‘Shondesh’ or ‘Sandesh’ is a delicious Bengali sweet that is popular all over India and abroad. It is often made for pujas, festivals and special occasions like Noboborsho (Bengali New Year), Durga Puja, Bhaiphonta, Annaprashan (First Rice Ceremony), Wedding etc. There are so many variations of making ‘Sandesh’ and are quite simple as much as just kneading up the three basic ingredients sugar, chenna (Indian cottage cheese) and the flavor that you want to add like cardamom powder, kesar, chocolate, mango, pineapple, rose, orange etc….cook for few minutes (it is called ‘Paak deoa’ and that is the most important part of making any sandesh) and let it cool for few hours and enjoy it.
While the sweet shops that sell the sweets are in abundance, every home makes their own too. Ours are no exception. The recipe is naturally handed down from one generation to another. I cannot even describe in words the joy I got just out of making these. ‘Kheer Mohan’ is our family recipe and today I could make it perfectly as my Grandmother used to make! They were just perfect & tasted like heaven!!!
- To start with you need to knead the ‘chenna’ really well. I usually do it with hand, using the fingers & the heel & the middle of my palms but you can use a food processor too.
- Knead evenly for about 5-7 minutes.
- Add sugar and knead for another 3-5 minutes. By this time the ‘chenna’ should be very smooth & not grainy at all. You will feel the fat from the cheese glisten on your palms & the cheese itself.
- To test if it is done & ready for the next step, take a portion of the ‘chenna’ roll it in a sphere between your palms. The sphere should be very smooth on the outside with no cracks.
- Take a thick bottomed kadai or non stick pan & put the entire chenna in the pan. Keep the heat low. Spread out the chenna & cook it on low heat, while constantly stirring with a spatula in a circular movement so it does not stick at the bottom of pan.
- This should be done for about 5-6 minutes.
- Now add khoya. And stir continuously. After adding khoya the mixture will become slightly soft and gooey. When it is towards done, the ‘chenna’ will no longer stick to the pan; it will form lumps & kind of gather together. This particular procedure is called ‘Paak’.
- This is the crucial & tricky step. The Chenna will be cooked just enough so it does not have the raw cheese taste. If it gets overcooked (which might happen in few minutes time), they will be too crumbly to be moulded.
- Cool down, mix in cardamom powder. Knead lightly and flatten slightly and garnish with chopped pistachio and desiccated coconut.
- Refrigerate ‘Kheer Mohan’ for some times.
- Cut them in squares.
- You can serve in small paper cups as done in the picture above.
- Refrigerate and consume ‘Kheer Mohan’ within 2 days.
~ While doing the ‘Paak’, if you notice that the Chenna is releasing water instead of drying up quick, it would mean that it was not drained well. Don’t panic. It just means that the cheese needs to be cooked a little bit longer. Increase the heat a little bit & cook while constantly stirring & mashing it down with spatula till it reaches the above mentioned state.