Gulab Jamuns in Saffron Syrup

Diwali is great for two reasons. It’s a celebration of good over evil, and it’s the one time of the year that dentists and doctors in the Indian community keep quiet while the rest of us wade thigh-deep into our sugar-spun fantasies, eating googras, cham chams, kaju katli and kulfi. My pick of the bunch will always be these gulab jamuns. Pretty little milky doughnuts, they’re a burnished bronze on the outside, white and cakey inside, and soaked to the core with delicately flavoured rose syrup. Hold me back. The pleasure of these is not only in the eating: you can make them well in advance and the gulabs will sit
happily in the fridge for up to a week before your friends and family arrive.

NOTES: You will need a jam thermometer for this recipe. You’ll also need full fat milk powder, which can be bought easily in an Asian supermarket or online.

Makes around 40 gulab jamuns (enough for 20 people)

Ingredients

500g caster sugar
1/2 tbsp cardamom seeds (from 20 pods)
2 tsp rose water (or to taste)
275g full fat milk powder (I like Fudco or Natco)
70g self-raising flour
1 tbsp coarse semolina
1 tbsp ghee or butter
200ml warm milk
1 litre sunflower oil, for frying
100g pistachios, chopped or ground

Essential kit

You will need: a jam thermometer

Instructions

First make a simple sugar syrup. Put the sugar, 750ml of water, the cardamom seeds and rose water into a deep-sided pan, and bring to a boil over a medium heat. Turn the heat down and simmer for around 10 minutes, until it thickens into a light, cordial-style syrup, stirring every now and again. Take off the heat, leave to cool, then taste and add more rose water (sparingly) if needed.

To make the jamuns, mix together the milk powder, flour, semolina and ghee in a bowl. Little by little, add the warm milk to the mixture to bind it together into a dough – you might not need all the milk, so add it slowly until you get a soft, pliable dough. Don’t overwork it, just knead it until it comes together.

Pour the oil into a deep-sided pan and heat it to around 140°C. Meanwhile, place a large plate or tray covered with kitchen paper on the side. Roll the dough into little balls the size of a marble (around 10g each) and lay them out on another tray. These will inflate in the hot oil, so don’t panic if you think they’re a little small. When rolling, you might
need a dab of warm ghee or oil to get a good ball. Try not to press too hard, and do your best to smooth out any cracks so the balls don’t split in the hot oil. But equally, be gentle on yourself if this is your first time.

Fry 4 to 6 jamuns at a time for 5 to 7 minutes, until golden brown, or the colour of almond skin. Remove to the tray covered with kitchen paper and drain. It’s worth testing the first batch. They’ll be firm on the outside and cakey inside but not gooey. (If they’re gooey, increase the cooking time.) Fry the rest. After they have cooled a little, put them into the syrup and leave to soak for a day or at least a few hours. To serve them warm, place the gulab jamuns and their syrup in a saucepan over a gentle heat. Serve drained of all but a couple of tablespoons of the syrup. Sprinkle ove the pistachios. If not serving straight away, refrigerate.

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