The festive season has begun and you are going to see more of desserts and traditional Indian confections/ mithai recipes here. The variety of Indian confection is staggering. The base for most desserts is either mawa i.e. thick reduced milk (also called khoya) or chhena (freshly made paneer). We have our Suji Halwa, Aata Halwa and halwas made from vegetables and even nuts but they fall in another category of desserts. I am here talking about Indian mithai or what you can call Indian confection. While the khoya (reduced milk) is the base for most north Indian mithai (Indian confection) it is chhena that is most loved by eastern states of Odisha and Bengal. I have grown up loving khoya mitha such as Gulab Jamun but I equally love the mithai made with chhena such as this rich Chhena Malpua. Rather I prefer chhena mithai now as it is easy on the tummy than its rich counterpart mawa. Payesh is Bengali for kheer or milk based pudding. It can be Sabudana Payesh or it can be Chaler Payesh (rice pudding) and many more such varieties of payesh. But chhena payesh is the best in my view. I can have it every single day of the year! I tried to replicate the taste of the chhena payesh made by the ‘Sweet Bengal’ confectionery and I believe it is pretty close to it; although I would have loved it more, had it been made with the date palm jaggery but I had run out of stock. It is difficult to find date palm jaggery throughout the year but it is easily available during the cold winter months albeit for a short duration. The best way to enjoy this jaggery all through the year is to buy it in bulk when available and freezing it. I enjoy my cake sweetened with this jaggery. You can try this Wholemeal Jaggery Cake scented with cardamom if you are a fan of wholesome healthy cakes.
For Chhena / Cottage Cheese
1½ litre Cow’s Milk
1½ tbsp Lemon Juice
600 – 650 mls Water (for cooking chhena balls)
250 grams Sugar
½ C Ice Cubes
1 Cup Chilled Water
1 tsp APF (Maida)
1 litre Full cream Milk
1 – 1½ tsp Cornflour
A few teaspoons Milk
3 tbsp Sugar
½ tsp Cardamom Powder
For Payesh, In a heavy bottom pan or wok, boil the full cream milk. Reduce the heat and allow it to simmer. Keep stirring every now and then to prevent it from catching at the bottom and getting burnt. Keep simmering the milk of low heat stirring occasionally.
Mix the cornflour to a few teaspoons of milk and ensure that there are no lumps. Once the simmering milk has reduced to approximately 650 – 700 ml amount, add the cornflour mix to the milk and stir it well. Cook for half a minute and remove the milk from the heat. Stir in sugar and cardamom powder. Cover and set aside.
For Cottage Cheese/ Chhena – Boil the cow’s milk (toned milk) and and remove it from heat. Stir in the lemon juice. The whey will start to separate from the milk. Give it a few more minutes before the whey and paneer separate completely. If not, add some more lemon juice. Add half a cup of ice cubes and stir the contents well.
Line a sieve or colander with cheesecloth or muslin cloth and drain the whey (or reserve it for making dough, adding to curries or soups etc.).
Wash the paneer under running water to get rid of the sourness of lemon juice.
Hang the cheesecloth with paneer, over a faucet, for half an hour to get rid of excess liquid.
Squeeze the cheesecloth gently to get rid of any excess water. Transfer the chhena (paneer) to a plate and mash for four to five minutes or till it becomes smooth and it begins to release fat. Add a teaspoon of maida and incorporate it in the chhena.
Make smooth, marble sized, balls out of the mashed chhena. (the paneer balls will increase in size so do not get tempted to go beyond this size)
Boil the water in a wide pot and add sugar to it. Once the sugar has dissolved and the water comes to a rolling boil, drop in the chhena balls (Ensure that the pot is not over crowded with the chhena balls. The balls will double in size once they get cooked so leave enough space for them to swell)
Cover the pot and cook the balls on high flame for four minutes. Switch off heat and allow the balls to sit in the liquid for five minutes. Using a slotted spoon sieve out the chhena balls and transfer them to a bowl of chilled water. Add two to three ladles of sugar syrup and add it to the bowl of chilled water. Let the balls sit in this.
Remove the chhena balls from the water and gently squeeze them to get rid of excess water.
Add the balls to the warm reduced milk (it is important that the milk is warm when you add the chhena balls to it).
Check for sweetness and if required, add sugar. (Since we do not like our desserts too sweet, I added one tablespoon of sugar)
The pudding will thicken as it cools. Do keep stirring it occasionally till it cools completely.
Chill in the refrigerator before serving or serve at room temperature.
Serves – 4 – 6