Can you please help me with the recipe of kheerer sandesh? The message on Facebook read. My grandma used to make amazing kheerer sandesh for any Pujo at home. I would love to learn how to make the perfect ones.
And before I realise, I am gripped by honey sweet nostalgia and return to a halcyon autumn morning in our Karimganj home.
Maa Durga has just returned to her abode in the pristine hills of Kailash, the Bijoya celebrations, visiting homes of neighbours, friends and family to touch the feet of elders and seek their blessings (Dada is just old enough to be invited by uncles for a warm kolakuli embrace) are drawing to a close, Maa has started reminding me that there’s homework to be completed before school reopens in a couple of days.
But not today.
Our household this morning is a cauldron of activity, it’s Kojagori Lokkhipujo, the most auspicious of all the Lokkhi Pujos in the calendar and Grandma and Maa are feverishly busy preparing for the Pujo this evening.
The marigold streamers, cheerful yellows alternating with resplendent oranges, are being strung between the pillars of the daalaan, Manikkaka atop the ancient ladder, Dada helping him with the flowers that rest in a white bag on the red oxide floor.
I head to the kitchen now to check what Grandma and Maa are doing.
A dekchi, battered and well past its prime, full of milk sits patiently on the earthen ounun. Grandma, in her immaculate white cotton tangail, her silver tresses nearly tied up in a bun, occasionally gives the milk a loving stir.
Are you making payesh ? I enquire.
No, Grandma responds, patting my hair.
Then ? My curiosity asks.
But without waiting for an answer, I run out of the kitchen.
I return a good while later.
Grandma is still persevering on the pot of milk, the milk, though has largely reduced.
How much longer Grandma ? I can no longer hold my excitement.
Patience, my princess. Grandma advises.
Before I run out again.
The milk, when I am back to the kitchen, is almost dry.
Grandma carefully takes it off the oonoon and effortlessly moves the milk dough to a kansa thala.
It is then that I notice the stone moulds and everything becomes as clear as the sun.
This is Grandmas special kheerer Sandesh in the making for Lokkhipujo, I was too naive to not have guessed it.
Kheerer Sandesh. Loving reduced milk fudge. Just a hint of green cardamom. The original Sandesh before the Portuguese introduced us to the magic of chhana ?
And if you are a voracious Sandesh lover as I am, here are Sandesh recipes you would want to try for sure.
- 1.5 lit whole milk
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 tsp green cardamom powder
- ghee for greasing
- sandesh moulds
- Pour the milk in a thick bottomed pan. Simmer over a low flame, stirring frequently, till it reduces to almost one third of the volume. (This is the key step in the process, all it needs is patience.)
- Sprinkle in the sugar and green cardamom powder, continue to cook the milk as it gets further reduced.
- At this stage, you need to stir the milk almost continuously to avoid it sticking to the pan or burning.
- The reduced milk shall now start coming off the pan. Take a little quality of the reduced milk with a spoon, very carefully touch it, it shouldn’t stick to your fingers. If it sticks, continue to cook the milk for another minute or two.
- Switch off the flame. Allow the reduced milk to cool, just enough to handle, yet warm. Grease your palm with ghee and knead it lightly for 30 seconds.
- Grease the moulds with ghee.
- Tear a small portion of the reduced milk dough when still warm and gently press over the mould. Shape accordingly pressing gently with your fingers as shown in the picture.
- Let it rest in the mould for 30 odd seconds. De-mould the sondesh now and keep on a greased plate.
- Repeat the same process for the remaining reduced milk dough.
- Allow the sondesh to set, 3-4 hours at the least.