Janmashtami is the celebration of Lord Krishna’s birth which takes place at midnight as Krishna is said to have made his divine appearance at that time in the village of Vrindavan thousands of years ago. The festival gathers old and young together in a euphoric atmosphere marked by fasting and chanting of bhajans in the glory of Lord Krishna. It focuses particularly on the birth and childhood stories of Krishna, described as the mischevious yet adorable son of Yashoda and Nandrai. Janmashtami, in India, is celebrated with lots of devotion and enthusiasm with children dressing up as bal gopal and youngsters forming towering human pyramids to break the dahi handi.
In Mauritius, the celebrations are held in temples and ISKCON centres all over the island. The programme consists of devotional songs, plays and dance by ISKCON members, ending after midnight with a big feast served to all devotees and guests. Since the Lord was fond of milk and butter, the dishes prepared on the occasion of Janmashtami are typically rich in these two ingredients.
Rasgulla was one of those milk-based desserts that has been on my request list for too long and this was the perfect opportunity to share it with you. Made from milk solids and fat, these deep fried balls are left to soak in a heavy sugar syrup flavoured with cardamom and rose water. No, this is not the Bengali paneer-derived white rasgulla you will find in Indian restaurants. The recipe I bring to you is the Mauritian version, albeit a corrupted copy of the Indian gulab jamun. As for the Mauritian gulab jamun, well, that’s an entirely different story…
For the Sugar Syrup
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
5 cardamom pods
1 tsp rose water
For the Rasgulla Dough
1 1/2 cups liquid whole milk
1 cup whole milk powder
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/8 tsp baking soda
3 tbs butter or ghee
2-3 tsp water
Oil, for deep frying
- For the syrup, bring water to the boil along with sugar and cardamom. Let it boil until it forms a ‘two strands’ syup.
- Remove from heat and set aside. Add rose water or saffron strands and leave to diffuse in the hot syrup.
- For the dough, bring 1 ½ cups of liquid milk to boil. Keep stirring till the milk is reduced to a thick mass. Set aside to cool.
- In a mixing bowl, sift milk powder, flour and baking soda. Rub the butter into the mixture until grainy and coarse.
- Add the reduced milk and enough water to form a soft dough. Divide into walnut sized portions and roll into smooth balls.
- They should not have cracks else they will break while frying. Place at least 1 1/2 inch of oil in a frying pan over low heat.
- The correct temperature is reached when a small piece of dough takes about a minute to rise to the surface.
- Fry dough balls for about 10 minutes until evenly brown in colour. They will increase in volume so allow for enough space.
- If fried over too high heat or for a short time the centre will not be thoroughly cooked. Drain well when removing from pan.
- Let the rasgullas cool slightly before soaking them in the sugar syrup. Leave them in the syrup for at least 20 minutes.
- Rasgullas can be kept at room temperature for about a week and up to one month when refrigerated.
Jai Shri Krishna!