Sunday, 28 December 2014

Nolen Gur'er Kanchagolla

I still remember Moni Dadu. Moni Dadu was a friend of my paternal grandpa, a younger brother of sorts actually. They lived in the same neighbourhood in Serampore, a former Danish colony on the river Hoogly in West Bengal, where our ancestral house is. I haven't told you about my paternal grandpa before. That is because I have no memories of him. He died when I was a year old. I have grown up hearing about his life from my grand ma and the others And from Moni Dadu. Perhaps that is why I remember him so vividly. About Moni Dadu, now. His name was Moni Shankar De, a humble man of modest means but one with a big heart. And even after my grandfather passed away he maintained the tradition of his annual visit, and always looked out for our family.
After my grandfather's death, however, he always came around the day of his death anniversary. And his conversations were invariably restricted to reminiscences of his time with my grandpa. For years it had been the same, he came on the first or the third of December, in the afternoon, he wore the same white dhoti, a white shirt and a brown sleeveless sweater, spoke of the same things, asked the same questions, and left in the evening, 7 o clock sharp, every time. Another constant was a huge box of sweets from my grandpa's favourite sweetshop, the legendary 160 year old Felu Modak Sweets in Rishra, the town adjacent to Serampore. That was for me the highlight of his visit.
Felu Modak's  sweets are stuff of legends and their Gutke sandesh, especially the ones infused with date palm jaggery or Bengal's fabled Khejurer Gur, made only during the winter months, is cult stuff. Moni Jethu always brought the gutke sandesh for us. The problem was - I only got to eat a couple. After all we are a big joint family and we shared. I was not too happy sharing the gutke though. It is difficult to stop at a couple.
One time when Moni Dadu came visiting, my aunt made the mistake of giving me the entire box of gutke sandesh to keep in the kitchen. I obeyed. I went into the kitchen, kept the box on the kitchen counter, turned around and was just about to walk away, when the thought occurred. I can always pop in one gutke, from my share of two. So I did. The problem however was, I didn't stop at one, neither at two. I have no clue wht had gotten into me, but by the time I came back to my sense only 5 or 6 gutkes were rolling around in the box. I was terrified.
I have always been a commendable actor and I can cook up stories alright. So I ran down the stairs, panting more than I should have and screaming at the top of my lungs, "The cat, there is a cat in the kitchen," The plan was to convince every one that the cat had eaten 30 odd gutkes. Our kitchen, back then, was on the fourth floor, a roof top kitchen actually, and a cat had been the least of our worries. I do not  exactly.remember what followed but I do remember the feel of my mother's merciless fingers wrapped around my ears as she draged me past Moni Dadu into my grandmother's room and I also remember the slaps she planted firmly on my cheeks.

Anyway, so much for Nolen Gur'er Gutke. My other nolen gur favourite is the kanchagolla. A soft, moist cottage cheese sandesh infused with the goodness of nolen gur. And a couple of days ago i tried making it at home. It was bull's eye at the first go and I couldn't be happier. My cousin said it was as good as store-bought and I was ecstatic. Now date palm jaggery or Khejurer gur comes in various forms, the hard 'patali', the smooth, runny golden syrupy version referred to as 'jhola' or 'poira' gur and also a thicker, grainy version - nolen gur. In my recipe I used the thick grainy nolen gur. 

Ingredients  (Makes 8-10)

Milk - 1 litre
Calcium lactate
Nolen Gur (thick grainy variety) - 3 tbsp + 2 tbsp
Condensed milk - 2 tbsp
Raisins - 8-10


Bring the milk to a boil, and while the milk is bubbling away, add the calcium lactate and let it boil until the milk curdles producing chhena and water separates.
Strain  the water and the give he chenna a nice rinse under cold running water.
Tip the chhena onto a large tray and knead it until smooth. Add the nolen gur (3tbs) and knead some more so that it is uniformly infused. Finally add the condensed milk adnd mix well.
The mixture will be a little wet. But that's how we want it.
Now heat a heavy bottomed pan and add the chhena mixture into the pan, lower the heat and let it cook for approximately 10 minutes, stirring continuously. Once the gur releases it smoky aroma and leaves the sides of the pan,  and the chhena is somewhat dry, remove from heat. Be careful not to overwork the chhena or you will get extremely dry and the sandesh would turn out brittle.
Add another 1 tbsp of nolen gur and mix well. Sculpt into 8-10. equal balls while still warm and top it off with a raisin and a smidgens of gur..  

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