Sweet Salve

One of my favourite Indian sweets – mishti doi, or sweentened yogurt, is also an auspicious food in Bengal; no celebratory spread of comestibles offered to any deity (to then be consumed by earthly beings) would be complete without it in this eastern state. It is made by boiling milk until it reduces and thickens. To this is added a syrup of caramelised sugar or more traditionally date molasses (khajuri gum) and the mixture poured into earthernware (clay) cups and left to sit overnight. The porous clay  allows water to evaporate contributing to the thickening of the milk. This process works  in Bengal where the climate is perfect for natural fermentation  – i.e., it is hot and sticky most of the year – but attempts to reproduce mishti doi in other climes will most likely require the addition of a small amount of yogurt to assist the mix to thicken.The best mishti doi has a thin layer of solidified cream on the top.

Describing the taste of  mishti doi  is like trying to describe the taste of vanilla – very difficult. You will have to trust me when I say that at its best it is ambrosial – and it is not as cloyingly saccharine as Indian sweets often are.

I have been on a misthi doi spree in Calcutta and when I work out the categories thing for this blog I will post my picks. I will also add a recipe once I have had the chance to develop and test one.

As sweet salve to your appetite in the meantime here is a recipe for Shrikand, another delicious yogurt based dessert that is popular all over India. This is my version which is pretty damm good. I like the yogurt to be quite thick but if you were short on time it wouldn’t be the end of the world if you didn’t hang  (see recipe) it at all (although it won’t be as nice). Yes you can use thick Greek style yogurt but it is still not as good as hung yogurt, also the Greek variety is usually part cream (yes that is why is tastes so good) and it is too rich for this dessert. If you have fresh mango at hand add some mango pieces. Enjoy.

Shrikand

Serves 6

Ingredients

a pinch of saffron threads

½ tablespoon hot milk

4 cups of whole milk yogurt

½ cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon rosewater

2 tablespoons roasted almonds, sliced

1 tablespoon shelled pistachio nuts, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons dried apricots, finely sliced

Method

1. Take a clean tea-towel and wet it. Lay the tea towel over a colander and sit the colander in the sink. Spoon the yogurt into the colander. Gather up the edges of the tea-towel and ‘hang’ it over a tap somewhere where it can drip into a sink. Leave it hanging for at least two hours. The longer you hang it the thicker the yogurt will become.

2. Heat a heavy based pan over a medium heat. Add the saffron threads and roast until brittle. Powder these in a mortar and pestle, stir into the hot milk. Blend the milk into the yogurt.

3. Blend the sugar and rosewater into the yogurt. Reserve a few of the nuts for garnish and mix the remaining nuts and apricots into yogurt. Serve chilled or at room temperature and garnish with the reserved nuts.