|Bengali Rasgulla or Rosogolla|
You know by now, that I am not one of the cheerful optimists out there. I don't see the glass half full.
It is for people like me however, that pre-historic or maybe historic men and women, had decided to plug in the months of October, November and December with all kinds of festivities that involve heavy eating, superfluous drinking, colorful lights and butter-ghee-sugar. Those are the best antidotes for any kind of depression or sense of foreboding one might have in life. Of course they did not tout the festival as orgies or as "days of abundant revelry". That might not have sold it to the intelligentsia. So they said, it is all because Lord Rama came back a winner from fourteen years of exile and the people of Ayodhya made mysore pak and lit a hundred lamps to celebrate Diwali, that sisters should dot their brother's forehead and ply them with food on Bhai Phonta because in some mythical tale Yamuna had done the same for Yam, that the Pilgrims wanted to thank someone on Thanksgiving by eating Turkey and a bearded old man from North Pole wants to give gifts to all children in the dead of winter.
That is enough reason to convince me. I forget the impending doom a la winter for the moment. So we string on twinkling fairy lights that shine as the night gets dark and neighborhood quiet, the girls dress up as a fairy and a witch and collect enough candy to last a lifetime on Halloween, we dust old diyas that the girls had once painted and light up fourteen lights on Bhoot Chaturdashi. And then I also try my hand at making Roshogolla. It is Diwali after all. There has to be some sweet.
Now, Roshogolla or how it is famously known as Bengali rasgulla was not a dessert after my heart. Maybe because , it was the one sweet which my parents thought was safe and healthy enough to be consumed by the gallons. While I craved a gulab jamun or jalebi, it was the roshogolla which appeared much more frequently in our home, bobbing in sweet syrup, waiting to be picked from an earthenware pot. Since it was not fried in oil and was made of nothing but pure chhana, it was assumed that fresh warm roshogolla from the mishtir dokan was the best thing for a child to have almost everyday.If you were down with a fever, or were recuperating from a bad stomach, warm roshogolla straight off the bhiyen was what was served to bring back the taste.
One would think, being around the rasgulla day in and day out, I would grow some interest towards it. But I actually completely ignored it. Many years later when I started working and moved to B'lore, I realized the power of this sweet. Fellow Indians, who had very little idea of Bengal or a Bangali, were quick to familiarize themselves by saying "I simply love rasgulla". They probably thought the same when I said, "I loved Masala Dosa way more that any Rasgulla".
Soon we were carrying tins of K.C.dass's rasgulla as a return gift from Calcutta and even the first time we came to US, we carried a couple of those Rasgulla tins. I secretly laughed at people who thought this as a dessert to hanker after. Really, Roshogolla ?
I also assumed that it was a very difficult thing to make, given that my Mother who always made sweets like narkel naru, paayesh, malpoa or even sondesh at home, bought roshogolla from mishti'r dokan. The first time that a friend in the US, made it for her daughter's birthday, I was bowled over. She was a wonderful cook and so I naturally thought that making rasgulla at home was something that only someone as good a cook as J could do.
And then a couple of years ago, another friend K whom we have known since ages, non-chalantly made us a batch of roshogolla when we were visiting. Not only that, he also mentioned in a very matter of fact way, that he makes roshogolla almost every week. Now, K was not someone who was hugely interested in cooking until like 3 years back. All of a sudden, he has discovered this culinary mojo and has been on a roll ever since. He is more in the league of people like me. His making roshogolla, gave me enough confidence that this was a sweet that could be easily done at home. However, since he always made us a big batch when we visited, I did not feel the urge to do the same again in my kitchen.
This is the point where the blog comes in. Several people wrote to me asking for a Roshogolla recipe. I always asked them to follow Manjula's Video. After all that is how K had learned too. And then came Diwali. There was pressure to post a Mishti recipe even if I did not want to eat it. I tried to coax the husband-man to make roshogolla citing the shining example of K who makes like billions of them for his wife. Husband-man refused point blank. And he did not even have enough reasons. He said he would rather make Mysore pak or even Biriyani. Dude, really ? Mysore Pak and Biriyani, when I am asking you to make Roshogolla ? What is the logic ? But husband-man rarely lives life by logic. So there was war and smoke and finally a resolution was reached, he would make only the chhana, rest was my responsibility. Calls were made to K and instructions duly noted.
Ultimately the husband-man got around doing more, including the syrup but honestly after the part called "Make Chhana", there is hardly anything to do. So, get going and make your own roshogolla at home. If like me, you have been putting it off for all these years, take the plunge, it is really really easy. The best part of making them at home was to see the happiness in dessert loving LittleSis's face who devoured them morning and night.
Sometimes, all one needs in life is a little light, to show the way. This Diwali may you find your light and also light up the way for others.
Happy Diwali and may your life be as sweet and pure as the Rasgulla
Bengali Rasgulla or Roshogolla
Step 1-- Curdle Milk
Mix 4 tbsp of Lemon juice in 1/2 cup of hot water
Bring 1/2 gallon(8 cups) of Whole/Full Fat Milk to a rolling boil. Don't go on a diet and use anything less that Full fat Whole Milk.
When the milk is boiling add the diluted lemon juice. Lower the heat. Almost in seconds you will see the milk curdle and clumps of white milk solids forming.When you see the greenish water separating take it off from heat. Let it sit for 30 secs or so.
Step 2 -- Drain chhana
Now line a colander with cheesecloth and drain the chhana/chenna/paneer. The greenish hued whey is great for making roti dough says my Ma. Next lightly rinse the chhana with water to remove the lemony taste and let it drain.
After few minutes gather the ends of the cheesecloth to form a purse like shape and squeeze out the remaining water from the chhana. Next put it on a flat plate and weigh it with a slightly heavier object and let it remain like that for the next hour.I used my mortar for weighing down, I remember my mother using her nora.You can also weigh it down with a pot filled with water.
It is very important that the chhana is drained of all excess water. After an hour, try squeezing the chhana again. If there is still some water, weigh it down with a heavy object for some more time. If you can take a little of the chana and roll it into a ball and it is not crumbling, then the water has been drained.
Step 3 -- Knead Chhana
Now we have to knead the chhana. This is a very important step for the roshogolla to be right. Knead the chhana with the heel of your palm for about 8-9 minutes.
At the end of this the chhana will look like a smooth dough and your palm will be greasy from the fat of the chhana. Take small portion of it and roll into small balls between your palm. The balls should be smooth and firm. To make the balls thus, first apply a little pressure between your palm and then let go, rolling the ball very lightly by a circular motion of your palms.
Approximately 24-28 balls will be made from this measure
Step 4 -- Make syrup
We did the rasgulla in a pressure cooker as K said. He also does it in an open pot but then he has more experience so we went with the pressure cooker.
Mix 4 cups of Water + 1&1/2 cup sugar in a pressure cooker to make the syrup. Add a few small cardamom and few strands of saffron to the syrup. The safforn will make the rasgullas a pale yellow, so if you want pristine white rasgullas DO NOT add saffron.
Keep it at medium high heat and bring to boil.
Step 5 -- Make Rasgullas
Add about 10 raw chhana/paneer balls to the syrup and close the pressure cooker. After the pressure cooker starts steaming, turn the heat to medium and cook for about 7 minutes.
Switch off heat and wait for 2 minutes. Now release the pressure of the cooker by putting it under running cold tap water. Open the pressure cooker lid and you will see your rasgullas all puffed up and sweet, floating in the syrup.
Now remove these rasgullas along with little of the syrup in a bowl.
Note:I did only 10 at a time as my pressure cooker was smaller and as the rasgulla swells up on cooking, I did not want to crowd them. Also I found the syrup was enough for all the 24-28 rasgullas and so I did in batches of 10, 10 and 8.
To make the next batch put the pressure cooker with syrup back on heat and follow the same process for the next 10 rasgullas.
Serve warm. The best way. Serve chilled. The next best way. Make Roshogollar Paayesh. The third best way.