Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Orange Sondesh from the Dummy Wife


012When P saw me getting some zest out of the oranges in the kitchen, he asked me what was I making. I told him – Sondesh. All he said was – I got a good deal. A wife who can make Sondesh!

Little does he know that I am a Sondesh dummy. Every Sondesh attempt of mine in the past have been scintillating failures. I have a feeling, if P was born 100 years ago, he would have fallen head over heels with Nani, my Mum’s Grandmother. The original Sondesh queen of our family.

For as long as I remember, Nani moved around her home on a wheelchair. She would even make Sondesh sitting on her wheelchair by the clay unoon/chulha in the courtyard. The servants would prep up the clay unoon with coal and fire and fan with a haathpakha till the embers would glow just right. She would then boil the milk slowly, taking ladlefuls of the hot milk and pouring it from a height to make it frothy. Half cut lemons would then be squeezed in the milk to curdle it. And then the hot, curdled cheese would be dunked in a clean cheesecloth, draining off the lemon-yellow liquid. The cheese, the cloth and Nani’s sari were all the same color. An awesome white.

Sadly, with age, the quantity of the Sondesh Nani made started to reduce. Those who are Sondesh connoisseurs know that Sondesh is all about timing and perfection. Her shaking hands at 90 something found it growingly difficult for her to knead the cheese. Which meant, her Sondesh became rarer and rarer. And only those who were in her inner circle would get that rare piece of Sondesh.

014When komla lebu (orange) was in season, Nani would sun dry its peels and grind, and keep to flavour her Sondesh in later days.

017And those Orange Sondesh were the most sought after. Fragrant, fresh, melt-in-the-mouth Komlalebur Sondesh. She would make them in the summers. A chilled piece of her Orange Sondesh would ensure atta’r total shanti (peace of the soul).

Since, I have neither Nani’s experience in Sondesh-making, nor her deftness in doling out little pieces of perfection, I took the short-cut route, a slight deviation and used the zest of orange to make Makha Sondesh. The very basic, very raw and absolutely dummy version of Sondesh! And this is how I did it.

Ingredients for Orange Sondesh are:

3 litres whole milk
250 ml heavy/whipping cream (optional)
2 tablespoons zest of orange
2-3 tablespoons white vinegar

023Bring the milk and cream to a rumbling boil. Add the vinegar and continue stirring till the milk curdles and you see the cheese and liquid separate. Turn the heat off. Add the orange zest and mix.


027Drain the chhana (cheese) in a colander lined with cheesecloth. Hang the cheese for about 30-40 minutes, or till all the liquid drains off. You can also do the press by weight process to do away with the remaining liquid.

Now with the heel of your hand, start rubbing the cheese to give it a smooth texture. It takes about 10-15 minutes of gentle, rhythmic rubbing to get the appropriate texture which looks smooth and supple, like a baby’s bottom. Do a test to check if your Sondesh dough is ready. Make a little ball with the cheese, if you see no cracks or fine lines, its done. Now add the sugar, little by little and keep mixing into the smooth cheese dough. Do a taste test and add more sugar if necessary.

033Make little round balls with the cheese and shape in Sondesh moulds, or leave them looking rustic as I did. Simply because I could not find my moulds after frantically looking for them for two minutes. That’s how deficit I am of attention (read sleep-deprived) these days.

036Chill the Orange Sondesh if you may, or eat them just as you shape them up. They are awesome any which way.


Isingcakes said...

Fantastic Pree!! Love the way you have prepared them. I must admit though...nani's and ma's have loads of energy and passion..and I seem to have a quarter of quarters.But you definitely have managed to retain their kind of measure!!

Sharmila said...

I love your idea of adding things at the time of making the paneer ... I remember your herb paneer. These sondesh look perfect.

Bong Mom said...

Shondesh er gondho ta bhabtei mon bhalo hoye jache

Hamaree Rasoi said...

My grandma also cooks for herself at the age is 90 ...Orange sondesh looks awesome....gondho ta ki darun hobe na....

Sutapa Dey said...

Hello Pree,

I just happened to come across your blog yesterday (mine was the 1492nd "Like" your site received). The pictures are well taken. Some of the recipes are new (as in I couldnt find them on other blogs) and others refreshingly enliven some lost memories. From 20 in 2009 you went up to 271 in 2010. Stupendous work! For your orange sondesh, did you use dried jest or fresh ones? I thought dried, powdered jest is best, though I havent tried sondesh-making. A dummy there. Good job, keep them coming.

Priya said...

Irresistible sondesh,lovely.

Anisha said...

darun Sondesh :) bhishon bhalo lagche dekhte.

Michiko said...

Pree - I made this yesterday and it was amazing! I also added some crushed pistachios for extra crunch. Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe!