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 Chhanar Payesh.
Chhanar 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.