My Neighbour’s Kitchen: gulab jamun (dumplings in rosewater syrup)

SBS Feast

November 2013

 

As told to Tatyana Leonov

 

I grew up in Gujarat, a state in Western India, but never learnt to cook in my home country. We had maids that would cook and I wasn't interested in learning. My husband and I left India in 1997 and settled in Sydney. Suddenly, I needed to learn how to cook! I spent hours on the phone with my mother-in-law trying to get the flavours, textures and cooking times just right. As time went on I grew more confident in my cooking, and today I have friends and relatives who come to me for Indian cooking advice.

I learnt how to cook gulab jamun from friends. It was trial and error, like most of my cooking. Compared to other Indian sweets, making gulab jamun is comparatively easy if you get the measurements right – plus everyone loves it! I always make it for Diwali, the Festival of Lights, but often cook it to accompany dinner. Where I’m from there is no concept of entrées, mains and desserts, and sweets are eaten as part of the main meal. We love the mishmash of sweet and savoury, hot and cold, all together in the one meal.

– Kashmira Sachania

 

Recipe Makes 25 • Prep 25 mins, plus 45 mins soaking • Cooking 20 mins

To make sugar syrup, place 440g (2 cups) caster sugar, 500ml water and 1 tbs rosewater in a saucepan over low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high, add 2 tsp ground cardamom and a pinch of saffron threads, then bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes. Remove saucepan from the heat and set aside. Combine 200g milk powder, 1/4 tsp baking powder and 50g plain flour in a bowl. Add 3 tsp melted ghee and mix well. Add ⅓ cup (80ml) milk and knead to form a pastry-like dough. Using your hands, divide the dough into 25 pieces and roll into small balls. Fill a saucepan one-third full of vegetable oil. Heat oil to 150C and, working in batches, fry the balls for 3 minutes or until golden-brown and floating to the surface. The balls will double in size during the cooking process. Remove from the oil, immediately place in a bowl with the sugar syrup and soak for 45 minutes or until glossy. Serve garnished with rose petals.