Tuesday, August 5, 2008

First of Many Eats ...

When you name your one-day old after a favorite restaurant special, I think, a food blog is but, destiny. I must admit, Eats, eats & eats should have happened a long, long time before we thought "Choochee" (it's this absolutely spectacular fish we had at our local Thai haunt while I was pregnant) was such an apt (pet) moniker for our daughter.

If it hadn't been for my borderline anal retentive nature when it comes to writing, coupled with another horrendous habit – procrastination -- I guess I would have found myself on the blogosphere a lot earlier. But, well, oh well. Such are, our personal foibles. As my grandmother always says, some things just happen at the right time. Neither before they are supposed to, nor after. For me, I think, the greatest leavening agent in the right direction was giving birth to my darling. One look at that sweet face, and I knew that it was time to get off my behind, and journal family heirlooms I'd learned sitting on grandma's counter-top, some I had picked along the way and others I will chance upon as I traverse life's highways.

Since this is my first post, I think a celebratory recipe is in order. No jamboree eatable quite knows how to spell p-a-r-t-y in my family, like these specialty Gulab Jamuns. My husband AM's (the man wakes up awfully early. To be specific, at 6 am, even on weekends. Yep, you read that quite correctly. 6 am. On weekends) eight-year-old niece, Shambhavi, can easily slug down a whole bowl (and our bowl reserved for gulab jamuns is noticeably big) if her always-on-yummy-eats-watch-family would allow it.

♣ Gulab Jamuns or Heavenly Globules in Rose-scented Sugar Syrup

You need:
For the Jamuns

1 firmly-packed cup (C) of mawa or milk-powder
¼ C of maida or all-purpose flour
¼ tsp of baking soda
Milk (guesstimate, enough to make a soft dough)
1 1/2 Tablespoons of Ghee or Clarified butter/Shortening, warmed + more for deep-frying

For the syrup

2 C of water
2 C of sugar
A few long strands of beautiful saffron or Kesar
A sprinkling of powdered green-cardamom
A couple of drops of rose essence (optional)

Sieve the milk powder, flour and baking soda twice onto a respectably-sized platter. Then with a gentle hand knead in the warm clarified butter and incrementally add in as much milk to bring together a soft dough. To keep the dough from drying, keep it covered with a damp cheese-cloth or a soft piece of mulmul. Pluck small portions of the dough to mold into half-inch balls and place under the cloth. We are going to fry the jamuns to a lovely golden-brown color, for that, heat clarified butter or shortening, preferably in a wok, over a medium flame.

While the butter does its thing, get going on the sugar syrup -- on another burner place a sizable pot of your choice, over medium heat. Into it, pour water and sugar along with the saffron and rose essence and bring to a gentle boil, stirring all the while, until the sugar melts, and the syrup gets to the consistency of slightly thinned down honey. Give it some loving from the cardamom powder and switch the syrup-pot to a warmer or reduce the heat to very low.

On the other hand, keep a close watch on the fat, once it is hot (test with a minuscule piece of gulab jamun dough -- it should swim to the surface as soon as it hits the hot stuff), reduce the heat to very low and carefully drop the jamuns in. Hold the wok with a pair of tongs and very, very cautiously and deliberately, move the wok around, ever so slowly, so that the jamun's swivel around on their own. My mother-in-law, an absolute cooking maven, always specifies that slotted spoons or spiders have no place while frying delicate things like Gulab Jamuns. They are to be used only to (d-e-l-i-c-a-t-e-l-y) transfer the fried spheres from their oleaginous atmosphere into the the sticky sugar syrup. Once your beautiful, petite balls have turned a lovely golden-brown, slide them into the sugar syrup and leave them to double in size. Then, quickly swill down a couple. If your family is anything like ours, there won't be many such opportunities in your destiny.

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