Till a considerable period of time I did not understand the significance of Diwali. It was always a day after Kali Pujo. The remnants and leftovers of the crackers, which could not be burnt the previous night was once again going to be utilised on that night. The Day of Diwali (which is a day after Kali Pujo) was spent mostly looking with awe at the marks of the fire crackers in the verandah, a nice lunch in the afternoon and definitely, once again keeping the left over fire crackers in sunlight, so that the last bit of the sparks that fly off them for this year, would be the brightest one.

Kali Pujo was more exciting. I am sure this was definitely for a lot of people but for me, it was for some particular memories of childhood. No, I am not speaking about the fire crackers here. It’s also not about graduating from being allowed to hold a phuljhuri alone in your hand to burst chocolate bombs (a deafening pathaka which explodes with a sound beyond permissible decibel limits) without any help.

How many of you have burst chocolate bombs? Have you ever used a BURIMA branded chocolate bomb? How many of you have used Dodoma (the pathaka which had double sound) or Kali pathakas or 7 shots?

Diwali sweet kesar sandesh 1

Kesar

My  most special memory of Kali Pujo is the Kali Pujo that used to happen in my neighbourhood in Chandannagore. It was a family goddess of the Chakraborty’s and the highlight was the Goat sacrifice which used to take place in that Puja. A small neighbourhood, where there were barely 15 – 20 families staying, could only boast of a strong bonding where a family puja was the festival of the para(locality), the lunch of Diwali used to happen at Chakraborty house with unlimited serving of mutton and one piece each of the sacrificed goat. It doesn’t end here. Each neighbour was sent a small bowl of the sacred meat so that if anyone had missed out on eating that should not be deprived.

For the rest of the country, Diwali probably means sweets and various types of homemade sweets which is a pivotal point of Diwali celebrations. My stay in Mumbai and Pune in particular, made me realise the essence of the Diwali sweets and the long queues outside Chittale Bandhu in Pune before Diwali is legendary.

While I cannot think of Kali Pujo without mutton, nowadays its mishti also which has become an inevitable part. As they say, life is about Mutton, Mishti and more. Incidentally this is a Bengali sandesh which travels north with the addition of saffron and dry fruits.

Kesar Sandesh for Diwali 3

Kesar Sandesh

Prep Time: 70 minutes

Cooking Time: 10-15 minutes

Yield: 12 – 15 nos

Ingredients:

Milk 2 litres Lemon Juice 5 tbsp
Condensed Milk 5 – 6 tbsp Saffron 2 pinches
Dry Fruit Powder 4 tbsp Raisins A handful

 

Method:

  • The first step in sandesh making involves breaking down of the milk to create paneer/cottage cheese/chhana, as we Bengalis call it.
  • Bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan. Once it is boiling, immediately pour the lemon juice and watch the milk curdling. In a matter of minutes, the entire milk curdles and you will find a pale white liquid, which is the whey and the chhana, of course. Take it off the heat and then strain it through a muslin cloth. Discard the whey or keep it for simply drinking with some spices at a later time.
  • Before it cools down, quickly rinse the paneer with some room temperature water to get rid of the lemony smell.
  • Then bundle up the muslin cloth and hang it somewhere for an hour or until all the liquid has drained off.
  • In the meanwhile, keep the saffron infused in a couple of tsp of water.

Kesar Sandesh for Diwali 2

This is where the actual process of the sandesh making starts

  • Take a blender and blend the paneer into a fine paste. Most people use to their hands to knead it into a fine dough, but I am quite happy with a blender or food processor.
  • Take it out and add the saffron along with the saffron infused water. Add the dry fruit powder and the condensed milk.
  • In case you don’t have dry fruits powder, then you need to finely chop up a mix of dry fruits along with some cardamom powder. In that case, you may also need to add a couple of tbsp of powdered sugar too.
  • Now knead the paneer thoroughly.
  • Take a heavy bottomed pan and on low heat, place the paneer. Stir very quickly till the raw smell of the paneer goes away and the mixture has all come together. Also taste it and add more condensed milk if required. This process takes only about 3 -4 minutes.
  • Don’t keep it on heat for too long since that will make the sandesh dry and we want a moist sandesh.
  • Take a plate and grease it with a bit of ghee and then quickly flatten the paneer mixture onto the plate.
  • Leave it to cool down for about half hour. Once it has cooled down, cut it into desired shape and garnish with raisins. Your sandesh is ready.
  • Serve immediately or refrigerate and consume within 2 – 3days.

Kesar Sandesh for Diwali 7