Recipe for strawberry sandesh made using seasonal strawberries and freshly made chenna
Sandesh is a popular dessert in Bengali cuisine prepared from just two ingredients i.e. chenna (cottage cheese) and sugar. In a Bengali sweet shop, you will find mind boggling varieties of this sweet. A variation of the regular sandesh called the nolen gurer sandesh, sweetened with date palm jaggery is available in the winter months. Seasonal fruits like mangoes and strawberries also find their way into this traditional sweet, such as in this strawberry sandesh.
Fresh cheese needs to be made to prepare the strawberry sandesh. It is a very simple process to prepare the cheese (chenna) using just milk and lemon juice. Milk is brought to a boil and curdled using lemon juice. The curds are collected in a muslin cloth and drained for a little while, taking care that it is not left to turn too dry. This curd is either kneaded by the palm or in a food processor along with the fruit puree, chilled for an hour and then given desired shapes. Sandesh moulds are popular in West Bengal where the prepared cheese mixture is pressed in and given beautiful, artistic shapes.
You can also make strawberry sandesh with a strawberry preserve that has a high percentage of fruit content, in case the fruit is not in season.
To make strawberry sandesh, start by making the chenna (cheese). Pour the milk into a saucepan and heat until it comes up to a boil.
Reduce the flame and and stir in the lemon juice. Continue stirring until the milk separates into solids and whey. The solid component is the cheese / chenna / paneer.
Pass this through a muslin lined sieve and wash the cheese under water to stop it from cooking further and to remove any traces of lemon juice. Tie the ends of the muslin cloth and allow this to drain for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine chopped strawberries with powdered sugar and 2 tbsp of water. Bring this to a boil and allow to simmer on a low flame for around 8-10 minutes until you get a strawberry preserve.
Remove the drained cheese into a bowl and knead it for 5-6 minutes until it is of a smooth texture.This can also be done in the food processor.
Add the prepared strawberry puree to this and continue kneading for 4-5 minutes until it is well incorporated into the cheese. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.
Divide into 12 portions and shape into rounds. Place a thin slice of strawberry over each piece and garnish with a small mint leaf.