The Indian Cheesecake

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The Indian Cheesecake

by Sai Priya Lady’s Phinger 


The super popular ‘Cheesecake’ is believed to have originated in ancient Greece. With the Roman conquest of Greece, the secret fell into Roman hands. The Roman name for cheesecake was ‘placenta’. Also called ‘libum’, which was a sacrificial cake sometimes offered to household spirits during Rome’s early history.

But how many of us are aware of the fact that the only Indian version of the Cheesecake is made in our state, Odisha! You needn’t scratch your head to recollect when the Greeks or Romans invaded India, because they never did. Rather, it was indigenously prepared by the owner of a confectionary shop in Nayagada. The big bang theory of Odia sweets goes like this! It all happened when Sudarshan Sahu was experimenting with some left-over ‘Chenna’ (cheese) by mixing some sugar and spices to it. He left it over-night on an earthen stove that was still hot from earlier use. The next day, Voila! He was pleasantly surprised to see that he had created a scrumptious dessert. ‘Chenna’ after all is nothing but a close cousin of ‘Ricotta’ cheese. His chance creation is popularly known as ‘Chennapoda’.

It needs no introduction if you are an NRO (non-residential Odia) who has experimented with some exotic cheese in an oven to recreate the magic of Chennapoda, when you felt meetha-sick abroad. Same is the state of an Odia going home to Odisha for a vacation from his place of posting outside the state. “Hi, I heard you are headed home.. It’s such a coincidence that my hubby/ wifey loves Chennapoda” says your neighbour ! To make matters worse, your sweet-toothed neighbour has promised to pay for it.

What makes the Chennapoda so special?

The big difference is that Chennapoda is egg-less, unlike the Roman cheesecake. Sadly, the inventor, Sudarshan Sahu is no more, but what he has left behind is an art of making the ‘Queen of Desserts’, Chennapoda.

Not surprising, it is extremely common in any sweet shop. The icing on the cake is provided to get the perfect crust at the top and bottom. Traditionally the mixture of soft chenna, sugar and some spices is wrapped up carefully in Sal-tree leaves, which act as a binder. After a few hours when the Chennapoda is baked in an earthen stove, it looks like a burnt cheese-cake. Red hot coal is put on top of the dough, so that it develops a crust on top. This is what makes you feel a slow deluge of flavours when you taste a slice of Chennapoda.…Complete bliss ! ❏

RECIPE

INGREDIENTS….

Preparation Time: 10 min
Cooking Time: 1 hour
Yield: 7 inch Chennapoda

 2 liter Full-tone Milk        3 tbsp warm milk           2 tbsp fine semolina
 1 cup sugar                          2 tbsp vinegar                 2 tbsp green-cardamom powder
 1 tsp baking powder          1 tsp clarified butter      2 tbsp fried cashew

PREPARATION METHOD………

• Pre-heat your oven for 10 minutes at 170 degree Celsius /Gas mark 3.
• Boil the milk in a heavy bottom pan in a medium heat. As the milk boils, gradually add vinegar and stir slowly.
• You will notice that the milk starts curdling, turn off the heat.
• Now strain the curdled milk through a muslin cloth. Wash it well with running water for 2 to 3 times. Press the Chenna to take out the water and transfer into a bowl.
• And add semolina, powdered sugar and mix well.
• Add cardamom powder, milk, baking powder, cashew nuts, mix it well.
• Take baking aluminum round tin. Sprinkle 1 tbsp sugar at the bottom. Heat the Pan on gas stove and let the sugar melt and form a brown colour caramel. Switch off the heat and let it cool.
• Grease the side of the Pan with ghee and pour the chenna mixture into the tin .
• Bake for 50 to 60 mins till it’s done.
• Let it cool down in the pan for 5 minutes before you take it out on a plate, cut into slices and serve.

Plating Tips:
Use Cookie cutter and make heart-shaped pieces. Serve chennapoda with chilled whipping cream.

While peeling ginger with a peeler or a knife, you must have realized that you also end up doing away with an equal
amount of the base. Try peeling it with a spoon instead. You’ll be surprised with the difference.
                                                                                                                                                               Asha Mohapatra

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