I’m the only person with sweet tooth at our house. Needless to say I can easily put on weight and have to work double the time to lose a pound. It takes mountains of will power and power pep talk by my conscious to put a tight restrain to keep my sweet tooth under control. Oh my!!! you’ll have no idea what kind of cajoling and ballooning imaginations I create about myself to keep my hands away from the sweet box. This month’s Indian Cooking Challenge is to prepare Chenna Poda, an Oriya dish prepared with paneer and sugar. I was wondering how people in early days made Chenna poda with out an oven that’s readily available now. With a quick internet search I learnt that Chenna poda’s literal meaning is burnt cheese. Traditionally a dough of fresh paneer(cottage cheese), sooji and sugar are wrapped in a leaf and cooked in earthen clay pot under high heat for hours. When the dough gets cooked, they remove the burnt leaf and eat the cooked dough with caramelized sugar getting the name burnt cheese. I prepared this dish on my daughter’s birthday and I let myself enjoy some of the podas for the sweet occasion. I munched as many podas as my conscious would let me before closing the box and keeping it away, its that irresistible!!! The dish was so easy to make, I used the measurements from Nikki’s site but with my modifications. I had some store bought ricotta cheese and I made some fresh paneer and mixed both and the resulting poda was so yummy. The only mistake I made was not using the right baking pan size(I used 9×13 instead of 9×9 inch pan). So my cake was quite thin but there was no compromise in the taste.
For the Chenna:
Milk — 1 liter (whole milk)
Vinegar — 3 Tbsp
Water — 1/4 cup (for diluting vinegar)
Cheese cloth –1
1. Boil milk in microwave for 10 minutes in a microwave proof dish. Transfer the milk to a pan and boil for additional minute.
2. Dilute vinegar and water and add them to the milk little by little. Let them curdle till the whey separate from the cheese. Drain the whey using a cheese cloth. (Note: I reserved the whey water for other uses). Hang the cheese cloth for 10 minutes. Squeeze excess water and use it to make the poda.
For the Chenna Poda:
Ricotta cheese — 1 tub (450gm)
Chenna made from 1 liter of milk
Sooji — 3 Tbsp (soaked in little water)
Sugar — 1.5 cups
Raisins –1/2 cup
Cashews (roasted) — 1/4 cup (broken in to small pieces)
Cardamom powder — a pinch
1. Mix ricotta cheese, fresh cottage cheese(paneer), sooji, 1 cup of sugar, raisins, cashews, cardamom powder. Before making the caramelized sugar, preheat oven and keep the baking pan ready.
2. In a small pan, add 1/2 cup of water and remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and boil till the sugar is caramelized and is in the form of thick syrup with amber color. Immediately pour the caramelized sugar on the bottom of the pan. If left to cool, the sugar will harden so this step has to be done with care.
3. Pour the prepared cheese dough from step 1 on top of the caramelized sugar and bake it in 350F oven for 35-40 minutes or tooth pick inserted comes out clean(It may take more, it took about an hour for me). Remove from oven, let it cool and invert the pan on to a plate. Cut it in to desired pieces and Enjoy!!!
Note: This sweet can stand fresh in a refrigerator for up to a week and can be served hot or cold. I liked it warm so I warm it in microwave before eating.
Mix ricotta cheese, paneer, sooji, raisins, sugar, cashews, cardamom powder. Line the bottom of baking sheet with caramelized sugar and pour the cheese mixture on top. Bake at 350F for 35-40 mins or until tooth pick inserted comes out clean. Enjoy!!!
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