Heyyyyyy, its festival time again all over India. Fall is the time when your senses awakes you. It is that time of the year when you feel a sense of hyper energy in you, that goodness factor which makes you energetic mentally,emotionally and physically. Spirituality hits a new level with a renewed vigor. Instagram is flooded with festival specials and I’m missing my country a lot. Nostalgia, memories and childhood experiences are flashing through my system. And the only way I make up for these memories is through my culinary expeditions.
Desserts and sweets are an indispensable part of our culture. So I’ve decided to start on a sweet note this fall season which are always celebrated by something or the other in every part of the world. When decided on a dessert, I’m sticking to the traditional Gulab Jamun which is found in almost every part of India. Made from the perfect concoction of floury, milky, sugary, syrupy and nutty ingredients, the Gulab Jamun packs a powerful punch that rounds off any meal perfectly. These rose scented syrupy spheres of joy are particularly popular in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and now, it would be difficult to find an South Asian restaurant in the UAE which doesn’t have this dessert on their menu.
“Gulab” is derived from the Persian word gol (flower) and ab (water) whilst “Jamun” is the Hindi/Urdu word for Syzygium cumini, a fruit also known as the Java plum which is a similar size and shape to the Gulab Jamun.
Believe it or not, the first Gulab Jamuns were prepared in medieval India and is the descendant of a fritter. According to the culinary historian Michael Krondl, the dish may have derived from a Persian dish which was improperly prepared by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s personal chef.
This favourite Indian dessert originated in the Mediterranean and Persia where it is called as luqmat al qadi. Originally luqmat al qadi is made up of dough balls deep fried, soaked in honey syrup and sprinkled with sugar but in India we modified the recipe. Gulab jamun is a delicious dessert consisting of dumplings, traditionally made of milk boiled down to a solid mass, mixed with flour and deep-fried in ghee to golden brown color and then soaked in rose and cardamom-scented sugar syrup.
India has a national obsession with sweets and desserts. Traditionally, sweets have been made mostly with milk, ghee and honey. Drawn by the fertile plains of the Punjab and the fabulous wealth of Hindu temples, invaders from central Asia began attacking India around 1000 A.D., with the aim of establishing Muslim kingdoms in India. The Mugahl emperor Babur conquered India in 1526 A.D. and this Muslim dynasty ruled in an unbroken succession for nearly 200 years.
Desserts of central Asian origin, often flour based, reached India during this time. North Indian food went through a profound transformation during this period. Palace cooks came from all over India and many other parts of the world, each specializing in a particular delicacy. Ingredients were imported from Afghanistan and Persia. When Persian food first arrived in India, the local cooks at the palace kitchens adapted their cuisine by combining the newly arrived ingredients with familiar tastes of local Hindu culinary traditions. Soon this food, including gulab jamun, was introduced in the Mughal courts.
Instead of going for the easy version with milk powder, I’m sticking to the original recipe with Khoa/Mawa. Though this is a dish which seems to be simple, there are certain things which we have to be extremely cautious.
Mawa/Khoa can be prepared by boiling down milk to a solid nature. I got fresh khoa from Puranmal sweets as their’s is so good. This will be moisty in nature. So when making the dough one has to be careful while the binding takes place by adding milk in small quantities until the dough has come together.
The dough tends to get dry as we are adding baking powder. The second point to be noted is that it should be highly pliable by adding a bit more milk so that when it is rested , the dough attains right texture. Knead the dough thoroughly for 5-7 minutes till you get a smooth pretty dough. While you make jamuns, press firmly with your palms to make it even smoother and softer and then roll into balls.
The next important point to be noted is when you fry the jamuns. The temperature should be well maintained and balanced. Always test the oil before putting the jamuns. If the dough comes straight up, then it is ready. Once you put the jamuns for frying, reduce the heat to minimum and keep flipping till it is fried golden brown. If the temperature is too high and too low, the inside will be undercooked and you will get hard lumps and outside over burned.
Last point to be noted is that the sugar syrup should be slightly thick. It should be little more than warm but not boiling point. Fried jamuns should be kept for 2-3 minutes outside before immersing it in the sugar syrup. After adding it in the syrup, we can warm it for a minute or two and get it out of the stove if you feel the heat is too low. If the Jamuns are perfect, it’ll soak the syrup in half an hour.
I’m sure you’ll love this recipe as the gulab jamuns are so soft, spongy and syrup, that it will melt in your mouth. Happy Navarathri to all. Enjoy the festivities.
In a mixing bowl, add the khoa and crumble it up with your hand.
Add the flour and baking powder and combine.
Knead it into a dough by adding milk in very less quantity. I used to 3 tablespoons of milk. This will depend on your khoa.
Knead for five minutes until it is smooth and soft. Rest for 10 minutes.
Prepare the sugar syrup with all the ingredients except the rose water.
Boil it to a slightly thick consistency and keep warm. Add the rose syrup.
Heat the oil, adding one or two tablespoons of ghee or half oil and half ghee.
Roll out the dough to lemon sized balls and fry until golden brown.
Drain on a paper towel and add to the warm syrup after 2 minutes so that it doubles up in size. Otherwise it’ll shrink and sugar syrup wont be soaked by the jamuns.
Serve hot or cold according to your choice.