So it’s almost Diwali. Even though we don’t celebrate it, we enjoy the food that comes with it. After trying out a few sweet and savory recipes for Diwali over the last five years, I’ve come to realize that a lot of recipes are fairly quick and easy to make, compared to most of the traditional Goan sweets. That makes me happy because I know I can whip up so many treats in a jiffy. However, there are a few recipes that are time consuming and tedious when made from scratch, like a good peda. A peda, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, is a hand shaped piece of fudge made and enjoyed all over India. Now, I have made fudge before but had never tried making Pedas at home. That is, until I recently came across a recipe for an Instant version. Yup, you heard me, there is an instant version of the good old peda.
When I lived in Mumbai, I was fortunate enough to have 3 really good Indian sweet shops or Mithaiwalas in the vicinity. Thankfully they weren’t too close. I’d literally go nuts whenever I went there. There were so many options to choose from. And I don’t to well with too many options. I just cannot pick in those situations. Anyway, my indecisiveness aside, one of my favourite Indian sweets has to be Gulab Jamuns. Gulab Jamuns are beautiful little deep fried dumplings soaked in cardamom infused sugar syrup.
I have made Gulab Jamun at home a few times now. Traditionally, the dumplings are made with milk that is reduced to an almost solid state. This process takes atleast an hour. If you live in India, you should be able to go to the store and buy mava / khoya (the reduced milk solids). If you don’t want to spend as much time or money (mava / khoya can be pricey), but still want to sit back and enjoy some home made Gulab Jamun, you have come to the right place. I have found a recipe that will probably take you about half an hour (or thereabouts) to make from start to finish.
If you are someone who has just about started dabbling in Indian food and want to impress your family and friends with some home made Indian dessert, try your hand at this recipe. You will love it and you can count on being hailed a superstar if you bring these to a potluck or any party.
Now, on to the recipe. I cannot take credit for this genious idea. I was watching Better Homes and Gardens one Friday night and I saw Fast Ed make these and I knew then and there that I had to try them out myself. It was too good to be true and the skeptic in me, knew there’d be something different about these. Either the flavour or the texture wouldn’t be right. But I was wrong, so very wrong. These Gulab Jamun turned out just like I remember them. Beautiful luscious dumplings, soft and drenched in the infused sugar syrup. These are best enjoyed a little warm but they are pretty darn good served cold as well. Even in the traditional sweet shops in India the sizes of the dumpling vary. I make them a little smaller because they will expand after frying and soaking in the sugar syrup. I prefer them smaller because that way they cook through quickly and they look so dainty served in a little bowl. I have also seen them made oblong in shape. Either way they are like little bites of heaven.
You could dress them up by sprinkling some pistachio dust (grated/ finely chopped pistachio) over them. They don’t need it, but it looks prettier. I didn’t have any pistachio with me, so I skipped that step.
If you love Gulab Jamun as much as I do, and you’ve been known to pick up some of the tinned stuff you get in the Indian stores or probably even the ready mixes (like Gits etc.), ditch them. You don’t need any of that stuff. Try this recipe out and you’ll never go back to those tins and mixes again.
For the sugar syrup –
4 pods of cardamom
Open the cardamom pods and separate the seeds and the shells.
Place all the ingredients, including the cardamom seeds and shells in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
Lower the temperature after it comes to a boil and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
Take off the heat and set it aside.
** We usually crush the cardamom seeds to a powder and add that to the syrup. This results in a stronger infusion of flavour. If you haven’t tried cardamom before or aren’t sure how strong the flavour would be, start off by keeping the seeds whole. The favour infused will be subtle. When serving, make sure you discard the seeds and shells first.
** Start off by making the syrup first because it needs to cool a little before you can add the dumplings. The syrup needs to be warm, not scalding hot when the dumplings are put in.
** Do NOT stir the syrup once the sugar has dissolved. Stirring will crystallise the sugar.
For the dumplings –
220g milk powder
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp ghee / clarified butter
A little milk (approximately less than half a cup)
Oil, for deep frying
Heat the oil for deep frying.
Place the milk powder, all purpose flour, baking powder and ghee in a mixing bowl.
Gradually add the milk a little at a time and bind the ingredients to a dough. It is important to not add too much milk while making the dough. Use just enough to bind everything together.
Shape them into little balls. You want the balls to be smaller than what size you want the finished product because they will expand.
This recipe yield 20-22 massive dumplings or if you’re after little ones, you can get about 45. I got 47 in all. Make sure the dumplings are evenly sized so that they cook evenly.
Test if the oil is hot by placing a tiny pea sized ball in the oil. If it sizzles and rises to the top you’r oil is hot enough and you can proceed. If it just sits in the oil, you need to heat the oil a little more. If the ball just chars, you’re oil is too hot. Take it off the heat for a couple of minutes and then place it back on slightly lower heat and continue.
Have the oil on medium heat.
Carefully, drop the dumplings in the hot oil and fry till golden brown.
Your sugar syrup should have cooled down a little by now, but should still be fairly warm.
Using a slotted spoon, take the dumplings out of the oil and tap off any excess oil and put the dumplings in the sugar syrup straight away. Watch them expand as they soak in the syrup. Gently turn them around in the syrup after about a minute so that is soaks in the syrup on all sides.
Repeat with the rest of the batter. Once the dumpling have soaked in the sugar syrup and expanded a bit, you can carefully take them out into a shallow serving bowl or a baking dish like this one. Pour all the sugar syrup over.
At this stage, you can add the chopped pistachio over.
Sneak a peek at what it looks like on the inside. Soft, melt in your mouth goodness!
Serve warm or cold.
As the person who put made these lovely dumplings, even if you’re making this ahead of time, I urge you to sample some of these warm and you’ll know what I’m talking about. 🙂