I was all of seven when one day she asked me to help her make tea in the kitchen. I was excited. I’m going to do something that elders do!! She was sure, I could do it. I could make a cup of tea when I was only seven.
And soon after, she taught me how to knead dough for chapatis (Indian flatbread)….. from the basic steps and instructions like “always make sure your hand and nails are clean before you knead the dough”, to finer nuances like “always round off the dough with a teaspoon of oil for a smooth glossy look” or “you have to knead it and knead it well till your hands are absolutely clean” or “wash the pulses 5 times before you cook them”. Believe me I still do that and also see merit in it.
That’s how my romance with cooking started. My grandma, extremely fond of cooking, took great pride in initiating her 7 yrs old grand daughter in it too.
While ma used to be away for work, it was then that this friendship blossomed!!
From story telling to cooking and even teaching me how to embroider, she was a great learning curve for me. She taught me all about the Indian Mythology by way of stories, she shared life experiences as I grew up.
Granny had lived in many parts of the country due to the transferable nature of dada’s job. And she picked up lots of minor and major favourites from each stay. Gulab Jamuns however always remained her crest on a list of Indian ethnic delicacies.
Gulab Jamun was her signature dish which verged on being the family pride. It was served with a lot of flourish and originality. Sometimes topped with a layer of fresh malai.
Gulab Jamuns were always made from scratch, which means that the main ingredients being Paneer and Khoya were never ever outsourced. On occasions when the end product fell short of perfection, it was the doodhwala (milkman) who bore the brunt and was admonished for the lesser quality of the milk. He was even made to eat the less perfect Gulab Jamuns.
We lost her last week. She was 86 and all active and full of life till almost the end.
This is my tribute to the lady who is responsible for my romance with cooking. 🙂
Here I share the recipe of her infamous Gulab Jamums that I never formally learnt from her but have literally grown up with the recipe.
Granny’s Gulab Jamuns
1 litre Full Cream Milk to make Khoya (milk reduction) – makes about 200g of khoya
1 litre Full Cream Milk to make Paneer (cottage cheese) – makes about 125 g of paneer
3 tbsp of all purpose Flour
Oil for frying
3 Cups of Sugar
1 1/2 Cups of Water
1. With 1 litre of full cream milk make paneer.
1.a Let the milk come to a boil in a sauce pan, while it is about to boil squeeze the juice of 1 fresh lemon in it and let the milk simmer for about 2-3 minutes. Turn the gas off and let it stand for 5 minutes. Now strain in a cheese cloth.
2. With the other litre of the full cream milk make khoya.
2.a Take a heavy bottomed wok or kadhai and boil milk in it. Once it starts to boil, reduce the flame and stir. Keep it on low flame and keep stirring occasionally to make sure that it doesn’t boil over. Keep repeat this, and soon you’ll see the milk reducing in quantity and becoming pretty thick. The khoya is ready now.
3. Mix the khoya, paneer and flour well. and knead it like you would knead dough. The idea is to smoothen the mixture. There should be no granules or coarseness to the mixture. This takes about 10-15 minutes.
4. Once the mixture is completely smooth, roll into equal sized balls.
5. Heat oil in a pan for frying. Once the oil is hot start frying these balls. Make sure the oil is not very hot or the Gulab Jamuns will not cook properly from inside. Keep the flame on medium initially and then reduce to low.
6. While the Gulab Jamuns are being fried, in another wide pan put sugar and water and let it boil. Keep cooking the sugar syrup till it is little thick in consistence and sticky to touch.
7. Once all the Gulab Jamuns are fried, put them in the sugar syrup, give it a gentle boil and let it rest in the syrup itself for atleast 2 hours before serving.
8. Serve the Gulab Jamuns either hot or cold. I like mine hot.
Happy Cooking !!