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I've started cooking feasts lately and they're turning out well, thanks in large part to your books and my time in Melbourne with you where I learned what good cooking tastes like, especially the gulab jamuns. I'd like to try and make my own gulab jamuns. I'll use your recipe from GVD, but tell me, is there a secret to good gulab jamuns? Is there one part of the process that makes or breaks?
Lyall Ward, Belfast, Northern Ireland

AnswerActually I cook gulab jamuns a lot these days for feasts and cooking classes. I only follow my recipe in Great Vegetarian Dishes and they turn out good every time. But there are fluctuations. Good quality milk powder helps.

Also, the softer the dough the harder they are to roll but the softer and spongier the finished products. So, "no pain, no gain" is the motto for the dough and rolling. (As opposed to my philosophy on exercise - "No pain, no pain").

Keep a careful check on the ghee temperature. Too hot and they puff up too quick and rupture. I think 40-45 minutes in the ghee seems to be the average time they fry for. And make sure the milk is warm when you add it to the dough, not boiling hot.

Good Lebanese rosewater makes the best rose scented results. Cortas brand is the very best, if you can find it.

I have made some great alternative flavourings. Still using rosewater in the syrup (added after the syrup is turned off, by the way), I have also added saffron to the dough (soak and grind saffron threads then mix with the warm milk in the dough), or added saffron to the syrup (soak and grind first then add to the syrup. The sugar in the syrup will impede the saffron doing its job if you don't soak and grind it first).

I have added cardamom powder to the dough, or syrup or both. I have also added cardamom pods + a few cinnamon sticks + a few star anise to the syrup for yet another flavouring. I have even added fresh raspberries macerated and mixed with the syrup for a totally different gulab experience - no rosewater with berries though - just as is.

Overall, the best advice I can give you is to be patient, and don't attempt to cook gulab jamuns if you risk being distracted.

To get you inspired, click here for a picture of perfect gulab jamuns.

Happy gulab jamun-ing!


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