Thursday, September 8, 2011

Dinner Party Series: A Feast from India (Gulab Jamun)

Over the past four days, I’ve given you some ideas to create an Indian feast, courtesy of my Canadian friend Kuldip Ardawa, South Asian cook extraordinaire, who gave me a cooking lesson! When this series concludes tomorrow, I’ll tell you how you can hire Kuldip to do the same, or to prepare an Indian feast in your home.

This is actually not my first attempt at Indian cooking. I once belonged to a Gourmet Club, in which the members tried a different style of ethnic cooking each month. 
Following the current month’s meal, the members decided on the type of meal they’d try next time. After they agreed on that, they later met again with their own or the library’s cookbooks to determine what they’d make and who’d be cooking what. Each person made one dish - and Dollinks, I’ve never eaten better! I raise that subject merely to say that you don’t have to do it all yourself! Our Gourmet Club met in different members’ homes; everyone shared the load, and everyone did the dishes. 
Food is a great way to bond with neighbors and friends. Even if you order most of it from a deli, try making one dish you can call your own, and share your meal with a friend! When I was a single woman, not so many years ago, I squashed a table for six into a minuscule space and made wonderful dishes in a pass-through kitchen with almost no counter space. I’m not pretending it was easy, but it can be done. Hosting guests at your table will bring great richness and joy into your life!
But on to today’s fabulous recipe for Gulab Jamun, a sugar-soaked Indian sweet cake that - to my western sensibilities - tastes much like Rhum Baba, for which I have a permanent craving and weakness, which is why I never make it. I regularly read the recipe in secret, licking my lips. On the rare occasions that I order Rhum Baba in a restaurant, I have trouble containing my emotions:

Where was I, again? Ah, yes …
Gulab Jamun:
To Prepare the Cake:
1 c. powdered milk
½ c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted (no substitutes)
6 tbsp. milk 
Mix and combine dry ingredients. Stir in melted butter and milk, adding more milk if necessary to make a soft dough. Allow mixture to rest 5 min. (Doing so will expand the gluten in your flour, start the baking powder’s leavening process, and allow the molecules of the dry ingredients to more fully absorb the liquid). Rub a little butter on the palms of your hands to keep the dough from sticking. Pinch pieces of dough to form 10 or 11 smooth rounds the size of a ping pong ball between the palms of your hand. Allow these balls of dough to rest 5-to-10 min. 
Heat 2 or 3 in. of oil in a clean skillet over medium-low heat. Test the oil’s heat with a little dough: The dough should bubble gently,  as though it were simmering. When the heat of the oil is about right, carefully slip the dough balls into it, keeping the heat as low as possible. The balls will expand in the hot oil, flipping over by themselves. Cook about 2 min. or until each is slightly darker than the color of cinnamon. 
Kuldip says the best way to test for doneness is to remove one ball and gently slice it, to gauge that it is cooked throughout. Drain the tiny cakes on paper toweling and set aside. Poke hot cakes with a skewer, pouring hot liquid directly over them. Cover the bowl and soak cakes at least 1 hr., allowing the steam and heat to hasten the process of the cakes’ absorption of the syrup. Serve hot or cold. Makes about 10 cakes. 
To Prepare Enough Sugar Syrup for 10 Cakes:
3 c. granulated sugar
3 c. water
Combine sugar and water in pot. Boil rapidly 5 min., stirring occasionally. 

Guilty pleasures!
Gulab-Jamun with frozen vanilla yogurt and a splash of vodka

Tomorrow: Chai.

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