Prasadham (food offerings) served in Hindu temples are generally prepared to please the palates of devotees. But there are some exceptions, it is also served for the sole purpose of cleansing the souls of pilgrims in sacred temples like Puri Jagannath Temple. It is believed that one can attain moksha (salvation from sins/ rebirth) by partaking the prasadam offered in this temple, hence the offerings in here are known as Mahaprasad (supreme offerings). Chhena Poda is one such Mahaprasad prepared in this temple kitchen, the largest in the world.
There are as many as 56 food items like salad, rice, dal, curries, desserts, confectioneries, cakes, etc. offered to deities by performing elaborate rituals every day 5 times a day. Since Mahaprasad serves a unique purpose, the offerings are not prepared meticulously. All the ingredients are just mixed together, cooked in large mud pots using firewood without much of intervention and served to devotees in small mud pots after completing the rituals.
Chhena Poda, an Indian cheesecake, is one of the cakes offered to Lord Vishnu in Puri Jagannath Temple. Chhena poda (meaning roasted cheese) is also prepared by mixing cottage cheese (chhena/paneer), sweetener, dry fruits and spices and cooked in slow fire until browned. It is also a commonly prepared sweet dish in Odisha offered to deities at home during Durga Pooja. So we, Tamilians, may offer chhena poda as neivedyam to the deities at home in this Navarathri and distribute cheesecake slices as prasadam.
I have prepared chhena poda using jaggery as the sweetener, and I have not used any additives, garnishes, etc. as I prefer to make it as simple as the one prepared in the temple kitchen. But you can use sugar for the whiter cheesecake, add a pinch of baking powder to enhance the texture, garnish this cake with chopped nuts and serve with honey or any fruit sauce.
Besides I used home-made chhena (paneer/ cottage cheese) for making this cheesecake. I used 2 Litres of milk to get 1 and 1/2 cups of cheese, and also used lemon juice extracted from 2 lemons for curdling the milk. You may refer the gif below which is self explanatory for making cottage cheese.
Chhena Poda Recipe:
|Paneer (cottage cheese/ chhena)||1 and 1/2 cups|
|Powdered jaggery||3/4 cup|
|Rava (sooji)*||1/8 cup|
|Ghee-roasted cashew nuts||as desired|
|Whey water (or milk)||as needed|
*Rava used as binding agent, you may use APF (maida) also.
Chhena Poda baking:
We just need to mix all the ingredients to knead into a smooth dough and then add whey water to reach the required consistency of cake batter. I have greased the baking pan with ghee & spread the caramelized jaggery at the bottom of pan. Finally added the batter into the pan, and baked it for 40 minutes at 180 deg C.
Since caramelized jaggery is added at the bottom of the pan, the cake normally gets stuck to the pan. So we can melt the jaggery by keeping the pan immersed into hot water inside an electric cooker for few minutes. This helps to detach the cake from pan.