Milk laboriously and lovingly cooked over dying embers till significantly reduced. A generous helping of jaggery. An indulgent throw of fragrant rice. Fruits and nut as you willed. And what you had was kheer, delectable and divine.
References to kheer / payasam / payesh date back several millennia to the ancient Vedas, soul food, staple for celebrations and the ubiquitous offering to the heavens above.
Centuries passed. The lucrative spice trade brought the Portugese to the Indian shores. And what they also got with them was the science of curdling milk. And we were introduced to paneer.
And then someone wise, in the tumultuous nineteenth century where boundaries blurred and cultures morphed and old orders changed yielding place to new at a dizzying pace, forged a marriage of the very Indian kheer with the crumbled paneer learnt from the Portugese. And was born the quintessential Bengali favorite Chanar Payesh.
Chanar Payesh. Yet other example of the mammoth influence invaders and colonialists have had on our cuisine and shaped it to the eclectic form by which we recognise it today.
Chanar Payesh (Bengali style cottage cheese milk pudding )
- 2 lit full milk
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/4 cup milkmaid
- 1 tbsp sugar (optional)
- 1 tbs rose water
- 1/4 tsp green cardamom powder
- Boil 1/2 litre of milk. As it comes to a boil, add the lemon juice and keep stirring till the milk curdles. Strain and wash the chana with cold water.
- Tie the chana in a muslin cloth and hang till all the water has drained.
- Take out the chana in a bowl and crumble it using your fingers.
- Boil the rest of the milk in a thick bottomed pan. Add the elaichi powder and let the milk simmer on low heat till reduced to almost half.
- Stir in the Milkmaid. Throw in the mashed chana, give it a hearty stir and let it simmer over low flame for another 10-12 minutes.
- Take off the heat. Add the rose water and allow to cool. The Chanar payesh is ready to serve.