Thursday, January 20, 2011
Nalen Gurer Sondesh and Poush Sankranti...so close an association and...
Nalen Gur/ Khejur Gur/ Notun Gur, these words carry the same meaning but carries some special thoughts for a Bangali...both mind and palate...
Come winter and Bengalis prepare to buy their quota of Nalen gur/ Khejur gur/ Date molasses. All this interest for the gur is to prepare special sweets.
Khejurer rosh (sap), the sap from the date palm is collected in earthen pots and brought down from the tree-top where it is hung whole night for the sap to collect. Some people like to drink this fresh sap. But the magic of this liquid is when the sun starts rising high up in the sky, this liquid gets fermented. In villages people drink this as cheap liquor and a favourite among villagers and tribals. I have seen Ma make special preparations from this sap. She, a Bangal (from East Bengal, now Bangladesh), knew varied preparations from the khejurer rosh.
You can see your neighbourhood Kakababu or Meshomoshai carrying an earthen pot filled with jhola gur. In Bengali the liquid form of this gur is known as jhola gur. Gur has to be cooked for hours to turn out in its various forms...some sold as jhola gur, which is the preliminary form of the gur. If this is cooked for some more time grains are formed...this is the semi-liquid form. Can relish this gur as a last helping with rotis. And if you like Dhoodh roti (home-made wheat bread torn into small pieces and placed in a bowl with some milk being poured over it), sweeten this doodh-roti with the semi-liquid gur and the flavour of the gur spills in your mouth. Also those who like doodh-bhat can enjoy the gur with it.
But the most wanted form of Patali/Nalen gur is in its solid form. This gur can be stored for months...use it anytime and get the taste.
Poush Sankranri reminds the Bengali of their Pithes. And how can one not think or cook Doodh Puli or Patishpta for this special occasion. Milk, cocoanut, rice flour, jiggery are the most important ingredients in the making of these individual dishes. And the Nalen Gurer Payesh...no way I can omit this name.
I made some Nalen Gurer Sandesh. Thought I can share this with my friends.
How to make cheese:
First have to make cheese as this is the basic requirement. For this need milk about 1 ½ litres. Fresh (cows) milk preferable. If you make cheese regularly at home you can use the water stored from the previous day cheese you have made.
Put the milk to boil. If you don’t have the stored cheese water, squeeze a lemon and add 2-3 tsp of water to it. Now add this lime water to the boiling milk. The solid and the liquid separates, in other wards the milk curdles. Keep this boiling on fire for 2-3 minutes. Now strain ina muslin cloth where the cheese has collected, tie the loose ends of cloth and let the cheese hang for a couple of hours. Once the water has drained out completely, take the cheese and place it on a flat plate. Can get about 250 gms of cheese from one litre of milk.
The ingredients for Sondesh:
Cheese (home-made): 250 gms
Sugar: 2 tbsp
Nalen Gur: about ¼ cup after mashing it
Knead the cheese with the palm or with the help of a small bowl which can be held in your palm, start rubbing the cheese on the flat surface. Knead till the cheese becomes soft and smooth. To this add the sugar. Powder the sugar before adding. Knead for some more time till the sugar mixes well with the cheese. Time to mix the nalen gur with the cheese. Knead for another couple of minutes. Now the cheese is ready to be cooked.
Place a thick bottom kadhai/wok on the gas stove. Put in the cheese, sugar and gur mix and start rubbing the contents against the sides of the kadhai with a ladle. Cook over medium heat and don’t stop working with it continuously. Once the fat starts releasing it is time to taste and see if the sondesh is ready to be given shape in the moulds. If the dough is soft you’ll get the Kancha Gola, the softer version which will not stay for many days. If you want the sondesh to be stored for few days, then let the dough get harder, to get the Kora Paker Sondesh, but not hard for they will not take the shape of the moulds.
Speaking of moulds, they come in many varieties...some made of wood, other come as plastic moulds and of course the very greens ones, the terracotta moulds.
Shape the Sondesh and serve...enjoy and relish...take pleasure in eating and also let others get the pleasure of its taste.