Diwali mornings, every year similar scenes would be played out in our one room kitchen home. Mom would cajole me, threaten me and finally forcefully drag me out of bed. I would be required to find my way to bathroom and get ready before Mom lights up the house with clay diyas. I would trudge across laboriously taking a slight detour and make my way to kitchen instead. I would find it on the corner of a table kept in a large vessel, tightly covered.
Being in a half-asleep state would not stop me from uncovering the vessel and stealing a glance at those golden brown colored temptation floating in sugar syrup. Every Diwali Morning I would have a quick peek at the Gulab Jamuns before I would make my way to bathroom. Let me stop here and rewind the story and play it out from few days before the Diwali festival.
Diwali usually arrives during the month of November. Mumbai witnesses cool breeze gently flowing through the city. November through January are the most pleasant months in otherwise hot and humid conditions of Mumbai. However, pleasant weather was not the only thrilling aspect in month of November. While growing up, we kids would get more excited in November, as it would mean Diwali was around the corner and our school vacations along with it. Though our school authorities would make all efforts to dampen our holiday spirits by burdening us with enough homework that would keep us busy for 3 weeks of vacation, we would be least perturbed by it. 3 weeks of vacation would mean relentless cricket, going for an outing, having fun with friends and enjoying the festivities of Diwali.
Days before Diwali festival, the excitement in the air is palpable. I remember, while playing with my friends in our society premises, we could smell the Diwali. The characteristic aroma of ghee (clarified butter) would permeate the neighborhood and mesmerize us kids. That aroma continues to fill me with excitement even today. We would stop playing and like an adept sniffer canine sniff our way to that kitchen where the aroma would originate from. Some of those neighborhood aunts who would be toiling in the kitchen, would be generous enough to offer us some of their delicacies whereas some others would chase us away. We would be too hypnotized by the sweet smell pervading around us to be offended by those gestures and would continue to hang around their kitchen windows until they would be firmly shut by irritated aunties.
Mom would usually make Gulab Jamuns on the night before Diwali, so that when I would wake up next day, I would have supplies of my favorite delicacy available to me. Knowing that I like Gulab Jamuns more than anything else, she would stay awake toiling for couple of hours and would make them. In Mumbai, it’s a custom, and I believe it exists in other parts of country too, to share the Diwali sweet and savory dishes with neighbors. So if you have a pretty exhaustive neighborhood and share a good relation with most of them, then it is customary to share your delicacies with them and your neighbors would definitely return you the favor. However it would be impractical to assume that the food items that you may receive from your neighbors would be equally tasty. This was the primary reason why I would let my Mom share Gulab Jamuns with our neighbors with a heavy heart. I had a very atypical way of eating Gulab Jamuns. I would have 2, 3 or even more of them during initial few days. However when their count would dwindle, I would reduce my intake so as to delay the inevitable. This may extend their stay for couple of more days, but finally the day would come for them to say a final good bye until next year. I would have the last piece of Gulab Jamun savoring its company, slicing through its soft inner with a spoon, dipping it into the syrup, getting it out and finally helping it find its way to my mouth. I would feel its softness with my tongue, it was blasphemous using my teeth for something as soft as that, and feel the sweetness seeping into my mouth and before I could realize it would be gone.
To give you a technical perspective, Gulab Jamun is said to have found its way in India through Persian cuisine. The word Gulab is made up of two Persian words (Gul- Flower and aab- Water) which refers to rose-scented water. Jamun is a Hindi word for the fruit that is known by name of Java Plum or Syzygium jambolanum. Its appearance, which is very similar to java plum must have given it its name Jamun. So, by the name it becomes evident that it’s a dish in which Jamun shaped balls are dipped in rose scented sugar syrup. It is very hard to trace the exact origin of this dish, but I think it is the creation of a genius. Who else can conceive a dish with khoa balls evenly fried and dipped in a scented sugar syrup?
While making this recipe, it is very important to closely observe the proportions of Khoa and all purpose flour. A wrong proportion can either make the jamuns hard and unpleasing in taste or the jamuns may break and scatter in the syrup. While frying the jamuns, temperature of ghee must be moderate, which will ensure that jamuns get evenly browned from outside and cooked from inside. The other important part of the recipe is making sugar syrup. The syrup must be of one thread consistency. While adding jamuns to the syrup, ensure that the jamuns and the syrup remain lukewarm which will result in syrup getting absorbed by the jamuns. Make this delicacy on eve of Diwali for your family, and share your feedback with us.
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Serves: 20 Pieces
- 250 grams khoa. Khoa must be grated to get rid of impurities.
- 40 grams maida (all purpose flour)
- A pinch of baking soda
- For sugar syrup: 2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 and ½ cup water
- 1 tbsp rose water
- few saffron threads
- 5-6 cardamom (crushed into powder)
- Clarified Butter(ghee)
- For garnishing:Almonds and Pistachios(Soak and peel off the skin)
- Making Sugar Syrup.In a large pan, put water.Add Sugar. Allow sugar to dissolve completely on medium flame.
- When sugar dissolves completely,reduce the flame to lowest.
- Add a lemon slice to the syrup.This helps in getting rid of impurities as scum.
- Now add few saffron threads.
- We must boil sugar syrup till we get one thread consistency.
- Sugar syrup attains desired consistency in 15 mins.
- Now add sliced almonds and pistachios.Add rose water and stir for 1 min.
- Add cardamom powder and stir it in.
- Turn off the flame and keep the syrup covered.
- Make a dough for gulab jamuns. Put Khoa in a large bowl.Add baking soda.
- Now add all purpose flour gradually to form a smooth dough.
- When khoa and all purpose flour get mixed, knead it into a soft dough.
- We can use 1-2 tbsp milk while kneading, if required.
- Heat clarified butter(ghee) in a large pan for frying.
- Take small portions from dough and roll them into small balls.
- Fry the balls (jamuns). Ghee must not be too hot. Maintain the temperature to moderate.
- Fry these balls until they are light brown in color.
- When balls achieve desired color, remove them using a slotted ladle.
- Do not dip the khoa balls into sugar syrup right away. Allow them to cool down for couple of mins.
- Dip the first batch of khoa balls in sugar syrup, when second batch of balls are fried.
- Ensure that the sugar syrup is lukewarm. Roll the jamuns in sugar syrup with a spoon.
- Repeat this procedure for remaining batches.
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