Nolen Gurer Sandesh (Bengali Cottage Cheese Fudge with Date Palm Jaggery)

2:14 AM

The word ‘Nolen Gur’ is enough to make all Bengalis nostalgic. This Date palm jaggery is an intrinsic part of our (Bengali) culture and for some foodies like me, is synonymous to winter. We await the whole year to taste this seasonal delicacy and for us winter is incomplete unless and until this jaggery makes its appearance on our dining tables. Yes, we can have it with our breakfast, as an after lunch dessert, as part of something sweet with evening tea and for our must have lip smacking dessert after dinner. Go to any sweet shop and you will see all our famous sweets prepared with this jaggery. Be it the most famous Rasogolla (Cottage cheese balls simmered in light syrup), sandesh (cottage cheese fudge), Kanchagolla (softer version of Rasgulla), Jalbhara (Sandesh with juicy center) or bhapa sandesh (steamed Sandesh) every sweet in the shops take on a new avatar with the colour and the unique flavour borrowed from Notun gur.  This slightly smoky and one of its kind jaggery smells unbelievable when paired in milk based desserts.

photo courtesy
Back home it’s a ritual for most of us to make those early morning walks to the nearby villages to drink this juice collected in the earthen pot throughout the whole night. In our ancestral house this is a must do affair. We have several date trees around our paddy fields and ponds and the collection process starts in the evening. First the earthen pots are disinfected by warming them on fire, then the sap is extracted and collected by a tapper. Typically the sap is collected from the cut flower of the tree. A container is fastened to the flower stump to collect the sap and left there all night. The white liquid that initially collects is very sweet.Every morning it is customary to gather around the ghat (sitting area around the steps leading to the pond) where the juice filled pots are carefully brought down. The juice is to be drank fresh, early in the morning, otherwise as the day progresses it starts to ferment and by evening it turns to toddy.
Picture belongs to Mollah Ishtiaq, see his photostream HERE
Apart from having the fresh juices, once or twice every winter more juices are bought from local suppliers to prepare jaggery. The juice is boiled in a huge flat metal pot called Shalti and is reduced till it thickens and takes a cake-y form called patali. Sometimes the gur is made to a syrup-y form called Jhola gur. My boro jethi or eldest aunt makes a very flavourful patali with fresh ginger, black pepper and dry roasted Bengal gram…which we love to have with another Bengali snack called chalbhaja (a variety of puffed rice).

As far as am concerned I can plan all four of my meals around this jaggery. Starting and finishing the day with this delightful taste of nalen gur. Baba dint get anyone this winter to send us some Nolen gurer sandesh but both hubby and I were craving for it badly. Finally decided to try my hand in this very soft sandesh making.  This is the first time that I tried it and truly proud to see the great results. Trust me on this when I say this is exactly what we get in the shops and by that I don’t only mean the look or the shape but the taste, colour and texture are exactly like the store bought ones. and the best part is it is as easy as counting 1-2-3. once you have made the cottage cheese, you are only 15 minutes away from this blissful dessert.

Nalen Gurer Sandesh
(makes 14-16 pieces)
Full fat milk: 1 liter
Juice of ½ a lemon
Powdered sugar: 2 tbsp
Nalen gur: 4 tbsp

First you need to make the cottage cheese. For this bring the milk to a rolling boil and pour the lemon juice. Mix and stir. The milk will curdle, keep on boiling till a clear whey separated from the cheese.

Pour this in a muslin cloth and wash under running water to get rid of the lemon-y smell.

Tie the loose ends of the cloth and hang to drain all the water. Do this for an hour and then place the cottage cheese on a plain surface (I placed it on the back of an inverted steel plate) and press with something heavy (I used my shilnora or the stone mortar and pestle).

After another hour take this cheese in a flat plate. And start kneading with the heal of your palm. Once the cheese becomes smooth (approx 5 minutes) add the sugar and again knead till all the sugar melts in (another 2-3 minutes). Finally add the jaggery before kneading the dough for another couple of minutes.

Take this in a non-stick pan and on very low heat cook this for 3-4 minutes. Do this by stirring the dough continuously. Don’t panic if you find the dough  little soft, it will harden as it cools.

To give shape to the sandesh use the stone or terracotta moulds. Brush the inside of the mould with little oil or ghee (clarified butter) and press little bit of the dough to transfer the design.

Serve whatever way you want warm, cold or at room temparature, this delightfully light dessert will make you speechless with every bite.

Those of who want to try it at home but dont get Khejur gur here is another tasty option. Make this Aam Sandesh. similarly you can use strawberry as well. The texture of this Aam sandesh is different and not as soft as the jaggery one. 

A homemakers Note:
Do not cook the mixture more than 3-4 minutes if you want a soft and melting in the mouth texture. If cooked for long it will become comparatively hard and little chewy, that is another form of this sandesh called Kara Pak. I tried this (with 8 tbsp jaggery) and the result is the black ones. Hubby liked it but the rest of us were bowled over by the soft ones.

Store in covered container in fridge, this stays good for 2-3 weeks if kept properly.

If you dont get this particular jaggery use kesar to make normal sandesh. 

Sending this to Aliena's Delicious Dessert hosted at What's Cooking today.

Sending this to Rumana's treat to Eyes; Series 2.

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