April heralds the welcoming of new year all over India. It is amazing to see a true example of unity in diversity through the new year celebrations all over. The essence of the celebrations are more or less the same everywhere.
Celebrated with different names, it basically marks the beginning of the harvest season and arrival of Spring.
It is called Vaisakhi in Punjab, Vishu in Kerala, Ugadi in Karnataka and Andhra pradesh, Chaitti in Himachal Pradesh, Mahavishuva Sankrant in Orissa, Navreh in Kashmir, Cheiraoba in Manipur, Puthandu in Tamil Nadu, Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra, Rongali Bihu in Assam.
Poila Boishakh is celebrated in West Bengal which literally means first day of the first month. An auspicious time for marriages and beginning of all business activities, it is celebrated with traditional dressing and food.
Born and brought up in Kolkata, I have had a mixture of celebrations with each festival. To me, Poila Boisakh means the rustle and bustle at Chaitra sales, cleaning up the house spic and span, throwing away old unwanted things and bringing in new stuff. No Bengali festival is complete without their elaborate meals and it is the perfect time of the year to visit eateries serving traditional Bengali thali's-the amish and niramish ones. People are seen jostling in their favourite sweet shops to buy the most coveted mishti for the celebrations. Each shop burns the midnight oil to create sweet delicacies which are devoured with much fun and fervour.
Poila Boisakh is also incomplete without the traditional dressing. It is so wonderful to see the passionate and artistic community of Bengalis stick to their roots and wear traditional dresses. So while women don their favourite sarees, the men are seen with their Panjabi or dhoti. Even the little ones are seen donning traditional dresses.
Bengali is one of the sweetest known language and throughout the day it is lovely to hear people wishing each other in the melodious 'Shubho Noboborsho'.
An important part of new year is the cleaning of the house. It is Spring cleaning time of the year where old unwanted things are thrown away, houses are painted, nook and corners cleaned of dirt and pests. This is time of the year when the Summer has just entered the city and humidity is also a bit high hence cockroaches sneak out from their hiding and make their way into our homes, crawling in through the dirty drain pipes bringing in all the disease causing bacteria with them. The most easiest and sure shot way to get complete rid of them is Godrej LAL HIT, with its deep reach nozzle, it is able to get rid of the cockroaches hiding in your kitchen sink outlet, under the gas cylinder or under your fridge. This ensures a hygienic environment for the family which is of utmost importance, esp during Poila Boisakh where we are eager to cook the quintessential and delicious Payesh. From this Poila Boisakh onwards, make it a point while cleaning your kitchen to use Godrej LAL HIT in the places where cockroaches hide frequently-like sink outlets, under the fridge and gas cylinder and around the dustbin.
I planned to try my hands on a mishti for this new year and have come up with Rasmadhuri where a rasagulla log is sandwiched with a saffron infused sandesh and then covered with the same. In the essence of the traditional festivity, I have placed the mishti in banana leaf wrappers.
Ingredients : Yields about 6 in number
- 500 ml cow's milk (or full cream milk)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice/a pinch of citric acid
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cup water
- a tsp each of chopped almonds, pista and raisins
- few strands of saffron in little warm milk
- 2 tbsp powdered sugar
Heat milk in a pan and let it come to a boil.
Add citric acid/lemon juice and stir well.
Soon you will see the milk curdling and whey separating.
Wait till the whey separates well.
Remove from heat and using a muslin cloth drain the chenna(curdled milk) from whey.
Hang the muslin cloth to drain excess water for half an hour.
Remove and put on a plate. Cover with another plate and put a heavy object to drain any remaining liquid for about half an hour.
Take out the chenna and knead with the heel of your palm till smooth and reaches dough consistency. This requires patience and strong arm muscles and can take around 10 minutes.
Make cylindrical shapes out of 1/3 rd of the kneaded chenna and keep remaining aside.
Make sugar syrup by boiling 1/2 cup sugar and 1 1/2 cup water in a wide mouthed pan.
Lower the log shaped chenna very gently in the sugar syrup.
Let them simmer on medium heat for 15-20 minutes or till they begin floating on the surface.
Strain out the chenna cylinders and reserve for further use.
Alternatively, take sugar and water in a pressure cooker and as the syrup comes to a rolling boil, lower the chenna cylinders. Put the lid on and cook on medium heat for 2 whistles. Allow the heat to dissipate naturally and take out the cooked chenna cylinders.
Divide the remaining kneaded chenna again into two. To one part add 1 tbsp powdered sugar, chopped nuts and saffron infused milk.
Cut the chenna cylinders into half and sandwich with the nuts and saffron milk added chenna.
Place these sandwiched logs in Banana leaf wrappers.
Add 1 tbsp of milk and 1 tbsp powdered sugar to the 1/3rd remaining chenna and mix it well. Add more milk if required to get a diluted consistency. Fill the banana leaf wrappers with this diluted chenna.
Refrigerate for it to set.
Garnish with saffron coloured streaks on top and a pista.
Banana leaf wrapper can be made very easily at home. Here is a picture tutorial.