Listening to the everfresh, energetic Mahalaya chantings; laced with devotion upto the brim, is an awe-inspiring experience. Three days back, in the early morning hours, we were doing just that. Onset of Mahalaya, the powerful chantings to go with in the background; and we happily slipped into reminiscing the pleasant memories of last year’s Durga Puja here in Bahrain. Along with that, the conversation, I shared with Biman, over our morning cup of coffee, veered towards, how, living in an Islamic country, we never felt missing out on any festivals, and high festive spirits of the people. Call it Navaratri, Durga Puja, or Holi, all are celebrated with fun. In Bahrain, we are privileged to have three to four Hindu temples where festivals are carried out with thousands of devotees visiting each day during the period of the festival.
I could see the ladies in their filigreed gold bangles with those white and the red ones called Shakha -Pola, along with their wide red bordered spun cotton sari stopped midway in their task of feeding Ma Durga pieces of Sondesh and smearing her with Sindoor. They themselves looked no less than a goddess! Each one carrying a traditional brass or a copper thali filled with flowers, paan( beetle leaf) Sindoor, and Sondesh.
Sondesh/ Sandesh is a delicious melt in the mouth sweet made with freshly made ricotta cheese blended with either date palm jaggery or sugar and flavored with cardamom.
Usually, I make them with sugar. I rarely bring store-bought sweets to offer in any of the religious ceremony or puja in my home and sort to make them by my self regardless of the quantity, for 50 people or more……. it never really mattered to me. In fact, it gives a sense of satisfaction. I remember Last Durga puja making a big batch of Sandesh at two community Durga Puja celebration and since it was homemade my thali was kept for Maa Durga’s bhog ( main prasad). This was no less than a blessing of Maa Durga upon me.
Since I am a big fan of sweets made with jaggery more than sweets made of sugar, I finally decided to try my hand in making this delightful sweet with date palm jaggery.
This is the first time that I tried it and truly proud to see the great results. The first time I tried making sandesh ( my Maa’s recipe) was Long ago when I wasn’t even blogging, and that was the traditional one, but this time I tried to simplify the process which is actually much time saving, opting for the store bought ricotta cheese instead of making channa( chenna).
To my surprise, both came out exactly same and by that, I don’t only mean the look or the shape because I made them without any molds, but the taste, color, and texture are exactly like the store bought ones. Yes! you heard it right, I gave the design with a cookie impression tool.
Trust me on this when I say this! and the best part is it is as easy as counting 1-2-3. once you have made the cottage cheese, you are only 15 minutes away from this blissful dessert.
Also of late, I learned about an alternative process of making Gurer Sandesh that uses Ricotta Cheese. It’s hard to believe that both the versions taste alike.
- Ricotta Cheese/ Chenna – 2 cup
- 1/2 cup grated gur/ jaggery molasses
- Sugar 1/4
- Cardamom powder for flavoring
- Ghee for greasing 1 tbsp
- If using Chenna, knead the chenna by pressing with your palms across on a clean surface until it gets a smooth silky texture for 6-7 minutes.
- In a deep bottomed nonstick pan, heat the grated gur on a medium heat for about a minute until it becomes thin liquid. Add the ricotta cheese or chenna, give a quick stir. Then add sugar and keep stirring continuously to avoid sticking at the bottom of the pan. Finally, add cardamom powder and keep stirring until the mixture becomes quite sticky
- Turn off the heat and keep the mixture aside to let it cool. Once cool divide into small slightly flatten ball like portions or giving different shapes with the help of a sandesh mold, or even with a cookie impression, just the way I did.
In absence of a mold, you can still give the design to your Sandesh with a cookie impression.
Sugar can be used instead of Gur. The only thing to keep in mind is that the quantity of sugar should be little more than that of Gur.