This time of the year is full of festivities for Indians! With the Navratras (festival of nine nights, worshipping Goddess Amba) and Durga puja (a Bengali grand festival of five days, in which the Goddess of power, called mother Durga, is worshipped) being just over, we are ready to welcome the biggest festival in India, the Diwali, which is the festival of lights!
We Indians like to associate and celebrate the auspiciousness of the festivals with a variety of strictly vegetarian dishes: the dominant one among them being sweets. If you happen to visit India during the Navaratras or Diwali, you will see a huge number of roadside stalls, along with the reputed sweet shops, dedicated to a huge variety of colourful sweets! These are made up of different constituents, such as gram flour, nuts, raisins, saffron, rose water, kewra essence, coconut, jaggery, sugar and of course, a very important ingredient: the milk. Milk is transformed into fine-quality chenna or paneer (cottage cheese) and these are then metamorphosed into a variety of sweets: the kinds differing markedly in their taste, smell and appearance.
This was my first Durga puja in Hong Kong and I was amazed by how the Bengali expats here preserve their culture even in a different country! As I said, an essential part of any Indian festivity is offering sweets to the Goddess and later, sharing this prasad (which means a gracious, edible gift having God’s blessings) among the devotees. But, one cannot find sweets in Hong Kong easily, except a few Indian superstores, keeping only a few varieties.
I was not ready to compromise on the quality of the sweets, so I made up my mind to make these myself. And there I was!
This authentic sweetmeat, originating in eastern India, is considered the purest form of sweet to be offered to the Goddess. Known as kaccha gola or kacha golla, the taste of this sweet is blissful. Each ball is so soft that it will melt in your mouth in a fraction of seconds! Made up of pure milk, it is a nutritious substitute for plain milk, which kids often refuse to drink.
Give this a try and go wild with its variations. I am sure you will like this heavenly dessert from India!
KACHA GOLLA sweet
- Fresh, full-cream milk: 2 litres
- Lemon juice or vinegar: 4 tbsp
- Saffron strands: 8–10
- Green cardamom powder: ¼ tsp
- Granulated sugar (amount can be varied according to individual preference): 5 tbsp
- Fine muslin or cheesecloth
- Water: 5 tbsp
Let us first make the cottage cheese. For this, pour 1 tbsp water in a wok or a kadhai (so that the milk doesn’t stick to the bottom of the wok) and add the milk. Bring it to boil, adding the saffron strands and stirring from time to time. Slowly add 4 tbsp lemon juice mixed with equal amount of water, till the cheese and the whey just start to separate. Switch off the gas immediately to prevent hardening of the cheese.
After around 3 min, pour the chenna (the cottage cheese) and the whey into cheesecloth or a muslin cloth and run cold water on this to arrest further curdling and to wash away the lemony smell. Tie the cloth and squeeze the extra whey. Keep this cloth on a perforated plate or a flat colander. Put a heavy, flat object on this for 20 min, so that there is no extra whey left in the cottage cheese.
After 20 min, open the cloth and remove the saffron-infused cheese on another flat surface. Mash the cheese thoroughly for around 15 min with your palm. Finally, a stage would be reached when there are no lumps in the chenna and it can be turned into a smooth and creamy ball.
The secret behind making the kaccha gola is all in its kneading. The better you knead, the better the texture.
The cottage cheese can also be mashed thoroughly using a stone grinder (do not use a food processor for the same). To see how a stone grinder looks like, please refer to the second picture in my post on the Incredible Indian spices (click here to see).
Break the ball once again and add the cardamom powder and the sugar. Knead well once again. The process will take five to seven more minutes.
Divide the dough into equal-sized balls and smoothen the balls with your palms. This is best eaten fresh, since refrigeration makes these hard and dry.