This year, I shall actually try to do a festival series on the blog. This series is really for my little daughter. She went to the Durga Puja in Stamford, CT this weekend and now wants the entire lowdown! To make the festive spirit complete, it is important that I dug up the recipe for Sandesh, a traditional bengali style cheesecake.
The next two months are really festive season all across Indian – with a multitude of festivals, Durga Puja
and of course Diwali. I wish I knew all about each one of these in detail, but I think I know enough to cover most of them. Actually one of the benefits of growing up in a secular country like India, there really is no dirth of festivals.
Simply speaking the story of Durga is the eternal commemoration of the victory of good over evil.
I realize that there is nothing new in that, since almost all cultures have their version of this story of magic and excitement, and fanfare when good triumphs over evil.
Well, the bengali version, is interesting in the the bad guy is actually destroyed by a powerful woman, albeit a ten handed one, but nonetheless does demonstrate female power or shakti, which makes it an especially interesting story to come up with for my daughter.
The demon Mahishashura was rewarded by Shiva with a boon that he would not be killed by any man. He took advantage of this and continued to terrorize people. The gods fed up of this, created the goddess Durga, who epitomizes the power of the woman. She is a 10-armed mother goddess who rides a lion. She is show with her 4-children who come to earth with their mother and also in turn merit their own festivals. Durga is shown as slaying Mahishasura thus symbolizing the triumph of good over evil.
While this is technically a ten-day festival commencing with Mahalaya, most of the religious festivities take place during the last five days of the festivals. There are different religious offers, most notably prayers including pushanjali (floral
There are food offerings most popularly the myriad number of sweets.
However possibly what I miss is the incredible transformation that takes place in the city of Kolkatta during these days – the city gets caught up in a week long carnival where Mardi Gras meets Christmas with a very Indian flavor. There are makeshift pavelions created in every nook and corned with different variations of Durga, there are food stalls, balloon stands and the city forgets to sleep!
To bring back just a little memory of this period, I made Sondesh probably the closest to Indian Cheesecake make with fresh paneer. I was pleasantly surprised at how well this turned out, call it luck…
Now, my recipe simply shapes these into handmade balls, in India, there are actually various moulds available for this dessert that allows you to shape it in a multitude of ways.
Durga Puja and Sandesh – Rose-Scented Bengali Cheesecake Balls
A homestyle recipe for the classic Bengali dessert called Sandesh
- 1/2 gallon 2% milk
- 1/3 cup tart natural yogurt
- 1/3 cup sugar can be more if you like it sweeter
- 1 teaspoon rosewater
- Chopped Crasins
- Place the milk in a sauce pan and bring to a boil, when the milk is bubbling, add in the yogurt and stir.
- In about 10 to 15 seconds, the milk should separate into cottage cheese or whey, if needed you can add some more yogurt.
- Strain the mixture in a cheesecloth, discarding the whey, drain the cheese for about 11/2 hours.
- Place the cheese in a food processor and process for about 1 minute, the mixture should collect into a ball at this point.
Most of the prep time is to allow the whey to drain.