Growing up in India especially when March used to come, meant a lot of changes, both good and bad. Bad part meant that march was always labelled as an exams month. The horror, the terror. It used to be our end of the semester exams and oh boy, they used to be something. Late nights, early mornings, butterflies in stomach just few hours before the exam, loss of appetite used to be some of the symptoms I could remember. Today, I feel the best part of growing up has been getting rid of exams, atleast for me.
The good part, and this is what we are talking about today, used to be the festivals and a promise of warmer weather, flowers blooming, street vendors getting back to their spots, the excitement of getting back in those cottony shirts, wearing those sandals which were bought at the end of summer sale thinking that it was a good investment because there will be something new to wear beginning of summer.
Festivals anyways used to always steal the show. Among the innumerable festivals India celebrates, Holi is among the noticeable few. Festival of colors. As must have gathered, every festival has a story behind it, some reasons for celebrating. Trust me, I know you can easily find all about it on the internet and I know you will certainly not like me wasting your precious time in telling something that is already out there(!). In our house, the best part of celebrating Holi used to be food.
Food of different sorts, traditional Indian recipes which you see your grandmothers and mothers making all the time with so much ease, at one point you start wondering if they were born with this talent. I would especially look forward to gujiya (sort of sweet empanadas stuffed with dried whole milk mix), different sorts of ladoos (another Indian dessert, sort of various kind of truffles), and lot more.
Most of the food items used to be hand made but there was one thing that was ordered and till today it was the best Ras Malai I ever had in my life. So when the urge hit to feel the same tastes in my mouth, I decided to give it a try. I will be honest here that it is not really close to the real deal but trust me, it wil make you happy. It will remind you of old memories if you have gathered any while eating this dessert or if you are new to this, it will simply open up a new world of tastes for you and make you want to visit India for it’s rich culture and delicious food.
I think you must be waiting for the recipe now. Hope you enjoy this as much as we are crazy about it.
Ras Malai ( Indian cheese balls in saffron scented milk gravy) (Adapted from ‘show me the curry’)
- 8 cups Whole Milk, divided
- About 2 tbsp Lemon Juice
- 5 cups Water
- 1 cup Sugar
- Pinch of Saffron
- 1/2 tsp Cardamom Powder
- 2-3 tbsp Pistachios & Almonds, roughly chopped
- Sugar for the syrup, to taste
Boil 4 cups milk in a deep non stick or stainless steel pot and boil the remaining 4 cups milk in a non-stick skillet (The milk in the pot needs to be reduced to half the quantity so once it comes to a boil, keep the flame low and keep cooking while stirring occasionally. Grind saffron with a small amount of sugar and add it to the milk while boiling).
Once the milk in the skillet comes to a rolling boil, slowly add lemon juice.When the milk curdles (you will see that the fats start coming together, that is what makes Indian cheese and the left water will look kind of lightish green), turn off the stove and strain the cheese in a cheese cloth.Hang the cheese cloth on the tap for approx 30 minutes to remove all of the liquid.
Remove the cheese from the cheese cloth and run it through a food processor to smooth it out or you can knead it by hands but it will take a long time to make it smooth. Divide the cheese into 10-12 equal portions.
Roll the portions in your hands until a smooth ball is formed. Lightly press the ball until it flattens out.
Take a pressure cooker, add 5 cups of water, 1 cup sugar and add the flattened cheese balls.Close pressure cooker lid and cook until one whistle sounds. Immediately switch off the stove and set the timer for exactly 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, carefully take the pressure cooker to the sink and pour cold water over the lid to remove the pressure. Remove the cooked cheese balls with a slotted spoon into a bowl and allow it to cool. You will notice that the balls are bigger in size.
Meanwhile, the milk in the non-stick pan should have reduced to half. Add sugar to taste, cardamom powder and nuts. Switch off the stove and keep milk aside.
Once the cheese balls are cool enough to handle with your hands, gently squeeze out the sugar syrup from them and place them in a serving dish.
Add the prepared reduced milk syrup over them and chill in the refrigerator.
Serve chilled, garnish with additional chopped nuts.
Devour. See you soon. Hugs.