Living in a world of ground almonds and icing sugar you end up craving salty, sour and spicy dishes. To satisfy that need I cook and eat a lot of Indian food. I recently rediscovered the joys of Gulab Jamens. Everyone knows about Biryanis and Tandoori, but the world of Indian desserts is perhaps a bit overlooked. Gulab Jamens are deep fried balls made mainly of milk powder. They are then soaked in a fragrant sugar syrup. At first look they might seem a bit unlikely but they should be held in high regard, up there with the best of India’s savoury treats.
First make the soaking syrup. Place the caster sugar and cold water in a small pan and stir together well. Bring to the boil over a medium heat. Once simmering reduce the heat and leave to reduce and thicken for 5-7 minutes. The final consistency needs to be quite thin and pourable. If it over reduces, or is too thick and sticky once cooled, you can add a little more water to thin it out.
Split the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds. Add both the seeds and the pod into the syrup. Alternatively add your vanilla paste to the syrup at this point. Set the syrup aside. Once cooled remove the vanilla pod.
Mix together the milk powder, semolina, flour and melted butter. Pour in the warm milk until you have a firm paste. If you need to add a little more milk to bring the dry ingredients together, that’s ok.
Shape the dough into small round balls, about the size of an old fashioned gobstopper. A tablespoon measure is a good way of portioning the dough. Once fried the balls puff up so don’t make them too large. Roll the dough into spheres. Keeping you hands damp will help shape the balls quickly and given them a smoother finish.
Set up your deep fryer to 140C and carefully drop about 8 balls in at a time. Frying them until they are a deep brown colour. You will need to prod and turn them in the oil to ensure even cooking. This should take 4-5 minutes. Once cooked the balls should have a dry, almost spongy texture inside. Drain them on kitchen roll and once cooled place them in the vanilla sugar syrup.
The balls soak up the syrup quite quickly but if you leave them alone in the syrup for a day or 2, they will be much more delicious for it.
The Gulab Jamens may be reheated in a small pan with their syrup. A 30 second blast in the microwave also brings them back to life. Serve with vanilla ice cream or a big dollop of clotted cream.