So Tanushree’s Delicacies is one year old and this post is to celebrate that. It is also very close to my heart because it’s a trip down memory lane.
When I was a kid, back in Kolkata, a part of our house was rented by a sweet shop’s workshop (‘Sutripti Mishtan Bhandar’). The workers would be busy making Bengali sweets all day and we, the kids, would sit there, entranced by it all. We would watch them work and play with their huge utensils. I can still recollect a few names of those ‘halwai’ (confectioners), even after all these years, like ‘Dibakar’ or ‘Manindra’. We called them ‘dada’ (brother) or ‘kaka’ (uncle). I remember them being very affectionate and kind to us. They would often offer some of their sweets to us , rasgullas, gulab jamun, or fresh sandesh.
These are traditional sweets that most Bengalis and Indians must know of. I am a mother of three now, living in Mumbai and those days are long gone. But every time I eat or prepare these sweets it takes me back to that time and to those kind factory workers. This post is for them, wherever they or their loved ones are, scattered across the globe.
What we are preparing today is ‘sandesh’, it’s a sweet dish and a very traditional yet popular delicacy of Bengal. You can find many different ways of making it depending on it’s taste. I’m writing about a variety called ‘dim sandesh’. It was one of my favorites as a child because it looks like an egg (dim) but it’s a sandesh. This is no doubt a favourite for all Bengalis, Indians and many people around the world. I’m writing this for everyone who misses it, who have never tasted it or want to prepare it themselves. Please do try once, you’ll love it.
- Whole milk(full cream) – 1.5 ltr
- Lemon juice(or vinegar)- 2 tbl spn
- Condensed milk (or thickened milk mixed with mawa)- 1/2 cup
- Milk powder- 1/4 cup
- Butter- 1 tsp
- Ghee (clarified butter)- 1/2 tsp
- Sugar- 1 tblspn
- Powdered green cardamom- 1/4 tsp
- Vanilla essence – 1/2 tsp
- Yellow food color – 1/4 tsp
The first step is to curdle the milk.
Heat milk in a pan. As it starts boiling, add lemon juice or vinegar to it. You’ll observe the milk will curdle and become greenish. It should thicken and separate with the whey.
Cool it and strain through a muslin cloth.
Wash it under running water to get rid of any smell of lemon or vinegar. Squeeze out the water with your hand as much as possible.
Make a little bundle using the cloth as shown in the pictures. Now hang the muslin cloth or put it under a heavy weight for about an hour so the excess water can come out of it.
Your milk is prepped now. We call this ‘chhena’. The texture is a little like cottage or ricotta cheese.
Knead the chhena with your hands atleast 25 to 30 times. To test, take a small quantity in between your fingers, smash 3-4 times and try to make a small ball out of it. If you can make it easily, your chhena is ready to use.
Heat a non stick pan, put it on low heat and add butter or ghee to it.
Add chhena, condensed milk, sugar, milk powder, vanilla essence, green cardamom powder to it. Mash it together with the back side of a wooden spatula while your mixture dries.
After sometime, you’ll notice the mixture is smooth, dry and easily coming out of the pan.
Remove from heat.
This is the main element of Sandesh. Once you have this ready, you can make any kind of a sandesh, any color or shape you like. Since we are making a dim Sandesh, you will have to follow a few more steps to make your dish look like a cut up boiled egg.
With the spatula divide the mixture in 2:1 ratio.
Keep 2 parts aside and add the yellow colour to the rest. Continuously mash with the help of your spatula to mix the color evenly and make the mixture look the color of a boiled egg yolk.
As it is evenly mixed, spread it on a foil sheet and role it in a cylindrical shape (1″ diameter) with your hand and keep aside.
Now take the white part of the chhena that you’d kept aside and mash again a few times with the spatula. Remove on a foil and with the help of your palm make a flat square shape of 1/4″ (or less) thickness.
Place the yellow roll on this white square.
Start rolling with the help of your foil.
When you are done rolling it into a cylinder, tightly pack it and keep it in your refrigerator for about 2 -3 hrs.
Open the wrap and cut slices out of it. Your Sandesh is ready.
- The main element of the Sandesh is prepared once your chhena mixture is ready. If you want to prepare something other than a Dim Dandesh, you can add other flavours or colours to it. E.g. if you want to make a chocolate sandesh, then add cocoa powder to it. ou can also use strawberry or mango, pistachio flavor or color.
- For the shape you can also use various molds available in the market or cookie cutters.
- If the dough is too soft to shape, simply refrigerate for an hour or more.
- If you like a fresh soft texture, simply make balls out of the mixture and then make a small dent on the top with your little finger. Put a raisin or a rose petal or any nut like almond or pistachio in the center and that’s it. Your sandesh is ready.
Feel free to experiment with different ingredients and their quantities. You can also make sandesh using mawa instead of chhena. For my diabetic readers, you can always add honey or dates (paste) instead of sugar. If you want to avoid dairy products, make a vegan sandesh with tofu.
So just go on experimenting with this world wide appreciated specialty of Bengal and let me know which other sweets do you like to eat. Maybe I could help you prepare them yourselves. Happy Cooking 🙂