Chhena poda- From the land of Lord Jagannath for Durga puja
‘Durga Puja’ for a Bengali and an odiya is symbolic of all the celebrations of life put together. The otherwise sleepy town of cuttack springs back to life in the ten days of Puja or Dussehra as it is popularly known in other parts of the country. It symbolizes the victory of Lord Rama over the evil Ravana. For the eastern India, it’s the victory of Goddess Maa Durga over the devil Mahishasur. ‘Maa’ or mother is an embodiment of respect, power, devotion, victory over evil. For me she is an epitome of strength, the inner strength which we fail to potentialise most of the times. Tolerance, I feel is a women’s greatest strength as well a weakness. Our ability to tolerate makes us remain silent even when we shoudn’t. She personifies the women empowerment we all talk about today.
Life in small cities is a bliss at times. No traffic jams, no much pollution, no long distance commuting, but the puja season reverses everything here. Life comes to a standstill, when you get stuck up in traffic of people making beeline for shops screaming out crazy sales. Lighted up roads, beautiful decked up idols, loud music is what you will encounter if venturing out at night. For my first Durga puja after marriage, I was as awestruck as a child would on entering a toy store. I still get mesmerized by the beauty of the idols when pandal hopping during puja. If you ask my not-so tradition loving hubby what puja means to him, without blinking an eye he would say lazing around and my son without a second thought would say holidays!! sweets would be his closest second answer.
And sweet it is for today’s post. Chena poda literally translated means ‘burnt cheese’, is a speciality of odisha. Most of the sweets of eastern India are chhena based, be it rasgulla, chum-chum or chhena poda. Chhena is unprocessed cheese, which is a precursor of cottage cheese or paneer.For this recipe you can either buy the ready made chhena or make it at home by splitting milk using vinegar or lime juice.
The recipe is as follows:
• If making chhena at home, milk- 3-3.5 litres
• Vinegar or lime juice- 1-2 teaspoon
• If using readymade chena- 200grams
• Sugar- 4 tablespoon
• Semolina/suji/rawa- 1 teaspoon
• Ghee/clarified butter- 1 teaspoon
• Cardamom powder- from 2-3 pods
• Cashews- ¼ cup
The most crucial step is splitting the milk to make chhena. You need to add just the right amount of lemon juice/ vinegar, wait to see the first signs of curdling and switch it off immediately.
• Boil milk in a vessel, split the milk by adding vinegar or lemon juice. Switch off the flame immediately once you see signs of splitting.
• Drain the water, use a strainer. Press the cheese /chhena to drain out any excess remaining water.Allow it to cool a bit.
• Place the cheese on a clean flat platform, add semolina, sugar , cardamom powder and ghee.
• Using palms, rub the chhena on the platform while mixing it with all other ingredients. Use circular motion to ease out any lumps or big granules of cheese.
• Lastly mix in cashews, and fill it in the moulds of your choice. You can use aluminium cake tin or silicon moulds as I have used.
• Bake it in a preheated oven at 180⁰ C for 20-25 minutes, until the surface browns and a cheese is all set.
Serve it warm or cold, both ways it tastes heavenly!!