Talking of traditional sweets, always reminds of my all-time favorite ...Gulab Jamun. Why talk of it as only my favorite, no banquet in this country ( up north and east that is) is complete without a helping of gulab jamun.
Gulab Jamun ( Pronounced Gul-aab Jaa-mun) historically has been associated as having been a Bengali sweet ( wonder where that came from), though all attempts to trace out its history has proved futile by me, except, one story, that I came across on a foodie discussion forum online, which stated that a king in a princely state, was once presented with jamuns ( fruit) and he loved their taste and ordered they be grown in his kingdom. However, the climate and soil weren't suitable for their growth and the entire crop failed. The King felt very depressed over this. Seeing this, his royal cook conjured up these balls which resembled the fruit and offered them to the king, and voila! the king was happy again. Hence the name Jamun. Gulab was added because the syrup was rose water flavored.
As with a lot of dishes, this one too has its own set of variations associated with it. The variations are regarding the way of making them, to their shapes. In terms of shapes, you can vary between the large balls (lemon sized) to the small balls (marble sized) or move away from the round shape and venture into making them oblong shaped. There is one called Kala Jamun ... a darkish variety. It is prepared in the same way as the regular Gulab Jamun's except that the balls are coated with Castor sugar and then fried. The caramelized sugar gives the Jamuns the dark colour. They are often served garnished with dessicated coconut coating.
Another variation is the Zauq-E-Shahi. This one is associated with awadh cuisine and my exposure to them happened while I was training with the Dum Pukht restaurant brand. Zauq-e-Shahi consists of small marble sized gulab jamuns with a khus-khus and pistachio stuffing, dipped in rabri, a sweet preparation made with milk, and honey dribbled over.
The last one that I am aware of is the Jamun-E-Gul which is the regular Gulab Jamun stuffed with Pistachios and honey. This is the one that I tried out for this Diwali.
Personally, I like the gulab jamuns with Vanilla ice cream, but each one to his/her own taste & preferences.
In the end, this sweet is heavenly,no matter which variation we try out. I might be held accountable by Shakespeare for plagiarising his lines and twisting them to suit my requirements, but one bite of a gulab jamun and he would join me in echoing "What's in a name? That which we call a gulab jamun By any other name would taste as sweet." ( Lifted and tweaked from Romeo Juliet)
Ingredients: For Jamuns:
2 Cups Khoya, grated
5-6 Tblsp Flour (maida)
5-6 Tblsp Milk
Pistachio (Unsalted), finely chopped - 2 Tblsp
Honey - 3 Tsp
For the Syrup:
3 Cups Sugar
Cardamom Powder - 1 Tsp
Rose Water - 1 Tsp
Water -1.5 Cups
Oil for frying
For the Sugar Syrup:
1. In a large thick bottomed pan dissolve the sugar with water.Add in the Cardamom powder and rose water.
2. Bring this mixture to a boil and simmer till the syrup is of one string consistency.
For the Jamuns:
1. In a bowl, combine the first 2 gulab jamun ingredients and mix well. Knead well adding milk, if required to form a firm dough.
2. Mix the honey & pista together and keep aside.
3. Divide the dough into 25 equal portions.
4. Flatten the portions a little with your hands, put the honey & pista in the centre and cover and roll into rounds.
5. Chill for 10 minutes.
6. Fry these balls in oil on slow flame till they turn golden brown in color.
7. Drain and soak them into the prepared sugar syrup.
Garnish the Jamun-E-Gul with chopped pistachios and chopped slivers of almonds.
1. Sugar these days comes with its share of impurities. Ensure you take out the impurities with the slotted spoon, once the syrup is made.
2. While rolling the balls, ensure there are no cracks on the surface and that the balls are firm, else they will crack while frying.
3. Please ensure, the oil is not too hot for frying, as then the jamuns will not cook from within and crack either while frying or when they are soaked in the syrup.
4. One test of the oil temp is that, when you drop in a ball, it'll sink and then come right up to the surface.
5. One way of maintaining the temperature of the oil is to continue stirring the oil while frying. This also ensure the jamuns get cooked evenly.
Happy Diwali !!!