Disclaimer: As the title suggests, this is a variation on the classic Bengali ‘niramish’ Chhanar Dalna. Read on to find out how… 🙂
Now, as I’ve probably mentioned a zillion times, being a ‘probashi Bangali’, or a Bengali who has grown up outside Bengal, our eating habits have always been very varied. For one, my Dad who’s a Delhi ‘boy’, has an eternal love for ‘Dal Roti Sabzi’, while my Mom’s cooking is heavily influenced by her aunts; a little bit of Punjabi, a little Gujarati and a lot of Burmese cuisine.
So it’s not surprising that I’ve not grown up eating several ‘traditional’ Bengali dishes, especially this one. (For instance, the ‘Macher Jhal’ in our family is a Burmese inspired dish made with loaaads of garlic, some onion and tomatoes and lots of chopped coriander.)
Chhanar Dalna (often called Chhanar Kofta Curry) is a traditional Bengali preparation. It is niramish, or pure veg, made without onion or garlic, and is most often served at functions that call for pure vegetarian meals. Chhana/Chana or Chenna is the base of almost every Bengali sweet, and is made in almost every Bengali household; these days the store-bought paneer finds more popularity, though they cannot be compared. Homemade chhana has a delicate flavour that cannot be replaced by paneer.
The first time I ate Chhanar Dalna was at a ‘shraddh’ ceremony of a family member, and fell in love with it. The dish can also be made by shaping the chhana into blocks, and making cubed (like paneer), but I prefer the ‘kofta’ way. My version is a different take on this traditional Bengali dish.
The ‘twist’ in this comes from…Coconut. I have a lot of coconuts at home, sent by my Pishi (paternal aunt), and what better way to use them than this? The koftas have a healthy dose of shredded coconut in them, and a little raisin stuffed in the middle, just for fun 😛 Apart from that, I have also added a tbsp of coconut in the gravy….. so there, you have it…Chhana Dalna with a twist.
We usually make our own Chhana at home by curdling milk; a liter of full-fat milk (Amul Gold) yields about 400 gm of chhana here, but you would probably get different results with different milk brands/quality.
Chhanar Dalna (with a twist)
For the Chhana:
- Full-fat milk – 1/2 ltr or 500 ml
- Lemon juice/Vinegar – a tbsp approx
For the Koftas:
- Chhana/Paneer – 100 gms
- Coconut – 100 gms (shredded/grated)
- Maida – 2 tbsp
- Raisins – 1 for each kofta
- Salt – to taste
For the gravy:
- Potatoes – 1 large or 2 small, cubed
- Tomatoes – 2 medium
- Ginger – 1/2 inch piece
- Green chilies – 2
- Coconut – 1 tbsp, grated
- Bay leaves – 2
- Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
- Salt – to taste
- Sugar – 1/2 tsp
- Turmeric – 1 tsp
- Cumin powder – 1/2 tsp
- Coriander powder – 1 tsp
- Kashmiri red chili powder – 1 tsp
- Mustard oil – for cooking
- Ghee – 1 tsp
- Make a paste of the chopped tomatoes, green chilies and ginger. Keep aside.
- Heat the milk in a deep-bottomed vessel, and let it come to a rolling boil.
- Once you see bubbles on the surface, add the lemon juice/vinegar, and let the milk curdle without reducing the flame. This might take 4 to 7 mins.
- Once the milk curdles and the cheese curds separate from the whey, turn off heat and strain it through a thin strainer.
- Let most of the whey drain out, and then, transfer into a cheese cloth and secure the ends well.
- Place a heavy object on top of the tied-up chhana, and keep aside for an hour or 30 mins.
- After a bit, untie the chhana from the cheese cloth and transfer on to a plate.
- Knead the chhana well, until smooth. To this, add the grated coconut, and maida, and mix well.
- Add salt (remember the gravy will have salt) accordingly, and make small round and flat shaped koftas, stuffing a raisin in the middle of each one.
- Repeat process and make same-sized koftas with the remaining dough.
- Heat a shallow-pan with some ghee/oil, and let it heat up.
- Drop the koftas one by one, frying them on low heat, turning over when one side turns golden, until they’re evenly browned, and fried. (These are deep-fried usually, but I prefer shallow-frying).
- Now, and add mustard oil in the same pan. When it smokes, add the bay leaves and cumin seeds, letting them crackle.
- Now, add the potatoes, and turmeric. Fry potatoes until they’re well-browned.
- To this, add the tomato, chili and ginger paste. Add the dry masalas, and saute well on a medium-high heat until the masala changes colour and begins to coat the potatoes.
- Add the grated coconut, mix well, and add the sugar. Cover the pan for 4 to 6 mins, until potatoes have softened.
- Now, add the koftas and once again, mix well.
- Pour in a cup full of water, and cover pan, letting the koftas simmer in the gravy and soak up the masalas.
- After 5 mins or so, uncover pan, check seasonings, and gravy consistency. Gravy should be slightly thin, as the koftas will soak up some gravy.
- Turn off heat, garnish with ghee, and serve hot with rice, or rotis.