|Barfi (above); Kacha golla (below)|
Coming back to the sweets, the story behind making the kacha golla for the party is a bit like the unplanned child: one doesn't plan for it, but then it just happens! For the past few months I had been Googling traditional Bengali sweets and generally talking to people about their preferences and gathering recipes and so on. So, while in the past ten years or so, we have seen an effusive rise of excellent bakeries across the city that I am sure could well compete at international levels, the quality of Bengali sweets has been on a decline ever since. Prices have risen certainly, but standards have fallen consistently. And I kept thinking to myself that I had to learn how to make at least a few of these delicious balls of goodness because very soon there would be no decent place left to go to, where one could find them.
My personal favourite is the nolen gurer shondesh. This is a sweet prepared using soft jaggery of the season along with freshly made cottage-cheese (paneer). Anybody who is interested would find a plethora of websites sharing recipes and experiences behind its making. No one however seemed to have faced my predicament. Anyhow, shortly after having decided on making this for 20+ guests I launched into an intensive search on Google, especially on Youtube, for a good authentic recipe. I chose the one here from a Bangladeshi TV show.
I picked out the jaggery with great care from a local store, and followed the video as closely as possible. But, if any of you would have tried making shondesh at home, perhaps a few would be familiar with that feeling of growing dread when the sweet mixture does not seem to get to the right consistency! I stirred constantly, kept the flame at a constant, but nothing helped. Instead of a nice firm mix that could be pressed into a mould, what I had was more of a goopy mess in the pan. After about an hour of cooking, with my heart set stone dead, I decided to stick in a spoon for a taste. And to my great delight, it tasted great! I made frantic calls to my parents and discovered that what I had unknowingly made was not shondesh, but kacha golla!! I turned off the heat and let the pan cool for about 45 minutes. Miraculously, the extra water content dried up, and what I was left with, was just right to roll into balls. They had that wonderful aroma of fresh jaggery and just melted into the mouth.
Joy o' joy!
What you need1 cup of jaggery, broken into pieces
800 gm paneer
How toThe first step to a great kacha golla is kneading the paneer. This needs to be done for a long, long, long, time using base of the palm on a large flat work surface. There should be no lumps left whatsoever. Not the tiniest of them! We worked on it for more than half an hour - Len helped - but I think there was a scope for more! Just batter that block of paneer into a smooth paste.
Once this is out of the way, take a non-stick pan and add the jaggery. Keep the heat at the lowest and gently stir the jiggery as it melts. Make sure it does not burn and if needed, the pan can be taken off the heat in between.
After a couple of minutes, add the paneer in batches. Make sure the jaggery and paneer mix evenly, before adding the next lot. Once you have added the paneer completely, keep stirring for another hour. The sweets are ready when the mix begins to harden slightly. Turn off the heat and let it sit for sometime till it cools completely. Finally roll them into small balls using your palms.