It's the season of festivals and festivities abound in every part of the country. From Navratri to Durga Puja, to Dussehra and to finally Diwali, October is filled with colourful and important festivals for Indians around the world. Durga Puja celebrations are particularly important for Bengalis and a good part of East Indian states. Pujo is the most joyous festival for Bengalis and is considered an occasion of homecoming for the Hindu feminine divine, represented by the Goddess Durga. The festival is characterised by the setting up of huge pandals with gigantic idols of the Goddess. People come from near and far to these pandals to pay their obeisance to their beloved Goddess. Pujo is also an occasion for gorging on delicious dishes and desserts, including the quintessential Bengali delight Sandesh.
Sandesh (or shondesh) is a dessert that originated in Bengal and any Bengali celebration is incomplete without it. The milk sweet is essentially sweetened chhena or cottage cheese and has a rich milky flavour. There are many different types of the sweet that are available nowadays and most of them add a twist of popular flavours to the original milk Sandesh. For this Pujo, you can try giving your batch of Sandesh a twist by adding chocolate to it. To make Sandesh, you start by curdling freshly boiled milk until the paneer or cottage cheese separates. Then the paneer is allowed to cool down and kneaded for about two minutes until it becomes softer and smoother. This is when the sugar is added and if you want to give your Sandesh your chocolatey twist, add the cocoa powder too.
The paneer is again kneaded until the sugar and cocoa mixes well with it. The paneer is then cooked on low heat and then allowed to sit in the fridge for some time, before being rolled into balls. Today's recipe of chocolate Sandesh is garnished with a delightful chocolate sauce.