He picks up the rather luscious-looking, glistening with sugar syrup ball of… something… just what? With his fingers… it doesn’t give… a puzzled frown forms on his forehead… then clears… aah… maybe this is not a gulab jamun… it looks like one, it smells like one but, but… hmmm… maybe a new sweet altogether… and carries it to his mouth… open in anticipation…
…it slips from his fingers… oops!… falls on the table… instead of a soft plop… there’s a thunk and then a clunk as it bounces… rolls off the table and lands on the floor with several pairs of horrified eyes watching… big THUNK as it lands but not a visible dent!
“What is it?” asks a tremulous voice…
“Gulab jamun” is the answer my cousin Minnie proffers… the maker of the hmm… let’s call it a gulab jamun!
The bowl of gulab jamuns is passed around, everyone has to help themselves… under Minnie’s eagle eye… to at least two… people (cousins and friends in the neighbourhood who have been roped in to be guinea pigs) pick up their bowls and disappear one by one to the verandah, devoutly grateful that it’s nightfall… under cover of darkness, the jamuns are nibbled at and then quietly disposed of among the many bushes which surround the house. The next day, the cook is found scratching his head in puzzlement at the sudden profusion of ants which seems to have invaded the garden!
Minnie is in her early twenties and “learning” to cook… let’s say there’s a lot of learning ahead! During the learning though, we struggled through bowls of warm, pink, gooey slush (phirni??!) and worse!
Minnie today is one of the most accomplished hostesses I have ever seen – with a table loaded with super food and a house filled with welcome always…
So for all you struggling cooks out there, never say die!
Presenting one of the most beloved of Indian sweets…
GULAB JAMUN (NOT FROM THE MIX!)
- Milk powder – 1.5 cups
- Rava (semolina) – 2 tbsp
- Maida or plain flour – 3 tbsp (boiled, mashed sweet potato is an excellent substitute for this)
- 1 pinch of baking powder (too much makes the jamuns break up when they fry)
- Milk – 4 tbsp
- Vegetable oil to deep fry – i prefer sunflower oil in sweets as it is almost odourless
FOR SUGAR SYRUP
- 1.5 cups sugar
- 1.5 cups water
- Cardamoms – 4 – powdered with a tsp of sugar
- Rose water – if you like it – a a few drops.
- Grated or slivered almonds / pistachio (optional)
Sift together all the dry ingredients – milk powder, rava, baking powder and flour. If using sweet potato, wait – don’t add now!
Add the ghee to the mix a little at a time and mix till you get a breadcrumb-y consistency. Add the grated sweet potato and add the milk a little a time, kneading lightly to get a smooth dough. Cover bowl with a cling film and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. This helps the jamuns to not break apart when frying.
Make a syrup by boiling water and sugar together. Add the cardamom and rose water and set aside but keep warm.
Heat oil to below smoking point. Make marble-sized balls of the dough using a light hand. The balls should be smooth on the surface – otherwise they’ll break apart when frying. Drop one into the oil to test. It should turn a light golden yellow and then brown – if it turns brown too fast, the oil is too hot and the balls will burn before they cook inside. Keep moving them around constantly.
Once they are a deep golden brown, remove and drop into the syrup.
They can be refrigerated and re-warmed before serving with plain vanilla ice cream or slivered pistachios / almonds.
I promise they won’t go THUNK… or KERRUNK!
(Image courtesy: Internet)