The world is becoming a huge melting pot where diverse cultures melts, embracing each others flavours, ethnicity wears a contemporary look and modernization rooted in traditions, culinary and cultural boundaries has dissolved long ago into oblivion and the global gourmet table wears a (con) fusion look.
Hollaindaise embraces cilantro, rasgullas are dressed up with strawberry foam, gulabjamuns sweating in chocolate fondue, rasmalais lost their way in mascarpone cheese cakes, avials are the new (rata)touille, futomaki (sushi) goes lyrical with mango salsa, kimchis are well secured inside tacos, lasagna are on a vegan diet, rice noodles are dating with basil pesto sauce and spaghetti finally find its soul mate in chicken tikka masala. Welcome to the world of fusion cuisine ! For a change this cuisine has no history but definitely has a future.
For 100 years or so, people in Bengal (a state in eastern part of India) are mastering the art of sandesh making, zealously guarding the secrets which are handed down from one generation to another, and the more enthusiast one are secretly nurturing the idea of twisting the traditional. A generation leap forward and bhapa sandesh made their appearance around 90’s and since then there is no looking back. Soon icecream sondesh, sandwich sondesh, baked sondesh, mango sondesh, orange, pista and chocolate sondesh joins the league giving much hope to the new age chefs.
Strawberry sondesh is the latest in this trend and because of its ruby-red color and distinctly sweet fruity flavour it mellows down well with sondesh giving it a highly appetising look.
In this recipe of bhapa sondesh chhana / curdled milk cheese is first kneaded to make it soft, then mixed with crushed strawberries and steamed to make strawberry flavoured bhapa sondesh, finishing it with strawberry glaze. I have made bhapa sondesh earlier with condensed milk, but I could not be overjoyed as it lacks the essence of sondesh, well that was a novice way to make the sondesh but this time not only me but the guest also enjoyed it and I was quiet overwhelmed by their warm response. Some even rename it as strawberry cheese cake but I would love to call it bhapa sondesh with strawberry glaze / reduction, my fusion recipe.
Milk (full fat) : 1 l
Strawberry : 200 gms
Sugar : 1 cup about
Rose essence: a drop
Souring agent to curdle the milk
Boil the milk, curdled it using a juice of lemon, drain the whey and collect the cheese. See the pictorial description – how to make fresh home meade chana / chhana or curdled milk cheese.
Knead the chhana / cottage cheese with the heel of your palm for 10 minutes until it become soft and smooth.
Was, cut and hull four strawberries, chop them finely and mix it with the chhana / cottage cheese. Add a drop of rose essence, two tablespoon of sugar (according to taste) and again knead the chhana till the sugar incorporates into it well.
In a container put the strawberry – chhana mix, spread it evenly, close the lid and steam it for 10 – 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, crush the remaining strawberries leaving one or two for garnishing, and cook it in a pan on low flame, adding little water (around 1/2 cup). Amount of sugar entirely depends upon the sweetness of strawberry, so adjust accordingly. Add the sugar and keep on cooking on low heat till it reduced to a smooth sauce consistency. This is strawberry reduction or glaze. Strawberry glaze actually has more smooth and silky texture, for that you can blend it in a mixer after it gets cool down slightly. But for bhapa sondesh, a smooth pulpy strawberry reduction just suits it well.
Arrange the bhapa sandesh on a serving plate, glaze it with strawberry reduction and serve chilled.
Warm bhapa sondesh will be little watery, but chilling makes it denser and that brings out the true essence and flavour of bhapa sondesh.
It’s a great party dessert, can be prepared ahead and guest will surely love it.