For many years – before I met him – T lived in India. Hence our love for Indian cuisine. But as much as I adore savoury Indian-style food, I must confess that, try as I might, aside from mishti doi, srikund and malaya (I wish we could get malaya here!!), there are very few Indian sweets that I care about. For me, they’re just toooooo sweeeeeet.
He just telephoned his favourite sweet shop in Indiatown. Here’s how the conversation went:
he: Do you have rasgulla for sale today?
they: Yes yes, only $1.25 per piece.
Of course, we knew the price but just wanted to make sure. Because EVERY time we go to Indiatown to buy spices, we stop at the sweet shop to buy rasgullas as well.
Until now, that is. We recently discovered that rasgullas can be made at home. Now T cannot stop making them. But allow him to explain:
After two years in India in the 1970’s I got sick with what turned out to be hepatitis.
With the help of a friend, I staggered into the doctor’s office. The elderly doctor looked up, shook his head and said sagely, “This is due to some sickness.” While this didn’t inspire much confidence it turned out he knew what he was doing.
One of the things he said I could eat was sponge rasgulla. I’d never had them before. When I was finally well enough I went out and bought a few. Wow!! Best thing I’d ever eaten. I bought 10 that day and 20 the next.
I love sponge rasgulla. And here sponge is the operative word. Ragulla are milky, sweet and spongy. Sometimes you can almost hear (feel?) them squeak when you bite into one. Weird but wonderful.
The recipe I used (the one in the photos) makes about 25 or so and that’s all for the price of $3.89 for 2 liters of 2% milk plus two cups of sugar. That works out to a little more than 15 cents each!
Here I halved the recipe using 1 liter of milk:
based on a recipe from Manjula’s Kitchen
Makes 12 rasgullas
- 4 cups (1 liter) 2% milk
- 2 Tbsp white vinegar*
- 1 cup sugar*
- left-over whey from the cheese curd*
- Large pot for boiling
- Paneer (curd): Boil the milk in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, making sure not to burn milk.
- As the milk comes to a boil, add the vinegar gradually and stir the milk gently. The curd will start separating from the whey; turn off the heat.
- Once the milk fat has separated from the whey, drain the whey into a bowl using a strainer lined with cheesecloth or muslin cloth and reserve.
- Rinse the curds in the cheesecloth under cold water to remove the sourness of the vinegar.
- Squeeze the cloth to remove excess water.
- Removing enough liquid from the paneer is the most important part of this recipe. To check if enough liquid has drained, take a little piece of paneer and rub it between your fingers for about 15 seconds; you should be able to make a firm but smooth ball.
- Once the paneer is fully drained, put it in a clean, dry, medium-sized bowl.
- Knead for 3-4 minutes until the paneer is a smooth soft dough. I use the back of my hand (my knuckles) to knead. Manjula writes: “Knead the paneer by dragging the palm of your hand hard on the paneer. Keep scooping it back to together and knead more. If the paneer is too crumbly, add a teaspoon of water.”
- Rasgulla: Divide the dough into 12 equal parts and roll them into smooth balls.* When forming the balls, apply some pressure at the first to make sure the paneer is firmly packed and then be a little lighter handed as you finish rolling each ball. Place each one carefully on a clean plate until all are rolled and ready for cooking.
- Mix the sugar and left-over whey in a pot on medium high heat and bring to a boil. Ensure the pot is large enough for the finished rasgullas; they double or triple in volume while being cooked in the syrup.
- Add the paneer balls, bring up to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to medium and boil, covered, for 15 minutes. (Manjula uses a pressure cooker and cooks her rasgulla for 7 minutes.)
Rasgullas should be spongy. After rasgullas are refrigerated some of the sponginess will reduce but they will still be soft in texture. Serve rasgullas in their syrup chilled. (Remove them from the container gently. They are quite delicate.)Notes:
» Many rasgulla recipes suggest to use lemon juice rather than white vinegar to separate the milk. We used white vinegar because we ran out of lemons.
» Manjula suggests kneading the paneer on a dry, clean surface but it’s way easier to knead in a bowl.
» Use less sugar if you prefer less sweet rasgullas.
» Left-over whey: In India, they actually use water but I don’t want to waste the whey. If you’d rather have clear syrup, use water and sugar. Keep the whey for cooking lentils.
When we were watching Manjula’s (Manjula’s Kitchen) video about making rasgulla, she mentioned that sometimes rasgulla might break up. But she went on to assure us that this doesn’t have to be a disaster. The failed rasgulla can simply be used for another dessert. (Think along the lines of trifle or tira misu…).
Every time T eats his rasgullas (which is often), he raves that they are the best rasgullas he’s had – as good as Benares or Calcutta. Even though T uses a little less sugar than his favourite sweetshop, for me the rasgullas are STILL too sweet for my taste.
Personally, I prefer to have dinner for dessert….