Durga Puja Special (Ashtami): Chhanar Dalna / Curry with Cottage Cheese Balls

You have saved the best attire from your Puja shopping for this day. No matter how late you went to bed last night, you don't mind waking up early this morning, because it is Ashtami. Most of you would choose to wear a serene and traditional Bengali look as you head for Pushpanjali (offering of flowers to the Goddess). I somehow feel that this morning is so special because it captures the essence of Durga Puja. The sense of community and family bonding echoes in the harmonious chanting of the prayers and in the beats of dhaak (drums). Keeping in sync with the spirit of this day people often like to devote their time to the quintessential Bong adda (chit-chat) and food, surrounded by near ones. Well, in most households this day is strictly vegetarian. Bengalis even exclude onions and garlic from their vegetarian diets. But that does not mean that there is any less to Ashtami in terms of food, especially when you start with bhog er khichuri and end up on chhanar dalna. So, here's the recipe that will add more flavour to your Ashtami fun.

Chhanar Dalna 


INGREDIENTS:

Cottage cheese: 1 lb / 500gms*
All purpose flour: 2 tsp
Red chilli powder: 1 1/2 tsp
Green cardamoms: 4
Cinnamon stick: 1 1/2 inch
Cumin seeds: 1 tsp
Bay leaf: 1
Ginger paste: 1 1/2 tsp
Potatoes (diced): 2 medium sized
Tomatoes (chopped): 2/3 cup
Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
Cumin powder: 1 1/2 tsp
Green chillies (chopped): 2
Garam masala powder: 1 1/2 tsp
Ghee / Clarified butter: 1 tsp (optional)
Sugar: 2 tsp
Oil
Salt to taste

*To make cottage cheese at home, take 2 lb / 1 liter of whole milk and bring it to boil. Add juice of 1 lime or 3 tbsp of white vinegar. Turn off the heat when the milk separates completely. Finally strain it and drain out the water.

PROCEDURE:

Squeeze out any excess water form the cottage cheese. You may also use a dry paper towel to soak up the excess water.

Mash the cottage cheese thoroughly with your hands, until it is smooth (almost like a paste) and free of any lumps. This could take you a good 10 to 15 minutes.


Add all purpose flour, red chilli powder (1/2 tsp), sugar (1 tsp) and salt. Knead everything together very well.


Now from small balls out of that dough.


Heat oil in a pan for shallow frying. Fry the balls and keep them aside.


Heat a little oil (2 tsp) in some other pan for the curry. Add cardamom, cinnamon, cumin seeds and bay leaf. Saute a little and then add ginger paste.


Now add the diced potatoes, turmeric powder and a little salt. Saute for a couple of minutes then cover the pan. Let it cook for about 2 to 3 minutes.


Next, add the tomatoes, chopped green chillies, cumin powder and red chilli powder. Cook it till the tomatoes are mushy. (You may also add a little water to avoid the burning of the spices.)


Now add water (2 1/2 cups), salt and rest of the sugar to it. Let it come to a boil. Then add the cottage cheese balls to it.


Lastly, add the garam masala powder and ghee. Give it a stir to mix everything well and then turn off the heat.

Enjoy chhanar dalna with some rice for your Ashtami lunch.



Photographs by Swakshar Ghosh

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