Sweet memories…

by Sunita on April 13, 2008

As most of us know, this month, Bengali cuisine is in the limelight and is the cuisine to be celebrated as part of RCI.

My earliest association of Bengal and Bengalis is our PE teacher in school (Mr. Ganguli)….we always thought he brought ‘roshogullas’ in his lunch box every day !!

My ma has always been a fan of everything Bengali…could rattle of all the author’s names and probably has read a gazilion of books in this language; knows the name of every Bengali movie of her day, as well as most of the songs. We used to tease her how she must have been a Bengali in her previous life :-) But I must admit, and a bit sadly, that inspite of so much exposure, I did not care to learn.

I did have quite a few Bengali friends, but they were all born and brought up in Assam, and were probably, in some ways, more Assamese than I was :-) When I started working, I met a few more , with the same story.

Then I got married…and within seven months we were living in Kolkata. Oh! How I wished I had learnt the language earlier…I had so many chances and now it was too late. I was worried to go shopping on my own…didn’t know what to ask for; not that Dinesh was any better, but as he came a month earlier, he had a little advantage :-)

Of course, in Kolkata, we also had a very good family friend…Debashish was like a younger brother to Dinesh…and Kaku and Kakima( uncle and aunt) were the kindest souls one could possibly come across….their home, for us ,was ‘a home away from home’. How we looked forward to the spread in their house…lapped up so eagerly by us. But, they lived very far from where we did, and, me being pregnant, and kaku not being in the best of health, did not help the situation at all.

And then I met Anima…I have already weaved eulogies in her praise in an earlier post …remember this?..that’s the same lady. She was the one who translated words for me and I gradually gained confidence and was conversing and haggling with great gusto :-) …so much that someone once asked Dinesh…’Bangali bou ta kothai pelen’ (where did you get the Bengali bride)…my Bengali’s a bit rusty now, so please forgive me, Sandeepa, if I had got it wrong. But that comment was, for me, a great achievement in itself :-)

And of course, later that year, Rengoni came into our lives, followed a year later by Agastya. I had a difficult pregnancy with Agastya…but Dr. Roy, my gynaecologist was like a godsend…offering us all the support we needed,morally as well, right from day one. On one occasion, he even came and drove me to the hospital in an emergency, since Dinesh was attending a meeting and could not be reached ,as his cell phone had to be switched off. We are still in contact with Dr Roy and his family…such a kind, fatherly soul.

I also remember Sabita Dhar , our German tutor, when me and Dinesh took a crash course in German at the Max Muellar institute in Kolkata…well, I just went a little beyond the Guten Morgen and the Guten tag, as I had to stop going due to my second pregnancy complications. But, yes, she was quite a character…so full of life.

As I came in contact with Bengal and it’s culture, I was really amazed as to how similar it was to our’s(Assamese). Of course, I knew it for a fact, but to witness it is an entirely different thing. For one, the script is exactly the same, save for one tiny variation in a letter. Durga puja, which is the main religious festival is something I grew up with….the same atmosphere…the same rituals, and of course, the same food…khichuri (khisiri), labra, beguni bhaja(bengena bhaja/bhaji), followed by payesh(payash) or at times mishti doi….and, of course, the great love for fish.

Sometimes, I simply can’t believe that we lived in Kolkata for only a year and a half; so much had happened in those one and a half years…met so many wonderful people, tasted great food, became fluent in the language ( though a bit rusty now)…and most important of all, became a mum twice, the second time , managing to touch death’s door and return. But I survived, and here I am , writing odes to this lovely place and all those lovely people…there are many many more, and though I have not been able to mention each one of them here, they are still in my heart…all those kindly faces that have left an indelible impression.

Such sweet memories demand something sweet. And so sweet it is…none other than mishti doi (sweetened yogurt), the ever popular Bengali dessert.

It is prepared by boiling milk until it is slightly thickened, adding a sweetening agent, such as sugar, gur (jaggery) or khajuri gur (date molasses), and allowing the milk to ferment overnight. Earthenware is always used as the container as the gradual evaporation of water through its porous walls not only further thickens the yoghurt, but also produces the right temperature for the growth of the culture. Very often the yoghurt is delicately seasoned with a hint of elaichi (cardamoms) for fragrance (more here)

I loved the little earthen pots in which they used to be served in. I have never made them before though. I came across this recipe and followed it….making very slight modifications. From my experience at watching yogurts being set at home, I do remember that warm weather helped. But as we are still a little far away from summer here,( well, we had snowfall last week ). So, I pre heated the oven, then switched it off , and let the yogurt set inside it. This worked beautifully, and I think it speeded up the process as well, inspite of my apprehensions.

What’s needed
-

1 litre full cream milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
2-3 tbsp water
3/4 tbsp curd (I used plain yoghurt)
1 tsp crushed cardamom seeds( not in the original recipe)

How to-

  1. Put the milk to boil with 1 cup sugar.
  2. Bring to boil and further simmer for 7-8 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile put remaining sugar in a heavy saucepan.
  4. Heat on high, stirring continuously, till brown like caramel.
  5. Add water and stir well (watch out for the spluttering) till boil is resumed.
  6. Add to the boiling milk (the spluttering again) and stir well along with the crushed cardamom.
  7. Boil for a further 5-7 minutes.
  8. Cool till warm. Add yogurt and whisk .
  9. Either pour into individual cups or a single vessel ( I poured them into ramekins ).
  10. Cover with lids or lid ( I covered the ramekins tightly with bits of foil).
  11. Keep in a warm, dark, dry place (eg. a kitchen cupboard) till set. (I pre heated the oven at 180 deg C, then switched it off, arranged the ramekins on a large roasting tray and placed the tray in the centre of the oven. Took me approximately 2 hours. If the oven becomes too cool, take the tray out, reheat the oven, switch it off and return the tray. )

The taste was quite good, better than I imagined…next time, I would just reduce the sugar a teeny bit. I served it chilled, which I feel is the best way to have it. It also firms up more on chilling. All in all , a nice and sweet dessert :-)

It is a common belief among the local folks that any assignment taken after eating the Mishti Doi would be successful…all the more reason to make it :-)

This, of course, goes to dear Sandeepa who is hosting RCI this month, an event started by Lakshmi. This month’s theme is Bengal.

update-

Natun basarar subheshya (new year wishes)

Today (14th April) also marks the start of our Assamese new year along with many other Indian states. We celebrate it as Bohag bihu. I wish all my readers a very happy and prosperous new year.

Read more about our Bihu in this post.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Suganya April 13, 2008 at 10:33 pm

Show them French, that we have a version of creme caramel too. Looks divine, Sunita.

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2 Rachel April 14, 2008 at 2:59 am

that looks heavenly!

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3 Cinnamon April 14, 2008 at 4:35 am

Looks wonderful, and a very nice write-up :)

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4 sra April 14, 2008 at 6:23 am

This is quite an eye-opener, I always thought mishti doi was white, and simply sugar added to curds!

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5 SMN April 14, 2008 at 6:23 am

Sunita i love mishti dohi.. i always get it from KC Das who is famous for their kolkata sweets. Yours luks divine..

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6 sunita April 14, 2008 at 8:14 am

suganya,lol… creme caramel indeed…anyway, thanks :-D

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7 sunita April 14, 2008 at 8:15 am

rachel, thanks…tastes good too :-)

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8 sunita April 14, 2008 at 8:17 am

sra, sugar added to curds is also eaten in plenty both by the Assamese as well s Bengali, but mishti doi is definitely different :-)

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9 Arundathi April 14, 2008 at 10:38 am

I love mishti doi…and yes I’ve only eaten it at KC Das. How wonderful to be able to make it at home. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

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10 bee April 14, 2008 at 1:49 pm

happy new year to you and your family, dear sunita. i adore mishti doi. thanks for the recipe.

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11 farida April 14, 2008 at 4:23 pm

Happy New Year to you and your family! Interesting post and the recipe!

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12 Mandira April 14, 2008 at 7:09 pm

wow, sunita mishti doi looks fantastic! shubha nababarsha to you and your family.

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13 Lisa April 14, 2008 at 9:40 pm

I’ve never made anything like this before but I am thinking I should. Thanks for sharing this.

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14 Kalai April 14, 2008 at 11:07 pm

Such a sweet write-up, Sunita… Your mishti doi looks absolutely delectable. Have never tried it before, but it sounds so delicious and easy to make, too. Thanks for sharing the sweet dish and sweet memories! :)

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15 KayKat April 15, 2008 at 5:05 am

Happy New Year to you too, S!

I was thinking of making mishti doi tomorrow, but I’d rather just drool over this post and hope that you’ll just send some my way :)

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16 Peabody April 15, 2008 at 5:51 am

Sweetened yogurt…so I can eat it for breakfast right? :)

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17 sunita April 15, 2008 at 8:46 am

arundathi,
Thanks…yes, I too was pleasantly surprised at how nicely it came out :-)

bee,
Thanks…do give it a try :-)

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18 sunita April 15, 2008 at 8:49 am

farida,
Thanks :-)

mandira,
Thanks….shubho naboborsho to you and Ashwin too :-)

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19 sunita April 15, 2008 at 8:50 am

lisa,
You’re most welcome…do give it a try…tastes wonderful :-)

kalai,
Thanks…do give it a try…it is indeed a very easy recipe :-)

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20 sunita April 15, 2008 at 8:55 am

kay,
Thanks dearie…wish I could really send some over…but till then, drool :-)

peabody,
Eerm, though it is supposed to be a dessert, I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t have it for breakfast as well ;-)

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21 Cooking April 15, 2008 at 10:41 am

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Because I show various recipes, please visit the all of you.
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If a site and you that it is possible, and a big connection comes,
and it was watched comment by each other by linking have you visit it,
I am happy at all. And I pray for your good luck.

Reply

22 pixen April 15, 2008 at 3:35 pm

oooh la laaaaa… that’s a lipsmacking dessert you have there!

Happy New Year to you and family!

I love Bengali dessert as well. Thank you for sharing the recipes. I would like to try it for a friend’s mother. She’s getting older and not feeling that feeling well lately. Being that she can’t cook Bengali dishes that much anymore.Since her son-in-law and daughters-in-law are foreigners, it’s difficult to teach or explain the cuisine even though they love Bengali food… I hope to cheer up her & family.

hugs

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23 AnuZi April 15, 2008 at 4:46 pm

2 years ago my Father in law was posted in Calcutta through his bank. So when they came to the US for the wedding…one of our wedding gifts was fresh mishti dhoi!! Yes in the mud pot and all and to this day I cannot believe that he was able to bring it the US through his check in bags. The pot did not break and it was yummy as ever! Now that i have a recipe to make my own…I’ll tell em not to try that feat again ;o)

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24 Sandeepa April 16, 2008 at 5:07 am

That was such a sweet post Sunita. Tomar Bangla ekdom perfect ar mishti doi o :)

BTW do you get to watch “sa re Ga Ma” in UK ? That little girl from Assam, was such a beautiful singer

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25 Luxusimmobilien April 16, 2008 at 9:35 am

You may be a Indian. I like Indian people.

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26 sunita April 17, 2008 at 6:03 am

cooking,
:-)

pixen,
Thanks…do give it a try … hope that your friends like it too :-)

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27 sunita April 17, 2008 at 6:08 am

anu,
that was so sweet…and yes, now you can make it yourself :-)

sandeepa,
Glad you like it…Kolkata evokes so many memories, that i tend to go all soppy at times :-)

Luxusimmobilien ,
:-)

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28 Rashmi December 4, 2010 at 9:31 am

Hi there, have my 3rd attempt at this dish sitting in a warm oven n hoping beyond hope that it sets. I live in Bangalore n the weather is a bit nippy. BUT I make loads of normal yoghurt everyday without a problem. So cant imagine what happens when some sugar is added to the milk. Maybe some scientific fact that is beyond my gray cells! However will keep Robert Bruce in mind n experiment on! Love the recipes in yr site n the fact that they use healthy ingredients as much as is possible.

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