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Saffron Sandesh

Asma Khan

Lesson time 15 min

Sandesh is one of Bengal’s favorite desserts. There are many different types, but Asma likes to infuse it with saffron to give it a delicate floral flavor.

Students give this lesson an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

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– So paneer one of the few cheeses that we have in India. I know paneer is available everywhere and most people do not make it at home, but once you get it right, then I think a lot of people never end up buying paneer again. I’m gonna teach you how to make paneer and you just need two things to make paneer, milk and an agent to split. You can use vinegar. I prefer to use lemon lime juice and I think it does matter, you know. I don’t wanna have to taste vinegar. I wanna taste lime or lemony feel with the paneer. I’m gonna go and get the milk outta the fridge first. I’m gonna use two liters, full fat cow’s milk. In Bengal, we do tend to use cow’s milk to make paneer. When you do paneer, when you’re using yogurt don’t bother going low fat. It doesn’t work. So I’m just gonna pour the milk. So It’s gonna take a bit of time for the milk to boil. It’s just worth keeping an eye on it. Milk absorbs aromas quickly and in most kitchens, in my family house, we have a separate pot that we use only for milk. We don’t use it for cooking with masalas. We don’t use it for anything else. That’s our milk pot. I’m going to now get the lemon juice ready. I’m just, kind of feel that this, it needs a bit of massaging because it feels a bit hard. This has to be measured because you’ve got to have around 60 ml of lemon juice for the two liters. So you need the milk to be boiling. We can already see some bubbles out there. I need to see bubbles everywhere. This is always a good sign. To know some of the milk has coated the spoon. So you know that It’s kind of ready. Okay, I’m going to now pour it. You pour it in one direction. Okay, and then you’ve gonna gently stir it, with the heat still high. Now, the milk is separating. So It’s worked, It’s enough. There, okay. Every culture has this kind of fresh cheese, where the milk is split, what we call fresh cheese. I’m not gonna fill around with it because I’m gonna pour some hot water and this is because I’m going to use this to soften the curds a bit. Should not be boiling, boiling water, it should be warm water. Don’t pour it on top. It’s very important to pour it from the side, okay? Because you don’t wanna disturb what’s happening in there, and you leave it. If your curds had not formed as well as it has formed now, you can cover it and leave it for a bit. Oh yes, this is pretty solid, but if that does not happen with your paneer, add 30 milliliters of lemon juice again. For the effort that you take going to a shop and buying the paneer, literally this is it. You’ve made the paneer. Now It’s gonna do It’s own work. You’re gonna squeeze it, squeeze all the liquid out, It’s gonna work. So I’m making the muslin damp. If you don’t have muslin, cheese cloth, anything. I just want to get some of the excess liquid out. Try and use a cheese cloth which is quite bigger than what you need, because you’re gonna have to tie a little bundle at the end of it. Okay, I’m gonna get my paneer. You need a slotted spoon, because you don’t want to take all this extra stuff. It’s a good idea if you can try and keep it in clumps because it’ll just then compact faster. So I’m gonna just lift it to … Because I want to rinse it under the tap. This is just to get the lemony taste out. Especially important if you’re using vinegar. So I’m gonna bring it back there, and then just wanna show you how It’s looking now. So now I’m gonna weigh it down. I want to make it a flat surface because I’m gonna put this on top of it, for just the added weight, and then you just leave this on It’s own, and the paneer is gonna be made on It’s own. Half an hour, your paneer will start forming but you can wait up to two hours, then you get a really good solid firm paneer. Very interesting story, for a long time since the Vedic times, it was considered to be unlucky to split milk, then the Portuguese turned up and they started spitting milk to make cheese. Then it took some guys, who started using them to make sweets. Chhana came up, which is the kind of cheese that is used to make sweets, then because it was slightly sour, they added sugar to it. This is how sandesh came in. This is now going to be used to make one of Bengal’s favorite desserts, which is sandesh. You’ve gotta like cheese, kind of cheesy textures. So It’s not to everyone’s taste but if you like things like cheesecake and you like things that are, you know, any kind of cheese, this is a great dessert to have. So I’m gonna open this to show you what it looks like now. So we are going to use the chhana that I made to make sandesh. Let me just transfer this. This I’m going to make with saffron, but you can use marigold, rose, lavender. You need to brain the cheese. Now braining is something that’s a very old fashioned word. When you brain the cheese, you don’t knead it because It’s gonna become hard and springy. You use this part. You use this part of your hand to break it and I’m gonna show you how to do it. You go down and you crush. So this is how the cheese is broken down. Don’t put a lot of pressure. Don’t put a lot of pressure. You don’t want to actually compact it. You want it to be soft, still granular and remember to do every part of it. So now that the cheese has been brained, It’s very soft, It’s very, very soft. Now you add the sugar. There’s no exact measurement, you add it to your taste. If you can, use caster sugar, if you have granulated sugar, it because It’s much faster, if It’s fine. Okay, so I’m gonna take a small amount, and I’m gonna taste it. I need a bit more sugar. You just gotta keep tasting it. I know I’m gonna end up like, eating half of it while tasting it, but that’s the fun of it. That’s privilege of being the chef. I think this is the last bit. So now I’m just gonna wash my hands, because It’s just gonna be a little bit of heating of this. This has to be on quite low heat. I’m going to bring the sandesh. Put it in there. Now, It’s just … Just gotta gently cook it, and it is at this point that you add the floral whatever you’re using. So there goes the saffron. I’m gonna remove it from the heat, because It’s getting a bit stuck. You can see the change in color, It’s just become slightly darker. The saffron is playing It’s role, but also, you know, It’s just a bit of the heat. I’m now gonna put it off the heat, and I’m gonna get my mold ready. You could make this into just round little circles and put them into mini muffin papers, which is very easy. I’m gonna try and make my life more difficult and do it in a more professional way, which is to use molds. So this is my more ambitious mold. I’ve never been always successful when I use this mold, so It’s a bit risk doing it this way. I’m gonna get the sandesh in there. Gonna transfer it onto this board. Now I’m gonna try it. So this is quite a sacred shell in Hinduism, and it is used for pujas, you know, when they have their prayer, but It’s not the easiest mold to use, so I don’t know whether I’m gonna manage to do it but I’m gonna put it in there, and now, that really frightening a bit, which is failing to come out, which is not coming out. It is. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. So there it is. Phew! I’m not gonna do the other one like this. I’m gonna do the easier ones. I’m now going to use, this is what we call kari, which is the shape of a raw mango. Everybody thinks is an Indian motive but kari came from Persia. It’s still a bit hot, so I’m just squeezing it. So here I’m making a log shape, and I happen to have got … So I’m gonna put that there for style. Hey! Here, is my Zafrani sandesh. You can just put them in a little paper cup, which might be easier, and I hope you enjoy it.

About the Instructor

Asma Khan, owner of famed London eatery Darjeeling Express and bestselling cookbook author of “Asma’s Indian Kitchen” teaches her favorite family recipes, inspired by her childhood in Kolkata, India. The chef, restaurateur, and activist is the first UK-based chef to be featured on Netflix’s Emmy-nominated Chef’s Table and, in 2019, was listed number 1 on Business Insider’s ranking of “100 Coolest People in Food and Drink”. Join Asma on a nostalgic culinary journey to explore the smells, flavors, and ingredients of her ancestral Bengali roots.

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