:

  • 600g basmati rice
  • 500g mutton pieces
  • 2 cups onions thinly sliced
  • 4 small potatoes peeled and quartered
  • 1 cup tomatoes peeled and chopped
  • 1 ½ tablespoons garlic paste
  • 1 ½ tablespoons ginger paste
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • 1-2 teaspoons salt according to taste
  • ¼ cup ghee
  • 4 pieces of cinnamon sticks
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 green cardamoms
  • 1 tablespoon cumin powder
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 green chlilis
  • 1 tablespoon red chili powder
  • 4-5 saffron strands dissolved in warm milk
  • Fresh mint leaves
  • Fresh coriander leaves

Directions:

  • Wash, drain and soak the rice for one hour before cooking. Strain after grains are cooked.
  • Fry the potatoes in 2 tablespoons of ghee and salt until browned. Drain and set the potatoes aside. Add the remaining ghee to the same pan and fry the onions until brown and crisp. Remove and keep aside again, and move on to cook the mutton.
  • Add the cardamoms, cinnamon sticks, cloves, peppercorns, ginger and garlic pastes and the tomatoes to the pan containing the remaining ghee. Top with some bay leaves and fry the mixture for about 4-5 minutes until the gravy is slightly thickened.
  • Add all your mutton pieces including the green chili, red chili, turmeric and cumin powder and sauté everything until the meat is slightly tender. Add in the fresh yogurt at this point to allow it to easily enter the crevices of the meat. Add in the desired amount of salt and some coriander and mint leaves and let the meat simmer until tender.
  • Sprinkle the rice on top of the cooked mutton in the same pan. Add the fried potatoes in between the rice. Pour the saffron milk mixture all over the top and add some extra ghee for the aroma. Top the dish with some crispy fried onions, fresh coriander and mint leaves and cover the pan very tightly. Cook this for about 20 minutes on a low flame.
  • Serve the biriyani with some boiled eggs and/or raita and enjoy the taste and fragrance all at once!

ALUR CHOP

Alur chop are essentially potato mashed and deep fried into a fritter. The Bangla word ‘alu’ literally translates to potato. Although not the healthiest of foods when consumed in high amounts, it still contains the carbs that are required for a balanced diet. However, it turns out to be very difficult to not cross the border to overeating when it comes down to a combination of potatoes both mashed and deep fried into a perfect little alur chop.

These little fritters are most commonly a snack for winter evenings that pair perfectly with a cup of tea or coffee and a wonderful company to chill with. Alur chops also make it to the special occasions such as the ‘Eid’ celebrations among Muslims or on ‘Iftar’ plates during the month of Ramadan. Since the preparation process is easy and uses ingredients that are cheaply available, they are seen to appear frequently as a street food in countries like Kolkata and Bangladesh and never seem to miss the cut in any Bengali cuisine based restaurant.

Despite the potato being mashed in a mix of herbs and spices, the most surprising element of an alur chop lies in the filling encased inside. Although the two elements are prepared separately before assembling and frying, alur chop is still a very easy dish that anyone can whip up in their own kitchen.

ALUR CHOP RECIPE

Recipe details—
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients:
For the mashed potato:

  • 4 large potatoes boiled and mashed
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of ginger
  • 2 tablespoons of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green chili
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 4 tablespoons cumin powder
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped coriander leaves
  •  2 teaspoon turmeric
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the filling:

  • 2 eggs boiled and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of coriander leaves finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon deep fried onions
  • Salt and black pepper according to taste

For frying:

  • 2 cups breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon red chili
  • 1 teaspoon salt and pepper
  • 3 eggs
  • Oil as required for frying 

Directions:

  • Peel the potatoes and boil them in water until tender. Check if it's done with a fork. Mash them with hands or a potato masher.
  • Sautee the finely chopped onions, ginger, garlic and the green chili with the cumin, turmeric and red chili until the onions are slightly browned.
  • Add this mixture to the mashed potatoes along with the salt and pepper and coriander leaves and mix everything evenly.
  • Prepare the filling in a separate bowl by mixing all the components for the filling together
  • Lightly grease your hands with some cooking oil and make fist sized balls with the potato mixture. Press the balls to make them flat on your palm and lift the sides to make the shape of a cup. Put a tablespoon of the filling mixture on the hole and close the alur chop by shaping it into a ball so that the filling does not leak. Repeat until all the mashed potato mixture and filling is used up.
  • Crack 3 eggs into a bowl and mix with some salt and pepper. In another bowl, mix the breadcrumbs with the red chili.
  • Heat the oil for frying in a skillet. While the oil is heating, dunk each alur chop in the egg mixture and then roll them on the breadcrumb mixture to fully coat them. Then gently lower them onto the oil and fry for 3-4 minutes until golden brown.
  • Drain the excess oil by placing the alur chop on a wire rack to cool.
  • Sprinkle some coriander leaves or chopped scallions and serve with a side of ketchup or mayo or even salads according to your choice.

BEGUN BHAJI

If you are looking through the lunch items of a Bengali cuisine, you are bound to come across something called a ‘begun bhaji’. It is an essential dish that is almost always a part of the lunch table since it is so dearly loved by Bengalis. ‘Begun’ is Bangla for eggplant and also the color purple, which makes sense, because the eggplants used for this dish have a purple outer layer. ‘Bhaji’ refers to anything fried in oil. The dish is said to have its origins in India although the recipe for the marinade we follow today, has evolved to incorporate the many spices that are native to the Bengalis. It is as if, no Bengali dish is complete without the addition of our native flavorful and aromatic spices.

Begun bhaji is consumed throughout the year but is most commonly a side dish for roti or rice. It is rarely eaten as is. During a cold winter afternoon, just a warm plate of begun bhaji and khichuri is enough to make for an amazing and nutritious meal.

According to your cutting skills or mood, begun bhaji can be made in a variety of shapes of sizes. Although most Bengalis prefer the circular cut for some reason, it must include the skin around the sides and the flesh in the middle. The flesh within remains soft and slimy but the skin is the part that gets crispy when fried, which gives this simple dish a great texture. Once you taste it, you’re sure to make it your regular. Although they tend to hold up much of the oil while frying, do remember to soak some up with a paper towel if you don’t want to meet your week’s calorie intake in a day!

BEGUN BHAJI RECIPE

Recipe details—
Preparation time: 50 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients:

  • 1 eggplant cut into rounds
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder 
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste
  • 1 teaspoon garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon onion paste
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala 
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup rice flower
  • Oil as required for frying

Directions:

  • Wash the eggplant and slice into ½ inch thick rounds. Prick the slices with a fork and soak in salt water for 15 minutes. Dry on a paper towel afterwards.
  • Mix the chili, turmeric, ginger, garlic, onion, garam masala and salt together to make a marinade. Coat every slice of the eggplant in this mixture evenly and let it sit for 8-10 minutes for the flavors to enter the eggplant.
  • Heat oil in a skillet. While the oil heats up, coat each slice in the rice flower to prevent it from holding up excess oil. Gently lower each slice into the oil and fry on both sides for 5 minutes or until the flesh in the center is soft and golden brown and the sides are crispy.
  • Remove slices from the skillet and pat off the excess oil on a paper towel.
  • Serve with a place of plain rice or warm roti.

SINGARA

A Bengali ‘adda’ or gossip, is incomplete without the presence of some fundamental Bengali snacks, of which the singara is crucial. There is just something about this scrumptious pastry, that seems to brighten your mood or just fuel up the gossip. Singara is an evergreen snack that is so easy to make and abundantly available around any place consisting of Bengali communities, that all kinds of people can enjoy.

Singara is believed to have originated in Central Asia and made its way to the Indian subcontinent through Muslim traders around the 13th or 14th century. They were a popular campfire treat for the soldiers, who would stack them up for an on-the-go snack during a journey. Nowadays, singara is hardly prepared at home, because most people can buy it from any small shops or stalls around. It is much preferred over the trouble of kneading and shaping the dough, but Bengali grandmothers always made it a fun project in the kitchen, during our childhood days.

Although many people regard singara and samosas to be the same thing, they differ in two key aspects. The outer pastry dough of the singara is thick and flaky as compared to the crispy pastry of the samosa. Also, the filling inside a singara strictly contains potatoes according to our Bengali recipes, whereas the filling inside a samosa is meat based. If prepared properly, the dough of the singara turns out so perfectly flaky and delicious, that many people love to just eat the pasty itself. The stuffing is a combination of peas, onions and potatoes and of course includes the amazing blend of spices that are native to us.

SINGARA RECIPE

Recipe details—
Preparation time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Yield: 12 servings
Ingredients:
For the pasty:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons ghee
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon black cumin
  • Water as needed
  • Oil as required for frying

For the filling:

  • 5 large potatoes, boiled, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup green peas
  • ¼ cup peanuts 
  • 1 ginger grated or paste
  • 3 green chili 
  • 1 onion sliced
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ½ teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander leaves chopped
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  • To make the dough, mix the flour, salt, sugar and cumin seeds until homogenized. Add the ghee and mix with hands until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Add water a little at a tight and knead the dough until it forms a tight ball. Let it rest in a warm greased bowl to rise for about 30 minutes.
  • In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and add the cumin until it starts to sputter. Add in the peas, onions, green chili, red chili, peanuts, turmeric powder, ginger, potatoes and salt. Keep frying until the vegetables are tender and sprinkle on coriander leaves.
  • Knead the doubled dough for a further 2 minutes and divide into 6 equal pieces. Roll each piece to a circular shape and cut in half to form a hemisphere. Use each half of to form a cone with your hands and add a moderate amount of filling into the cone.
  • Seal the open edge of the cone with some water to create a triangular shape. Make sure the seal is tight so that the filling does not leak. Repeat with the remaining.
  • Heat enough oil in a skillet and gently lower the singaras into the oil, one at a time. Fry entirely for around 9-10 minutes on medium heat, until the dough turns golden brown. Remove from heat and let them drain and dry on a wire rack.
  • Serve it hot with a side of ketchup or tamarind chutney and of course, a cup of tea.

SHORSHE ILISH

Ilish or Hilsha, is a type of herring. It can be prepared in a variety of ways, all of which holds a special place in the hearts of every Bengali, not only because most of the Ilish dishes are connected to some special Bengali occasion, but also because Ilish happens to be the national fish of Bangladesh. The word ‘shorshe’ in Bangla, refers to cooking something in a mustard gravy, and the fusion of this with Ilish is without a doubt, a match made in heaven.

The dish in its divine form is known to have originated in Bengal itself and is most common amongst the people in Bangladesh as well as West Bengal. Since 50-60% of Ilish worldwide is caught in Bangladesh alone, it is no surprise, that dishes such as ‘Doi Ilish’, ‘Ilish Paturi’, ‘Shorshe Ilish’ and many more has been a staple of the Bengali cuisine and has also been an integral part of Bengali culture for generations.

The beauty of shorshe Ilish lies in the mustard gravy that pairs so well with the exquisite taste and texture of the Hilsha fish itself. The fish is not fried prior to cooking, which helps retain the tenderness of the flesh when it simmers in the mustard gravy, soaking up all the flavors and the aroma from the gravy. It is enjoyable as is, but is frequently paired with plain rice that accentuates the taste of the thick and luscious gravy. The first bite is enough to get anyone hooked to this delightful dish.

SHORSHE ILISH RECIPE

Recipe details—
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Yield: 6-7 servings
Ingredients:

  • 6-7 pieces of Ilish
  • 2 tablespoons black mustard seed
  • 1 tablespoon white mustard
  • 5-7 green chili sliced 
  • ½ teaspoon red chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons black cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon coriander leaves finely chopped
  • ¼ cup mustard oil
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  • Prepare the fish by cutting into 6-7 equal pieces. Wash and remove scales.
  • To make the mustard gravy paste, use a pestle and mortar to grind the black mustard seed, white mustard and 2 green chilies. Season with some salt. 
  • In a skillet, heat the mustard oil with the black cumin and a green chili for about a minute. Once heated, add turmeric, red chili powder, salt and a little water and keep stirring for 2 minutes. 
  • Depending on choice of thickness for the gravy, add water to the mustard gravy paste prepared on the mortar and add this to the oil along with the fish pieces. Cook this for 8-10 minutes on a low flame.
  • For added aroma, pour a tablespoon of raw mustard oil, the remaining green chilies and sprinkle on some finely chopped coriander leaves and cover the skillet with a lid for a minute or two, until the gravy comes to a hard simmer. Remove from heat.
  • Serve the shorshe Ilish hot with some plain or steamed rice. 

Sweet Treats

MISHTI DOI

What’s better than a bowl of cold mishti doi on a hot summer’s day?

‘Mishti doi’ translates to sweet curd and is one of the most remarkable sweet dishes to have been concocted in the Bengali kitchen. It is essentially a form of yogurt, made with evaporated milk and sweetened with sugar or jaggery. Originating in the Indian subcontinent, it has spread throughout West Bengal, Orissa, Bangladesh, as well as India.

According to the beliefs of many Bengalis, having sweets before performing some big job or task, is assumed to bring good luck. It is a very common scenario in Bengali households, where mothers are seen to feed a spoonful of sweet yogurt to their husband or children before they set out for a great task or an important examination. Be that accurate, or just a superstition, it still serves as an excuse to have this creamy and heavenly dessert. Not only can mishti doi be regarded as a comfort food, but the phenomenal taste and smooth texture of this dessert has led Bengalis to make this a significant part of many festivities, such as ‘Eid’, ‘Durga Puga’ or ‘Pohela Boishak’, and is even seen to be the most common dessert item after a wedding feast. Bengalis also deem a bowl of mishti doi as a great gift to bring at ‘dawats’ or what we call a house party/feast.

Although the preparation process can be intimidating for beginners, the end result is definitely worth it. Since the process of forming yogurt calls for a culture of ‘good microorganisms’, it requires a certain level of expertise to figure out the perfect time and temperature for allowing the milk to curd. Without achieving that optimal point, you may be left with a soupy curd rather than a solid and dense one that holds its shape.

MISHTI DOI RECIPE

Recipe details—
Preparation time: 24 hours 20 minutes
Yield: 8 servings
Ingredients:

  • 1-liter milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons curd
  • 1 pinch cardamom powder

Directions:

  • Start by heating the milk in a deep bottomed pan until the milk starts to boil. Then reduce the flame to low and continue to heat the milk until the volume descends by half. Stir occasionally. 
  • Pour all the milk onto another pan and place it on a medium flame. Without much stirring, allow the sugar to caramelize for about 5-7 minutes. 
  • Add the caramelized sugar to the reduced milk and stir constantly to mix well. Sprinkle on a pinch of the cardamom powder for the aroma and continue heating until all the caramel has dissolved into the milk. 
  • Take the milk mixture off the heat and allow it to cool until it’s bearable to the touch or use a thermometer to cool it until 40 degrees Celsius. 
  • Transfer the milk to an earthenware such as clay pots and stir the curd into the milk mixture. Leave overnight for the culture to grow in a warm place. 
  • Note: 
  • Do not add the curd while the milk is too hot since it kills the fermenting organisms in the curd, preventing the yogurt from setting.
  • Make sure to use an earthenware, since the porous walls permits further evaporation of the water overnight resulting in a thicker consistency of the yogurt.

Serve, after the mishti doi has set the next day, or pop into the refrigerator for 20 minutes and enjoy it chilled.

PATISHAPTA PITHA

Amongst the richest of food traditions in Bengal, lies the wonderful creation of the ‘Pitha’ prepared from rice flour that highlights a very beautiful part of the Bengali heritage. There are over 50 unique varieties of pithas that Bengalis have created, of which the patishapta pitha is among the most popular ones. Imagine a sweet thin layer of a slightly caramelized crepe wrapped around the most sensational milky coconut filling…

The rice flower that is used to make a patishapta pitha, and essentially all other pithas, comes only during the harvest season that is around the eighth month on the Bengali calendar. It observes the most joyous festival for the farmers in Bangladesh, called ‘Nobanno Uthshob’, because their livelihood depends on it. This is the time when the new rice is harvested and celebrated with all kinds of creative and delightful pithas. Since harvest season is in winter, pitha is mostly consumed during cold winter mornings as breakfast or as evening snacks. Moreover, there are many winter festivals in Bangladesh that entirely revolve around the many different kinds of pitha.

Patishapta pitha is one of the sweet varieties and is so beloved because the combination of the outer crepe and the inner filling is absolutely divine. The crepe is essentially the pitha part, and is extra special because instead of the normal flour, it is made with rice flour, which comes from grinding the newly harvested golden rice. On top of this, the coconut stuffing wrapped inside the pitha is sweetened in a variety of ways ranging from sweeteners like jaggery, molasses or sugar and is cooked with milk, resulting in a luscious and creamy filling. This filling is added generously to each pitha so that you can experience that burst of flavor from the very first bite. Safe to say, the definition of a perfect winter morning for any Bengali comprises of a plate full of piping hot pitha alongside a cup of tea enjoyed wrapped inside a blanket!

PATISHAPTA PITHA RECIPE

Recipe details—
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Yield: 12 servings
Ingredients:
For the crêpe/pitha:

  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 4 tablespoons semolina flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup milk
  • Ghee or oil for frying

For the filling:

  • ¾ cup shredded coconut
  • ¾ cup dried whole milk
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar or 3 tablespoons jaggery
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom powder
  • Cashews or peanuts finely chopped for garnish (optional)

Directions:

  • To prepare the crepe/pitha batter, sift together the rice flour, semolina, all-purpose flour and baking soda. Alternatively add the sugar and milk and mix well until the batter has no lumps. Let it rest for 30 minutes.
  • In two separate pans over medium heat, cook the dried whole milk and the shredded coconut separately. Cook the coconut until the water content reduces by evaporation, and cook the dried whole milk until you observe a change in color.
  • Transfer the coconut to the pan with the milk and add the jaggery and cardamom powder. Cook this until the jaggery dissolves. Remove from heat and allow the filling to cool.
  • To fry the crepes, heat a shallow bottomed pan with some ghee or oil. Add ¼ cup of the prepared batter onto the center of the pan and tilt the pan gently to allow the batter to spread towards the sides in the shape of a large circle.
  • Cover the pan with a lid to allow the crepe to cook until it turns golden brown and the sides wrinkle up. It is not required to flip the crepe since the heat trapped from closing the lid cooks the top of the crepe as well.
  • Immediately add 1-2 tablespoons of the filling along the middle of the crepe and fold up the sides using a spatula. Flip to prevent the bottom from burning or remove the pitha from the pan immediately after folding.
  • Stack up all the pithas and serve with a hot cup of tea.

SANDESH

This is one of those decadent treats with a rich history dating back to the 16th century. Bengal had once been under the influence of the Europeans, and along with the impacts in our culture, the Europeans have left their signature on our cuisine as well. They are known for their extraordinary love for cheese and this magnificent sweet called a Sandesh, was left as a mark on the Bengali confectionery during the influx of the Portuguese people in many areas of Bengal.

Sandesh is traditionally a sweet prepared from ‘chenna’ which is milk that has been curdled. It is essentially a form of cottage cheese that is sweetened with sugar to make the sandesh. Although there are many recipes of sandesh that call for only milk and sugar, the chenna is what makes the dish truly extravagant. Gradually, the local Bengalis of that time familiarized themselves with the European techniques of preparing this cheesy treat, which is now abundantly available in most of the sweet shops in a variety of shapes and sizes all over Bangladesh and India. Sandesh holds such a high bar in Bengal cuisine, that it is regarded as a sweet reserved for the most auspicious occasions such as weddings when the bride and groom may send bouquets of sandesh and other sweets to each other’s families. Hence, even though the calorie intake of a sandesh is quite high, it surely is a challenge to turn away from a bouquet of these tempting cheesy sweets if you’re on either side of the wedding party!

SANDESH RECIPE

Recipe details—
Preparation time: 50 minutes
Yield: 12 servings
Ingredients:

  • 4 cups cow’s milk or full cream milk 
  • 4 tablespoons of lemon juice or white vinegar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rose water
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom powder
  • Chopped pistachios or almonds for garnish

Directions:

  • To make the chenna, pour all the milk into a deep bottomed pan, cover with a lid and heat on high until the milk begins to boil. Reduce the flame to low and add the lemon juice stirring constantly until the milk and whey begin to separate. 
  • Transfer the contents of the pan onto a colander lined with a muslin or cheesecloth and allow the whey to drain off from the bottom. Rinse the remains of the milk solids on the cheesecloth with water and hang the cloth for 30 minutes until all the water and drained off. 
  • Remove the solid ball of chenna from the cloth and knead it until it turns smooth in texture. 
  • Add the sugar, cardamom and rose water and knead the chenna again until combined. 
  • Flatten it with a spatula on a skillet with medium heat and cook the tick mixture for about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the flame and allow it to cool completely. 
  • Once cooled, form 10-12 balls using your hands and garnish each with a variety of chopped nuts. Cookie cutters or molds can also be used to make a variety of shapes and sizes. 
  • Chill the sandesh and serve straight out of the refrigerator. 

The Bengali Kitchen

Every single Bengali can vouch for the fact that this room we call our kitchen, or in Bangla, the ‘ranna-ghor’ is truly a place where we witness magic. Even a bunch of boring ingredients can be brought to life with the culinary creativity and skills that Bengalis have been blessed with. Undoubtedly, dishes like these are some of the reasons that make us so proud of our rich background in food heritage. From the Mughal creation of the scrumptious Biriyani to the European influenced sweet Sandesh, options are something that does not lack in a Bengali cuisine. However, one thing is for certain; the unique burst of flavors and the breathtaking aroma that one experiences from our cuisine will remain unparalleled, for as long as we live.

💓 Sharika

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