A childhood friend, who also happens to be one of my biggest critics, called me the other day with a complaint. He had been going through my blog, and was “aghast” because I had not posted a single “Kolkata” recipe. “No Bengali recipe on your blog, not even a single sweet! And you call yourself a Kolkata girl?” he asked me as soon as I answered the call with a “Hi”. As I mumbled to find some excuse, I realised I had none. I told him the truth. That I was so much in love with Kolkata, Bengali recipes, Bengali sweets and the street food that I would need another blog to list them all. “I don’t know anything. I just want your first blog post this year to be a Kolkata recipe,” he said and hung up.
Well, his phone call left me feeling a little guilty. After all, I had been unjust, coming from a city which is famous the world over for its sweets and other delicacies. Since this is the start of a wonderful year, I will begin it by spreading some sweetness, straight from the land of culture, literature, art and, of course, food! Chhena/Chhana Kalakand is a different form of Kalakand, which is found only in the sweet shops in West Bengal. Made of cottage cheese and cream, this sweet has always been a favorite in my family. My husband too has become a fan ever since he was introduced to Chhena Kalakand. So a visit to Kolkata is never complete without gorging on these beauties. Since we live in Delhi, where we find the regular Kalakand (made of thickened milk mixed with cottage cheese) and not Chhena Kalakand, I have started making this sweet at home. It takes me less than 20 minutes to make Chhena Kalakand and thus it is the perfect sweet to prepare when you are running short on time. Here’s the recipe:
PS: Well, since I have taken the plunge, I have decided to introduce a special Category – “Flavors of Joy” (Kolkata is known as the “City of Joy!”) – in A Yummy Green World, which will be dedicated to the sweets and savory delights of Kolkata.
1 liter whole milk
2 tablespoons thick cream
1 tablespoon milk powder
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon green cardamom powder
1 teaspoon rose water
1 tablespoon roasted almonds (slivered)
In a pan, heat the milk till it is just short of reaching the boiling point. Add lemon juice and mix well. Heat for some more time till the milk curdles and the solids separate from the whey.
Strain the whey and run the cheese through water, washing well, in order to remove the lemony taste.
Tie the cheese in a muslin cloth and squeeze out the excess water. Then press the cheese tied in muslin cloth with something heavy. Keep it pressed for 10 mins or till all the water is drained out.
Now take the cheese in a flat tray and knead it well, pressing down with the heel of your palm till it acquires a smooth texture. You know your cheese is ready when your palms start feeling greasy.
In a pan, heat the kneaded cheese on low flame, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes. Turn off the heat and add cream, milk powder, powdered sugar, rose water and cardamom powder. Mix well. Transfer the cheese on to a greased tray and spread evenly to make a 3/4-inch thick layer. Garnish with slivered roasted almonds. Refrigerate for 5 minutes before cutting into desired shape. Transfer to a serving dish and serve warm or cold.
Eat, drink and be merry! 🙂
NOTE: Chhena Kalakand is usually very delicate to handle, so make sure you have cooled it properly before you attempt to cut it. If you like it warm, microwave for 30 seconds before serving. DO NOT cut when hot!