Gulab jamun

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Literally translating as ‘rose berry’ (‘gulab’ means ‘rose’, and ‘jamun’ is a dark purple berry native to the subcontinent), gulab jamun is of one of India’s most loved sweets. Traditionally the recipe calls for mawa, or milk that has been reduced down to a paste, but we’re simply using milk powder for these deliciously soft melt-in-the-mouth sweets. You can serve them warm, cold or chilled on their own, or garnished with pistachios, or stuffed with nuts or a piece of popcorn. I serve them warm, with a scoop of ice cream.

Preparation 15 minutes + 30 minutes standing + 1 hour soaking
COOKING about 5 minutes per batch

Ingredients

  • 110 g ( oz/1 cup) full-fat milk powder
  • 35 g ( oz/¼ cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • a pinch of salt (optional)
  • a pinch of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 1–2 tablespoons Greek-style yoghurt
  • ½ teaspoon ghee
  • 10–12 pieces of sweet makhana/elaichi dana (sugar-coated cardamom seeds)
  • 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  • blanched pistachio or almond slices, to garnish

Orange Blossom Syrup

  • 330 g (11½ oz/ cups) sugar
  • 3–4 green cardamom pods, husked, seeds crushed or powdered
  • a pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 teaspoon orange blossom water or rosewater

Method

To make the syrup, put the sugar and 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) water in a heavy-based saucepan and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved completely, stirring occasionally. Cook the syrup to the ‘soft ball’ stage, or 105–110°C (220–230°C) on a sugar thermometer. You can test the syrup by drizzling 1–2 drops on a plate. It should be gooey in texture when rolled between your thumb and index finger, or form threads when drizzled from a small height.

Stir in the cardamom seeds and orange blossom water, then remove from the heat.

To make the gulab jamun, sift the milk powder, flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a mixing bowl. Add the yoghurt and ghee and lightly mix the ingredients to make a soft, sticky dough. (Don’t add too much flour, as it can make the gulab jamun hard.)

Now pinch off a small portion and put a piece of elaichi dana in the middle. Bring the sides up around it, rolling it into a smooth ball about the size of a large walnut. Make sure there are no cracks on the surface, or the ball will break during cooking. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Pour the vegetable oil into a deep heavy-based saucepan and heat to 160°C (315°F), or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns brown in 30–35 seconds.

Working in batches, gently slide the gulab jamun into the hot oil and cook for about 3–5 minutes, until golden, taking care not to overcrowd the pan, to keep the oil at the right temperature. The balls will sink to the bottom, then gently rise up. At frequent intervals, slowly turn each ball with a slotted spoon, to ensure they brown evenly.

Drain on paper towel, then soak the gulab jamun in the orange blossom syrup for at least 1 hour, so they absorb and soften in the syrup. (If serving them cold, remove them from the syrup and store them in the fridge in an airtight container.) Serve garnished with nuts.