I have some fond memories of going to the Annapurna Bhandar opposite Sheesh Ganj Gurudwara in Chandni Chowk as a little girl. Only a promise of chumchum and nolen gurer sondesh or jalbhara sondesh would make me take the trip with mom. Later as I grew up I would often visit the lanes of old city and feast on the sounds and colors the place offered. Food of course was one of the attractions but whatever I may eat there was always some place for these two favorites.
I would watch my dad in fascination as he made the softest melt in the mouth sondesh once in a while as a treat to me. There aren’t many good memories I associate with my growing up years but this is one of the few that ever were.
I learned to make the plain sondesh but never got the same texture or taste as dad’s or those bought from Annapurna. I seemed to be doing everything right but something was still missing.
Few days ago I decided to make the pressure cooker rosogullas and that is another sweet which has been a bit of a challenge for me. So, I decided to do some research. As usual my first stop for all food related issues is Sangeeta Khanna’s blogs. I found an old post on How to make Rasullas step by step and while I read I realized what exactly was wrong in my approach.
It was the technique of making Chenna /chana/ that was causing the issue. I always feel that cooking is a science and once you master that you can be as creative as you want.
I made chena/ Indian cottage cheese as per Sangeeta’s instructions and nailed it this time. The chenna was perfect, the rasgullas soft and spongy as they should be ( will post recipe soon) and then I couldn’t stop myself to make the fabled Nolen gurer sondesh.
A friend had given me some date palm jaggery and I had a little left of it. Though sondesh is best made with cow’s milk I opted for full cream toned Mother Dairy milk.
Here is the link to Sangeeta’s recipe but I will post the steps anyway.
I prefer fresh Nolen gur, ‘Notun Gur’ or ‘Khejur Gur’ or date palm jaggery over the sugarcane one for its unique flavor, fragrance and texture. It is available only in winter and has many health benefits. It helped in raising my HB during the treatment of anemia. It is rich in magnesium as well. Google more. 😀
How to Nolen Gurer Sondesh
Here is how I made the perfect cottage cheese / chenna/ chana at home. The important thing to keep in mind while making Bengali mithai is – Fresh homemade cottage cheese or chenna otherwise the sweets won’t come out well.
To make perfect chenna :
Full fat milk / Cow’s milk – 4 Cups
Juice of lemon – 1 lemon or 1/4 cup curd (home cultured preferably or 1/4 cup white vinegar
- Heat a pan of water and keep aside. Keep a sieve over a large pan ready.
- Slightly wet a thick bottom pot, add milk and heat till the first boil comes. (slight variation from Sangeeta). Turn off the heat.
- Start adding the lemon juice mixed with 1-2 tablespoons of water. Do it slowly and keep stirring. The milk needs to curdle slowly after each addition. I added in four steps till the greenish, transparent whey separated from the cheese. If it doesn’t then reheat the milk and it will in a few minutes. Don’t stir too much or the chnna will become hard.
- Once the whey is separated nicely strain the whey through the steel sieve. Here I learned that the good cheese or chenna will stick to the spoon which is indicative that it will be a cohesive mass ideal for the sweet making.
- Toss the chenna/cottage cheese into the center.
- immediately dunk it in the hot water ( this is where I went wrong earlier. I was using the cold water method.)
- Rinse the cheese properly by pressing it to the side of the bowl a few times. The water may turn milky which is good.
- Now, put it back in the sieve and remove the excess water by lightly pressing. No need to press hard. A little moisture will give you a better sondesh or it will turn dry and crumbly.
- Once all the water is drained, take in out in a large plate and rub and knead with the heals of your palm till you get a smooth, lump free dough. When you feel the fat from the cheese on your hand its done. Do not overdo it. Make a smooth ball of it and cover with a damp cloth.
- Now your chenna is ready for making sondesh or rasgullas. Use as you desire.
To make Nolen Gurer Sondesh
Chenna we just prepared
Date palm jaggery – 1 cup grated and softened ( I did it in microwave)
Green cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp ( optional)
A few raisins – Optional
Warm ghee ( I used homemade) – 1 tsp
- Once you have the smooth chenna dough add softened jaggery to it. Rub again with the heals of your palm till you get a homogenous mixture and the jaggery is well absorbed.
- Heat a non stick pan on low flame and add the mixture to it. Cook it for 4-5 minutes not more.
- Take it out in a large plate and let it cool completely. You can cover it with damp cloth and keep in fridge for half and hour or so.
- Once cooled break it with fingers, add atsp of warm ghee and knead it again with heals of your palm to bring it all together nicely. Add cardamom powder if using and mix.
- Now make small balls of the chenna and decorate with a raisin. If you have molds then use them to shape the sondesh.
- You can make them when the chenna is slightly warm too. It will take some time for them to hold the shape.
- I love the slightly grainy texture of the sondesh but you can make them smooth too. It depends on your taste and the quality of your cottage cheese.
- Serve them at room temperature.
Mine were norom pak sondesh which are melt in the mouth. The other ones are kora pak sondesh which are a bit harder.
You can use sugarcane jaggery too instead of the date palm jaggery.
If you do not heat the mixture and make the sondesh directly they will be known as Kancha Golla. They too taste delicious but I prefer the cooked version.
Do try and let me know the results. Making any dish is a labor of love so do not rush through the steps. Getting the perfect chenna is the tough step then it is a cakewalk.