• Somma Ghosh

Bengali Dessert 'MONOHARA'(3 Ways)!

( Stealer of your mind and heart...)





There is a tale behind the 'MONOHARA'. The story so goes that once upon a time in Janai, a small town in Srirampore in the Hooghly district of West Bengal in India, there lived a Zamindar. One day the Zamindar asked his resident sweetmaker or Halwai to make a sweet for him and ventured out on some work. In those bygone days transportation was a problem and the Zamindar must have got stuck somewhere, that he did not return home even when the day stretched into the wee hours of the evening. The sweetmaker in the meanwhile having created a delicious sweet agonized on whether they would spoil, in the wait for the Zamindar to return. In a eureka moment he hit upon the brilliant save of coating the sweets with a sugar syrup in an attempt at increasing their shelf-life. Once the Zamindar returned home and was presented with the innovative sweet, he was wonder-struck and overjoyed at its unique taste. The Zamindar declared jubilantly that his heart, mind and soul had been won over by the sweetmaker's new creation. That is how the famous sweet of Janai, MONOHARA was created and named.


I tried my hand at making this easy to make sweet three ways. The first was in the shape of a conch without the mandatory sugar syrup coating(for those of you who are fond of sweets but not too fond of the too sweet ones, which an additional sugar coat will tend to bring). The second way was to coat the sweets with the original refined white sugar coating. The third and last way was to coat the sweets with the Nolen Gur Syrup coating. My younger brat commented that the sweets looked very 'realistic'. On probing he explained that they looked like store bought ones. So my most important critic had given me the thumbs up!


We are well into 2021, another brand new year but with the very same uncertainties all carried over from the last year. COVID -19 seems to have an all encompassing trait. There is so much suffering and unhappiness all around. As also we are at the threshold of another brand new BENGALI YEAR 1428, along with numerous festivals all over India, like BAISAKHI, GUDI PADWA, BOHAG BIHU, VISHU and many more. The making of this sweet is my humble attempt at increasing my shelf life, so as to take some time out and divert my mind into a creative pursuit which will bring my family some joy and in turn give me joy when I see that glimmer of a smile on their lips when I have handed them a winner of a sweet. Why don't you take out an hour and indulge yourself too with some 'me time' or make this into a collective family project of creating this inexpensive sweet? Do let me know how you fared in the comments section. Wishing each and every one of you and your loved ones all the very best going forward.


SHUBHO NOBOBORSHO 1428!





Makes : 15-20(depending on your size)

Preparation Time : 15 minutes (to make the Chhena)

Cooking Time : 20 minutes

Assembling Time : 20 minutes




Ingredients


  • Full Cream Milk - 1 Litre( I have used Amul Gold Tetrapak as it is easier to store during the lockdown)

  • Khoya/Mawa - 200grams

  • Vinegar - 3 tablespoons(to be diluted with 3 tablespoons of water)

  • Ghee - 3 tablespoons

  • Cashew - 30 grams (broken is fine since we have to grind it)

  • Brown Sugar - 50 grams

  • Cardamom - 6 Pieces (inside seeds only to be powdered)

  • Liquid Nolen Gur (Date Palm Jaggery) - half cup (optional for flavor)


For Outer Coating


  • White Sugar - Half Cup

  • Water - Half Cup

And / Or


  • Liquid Nolen Gur (Date Palm Jaggery) - One cup (optional)


For Garnish


  • Cashews

  • Raisins





Preparation of Chenna


Step 1

  • Take a deep bottomed vessel to boil the milk.

  • Pour the 1 liter of milk into the vessel and switch on the gas flame.

  • Bring the milk to a boil by stirring gently at regular intervals.

  • Once the milk has reached a boil, reduce the gas flame and add the diluted 3 tablespoons of vinegar mixed with 3 tablespoons of water.

  • Stir the milk well and you will almost immediately notice that the milk has curdled.

  • Switch off the flame.

  • Now take a deep vessel and a large strainer to separate the curdled milk from the whey.

  • Pour the curdled milk slowly through the strainer.




Step 2

  • The whey will get separated and remain at the bottom of the vessel. Instead of discarding it, you may later use it, as I did for kneading of atta for chapatis or baking cookies or making the batter for pancakes.

  • The curdled milk solids remain on the strainer. Use a spatula to squeeze out the excess whey. Pour drinking water onto the Chenna and mix thoroughly and well so as to wash away the pungent smell of the vinegar.

  • Use a spatula to squeeze out all the excess water and leave for 10 minutes.



Step 3


  • Place the strained Chenna onto a plate. (1 Litre of full cream milk should give you around 300 grams of Chenna)

  • Use your fingers and fist to mash and knead uniformly through the whole mix.

  • Do this for 5-7 minutes till the mixture looks well kneaded.

  • Add the khoya/mawa to the Chenna and mix it in thoroughly.




Cooking Procedure


  1. In a kadhai, add 3 tablespoons of ghee.

  2. When it is slightly hot add the Chenna and Khoya Mixture into the kadhai.

  3. Stir it gently.

  4. Keep stirring regularly as otherwise it might catch at the bottom of the kadhai.

  5. Coarse grind the broken cashew pieces.

  6. Add the cashew mix into the kadhai.

  7. Stir the mix and after a couple of minutes add the brown sugar.

  8. Mix thoroughly and add some liquid date palm jaggery for additional flavour in case you have some stock.

  9. Take the cardamom pods in a mortar and pestle. Discard the outer shells and crush the inside black seeds into a fine powder.

  10. When the mixture comes together sprinkle the crushed cardamom powder.

  11. Switch off the gas flame.

  12. Take the mix and place it on a plate to cool.





Making of the Cardamom Powder




Assembling for Way 1


  • Take a fresh plate and a tablespoon of ghee.

  • Make a dollop of the mix and place on the conch shape mould.

  • Pat gently and shape it to that of the mould.

  • Overturn the mould to reveal the intricate artwork of the conch shell on one(front) side of the MONOHARA Sandesh.




Assembling for Way 2 and Way 3


  • Take dollops of the cooled mix in a spoon.

  • Drop one spoonful on the palm of your hand and shape into a coin like disc of about half an inch thickness and about 2 inches in radius. You may shape them into balls or any other shape of your liking.

  • Pat them gently to neaten the side.

  • Repeat with the rest of the mix till you have shaped them all.





Making of the Refined Sugar Syrup(Way 2)


  • In a Kadhai add one cup of sugar and half a cup of water.

  • Bring to a boil.

  • Stir regularly.

  • When it reaches one string consistency or you can make threads from it, switch off the gas flame.

(Be careful that this does not cool, otherwise it will harden and you will have trouble coating the sweets. )




Making of the Liquid Date Palm Jaggery(Nolen Gur) Syrup (Way 3)


  • Add the liquid date palm jaggery into the Kadhai or pan.

  • Stir constantly.

  • When the liquid reaches one string consistency after becoming thicker switch off the gas flame.

(Be careful that this does not cool, otherwise it will harden and you will have trouble coating the sweets. In case it happens add some warm water to the Kadhai and try to dilute it again.)



Final Assembly for Way 2


  • Place one MONOHARA Sandesh into the sugar syrup.

  • Douse it with the syrup on all sides.

  • Place it on a slotted spoon and place it gently on a plate.

  • Garnish with a raisin on top if you like.

  • Cool and serve.




Final Assembly for Way 3


  • Place one MONOHARA Sandesh into the date palm jaggery syrup.

  • Douse it with the syrup on all sides.

  • Place it on a slotted spoon and place it gently on a plate.

  • Garnish with a cashew on top if you like.

  • Cool and serve.




THE FINALE!

MONOHARA Sandesh 3 ways....








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