The Hindu festival of Rath Yatra will commence on the 25th June this year. This festival takes place each year at Puri and whats better than sharing this recipe which happens to be the favorite food of the diety, Lord Jagannath. A recipe from the historically rich state of Odisha (located on the eastern shores of India) can easily pass off as India’s answer to the western cheesecake. The difference being that you need not prep for any base for this cake. It yields a base and edges upon getting baked. It has therefore rightly earned itself the name, Chhena Poda which roughly translates to ‘burnt cheese’. The cheese here refers to freshly made cottage cheese that is mashed and made fragrant with cardamom powder, loosened with whey or milk, sweetened with jaggery or sugar and traditionally baked in sal tree leaves or banana leaves over traditional oven. I was introduced to this delicacy by my mother-in-law who has spent couple of years in Odisha and she used to relate this story of how this dessert came into being. I have shared below that version which is available on the Wiki.

“It is said that chhena poda originated in the Odia town of Nayagarh in the first half of the twentieth century. The owner of a confectionery, a certain Sudarshana Sahoo decided to add sugar and seasonings to leftover cottage cheese one night, and left it in an oven that was still warm from earlier use. The next day, he was pleasantly surprised to find out what a scrumptious dessert he had created.” – Wikipedia

2½ litres Milk (could yield approx 450 grams of paneer)

½ C Yogurt (Whisked) – add more if required OR a few tbsp Lemon Juice

1 tbsp Rice Flour

5 tbsp Caster Sugar (adjust to taste)

1/3 C plus 3 tbsp Milk

1 tsp Ghee

1 tsp Cardamom Powder

Heat the milk in a pot. (It should not come to a boil.) Add yogurt or lemon juice (which ever you are using). Stir the milk till the whey (water) separates from the cheese. Add more yogurt or lemon juice if required. Once the whey separates, switch off the heat and leave the paneer in the pot for 5 minutes.

Line a sieve with cheese cloth or muslin cloth and sieve the cottage cheese. (You can place a pot underneath the sieve if you wish to collect the whey for using it for making dough or using it for soup or adding it to your curries)

{You will need to run water through the paneer to get rid of sour taste of lemon in case you are using lemon juice for making paneer}

Set aside the sieve for 10 – 15 minutes to remove excess whey.

Set the oven to pre-heat at 180 degrees C.

Transfer the cottage cheese/ paneer to a plate or bowl and using the base of your palm, mash the paneer for five to seven minutes (depending how soft or firm your paneer is). The consistency does not need to be too smooth as the cake is supposed to have grainy texture upon being baked.

Now add the rice flour, caster sugar, ghee and cardamom powder and lightly mix it in.

Add the milk and mix it well. Taste it for sugar and add more if required, before you put it in oven for baking.

Grease a 6 inch round baking tin with a little ghee or butter and line the bottom of the tin with parchment paper (I greased the parchment paper too).

Decant the paneer batter into the baking tin evenly. Tap it gently on the kitchen counter to get rid of any pockets in the batter. Smoothen the top of the paneer batter with a spatula or a spoon and place the tin in the pre-heated oven.

Bake for 25 minutes or till a skewer inserted in the centre of cake comes out clean.

Remove the baking tin from the oven and allow it to sit for 15 to 20 minutes.

Turn over the cake on to the serving plate. Remove the parchment paper from over the cake. Slice and serve the cake. Enjoy!

Note: The cake tastes best when eaten warm or at room temperature.

Note: I have noticed that unlike western cheesecakes, this one does not do too well when it is refrigerated.

Note: Usually semolina is added to this recipe for texture. However, I wanted to keep it gluten free and swapped it with rice flour. In case you wish to add semolina, use 2 tbsp of fine semolina.

Note: Cashew nuts and raisins are also added to this cake, however, I did not use them since my family does not like nuts in bakes or desserts.

Note: If your cake fails to turn brown at the bottom, post baking, you can turn it over on an oven-proof dish and broil it.

Serves – 8 – 10

Thanks for visiting and see you soon again with another exciting recipe!

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