Chamani Qaliya – The Kashmiri cousin of Shahi Paneer

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They say you can rarely go wrong with it. As long as it is fresh, I’ll add to that. I always make paneer at home. It is simple enough. Here is how I do it. I wanted to try a recipe different from the regular Butter Paneer Masala, the super quick Paneer Tikka Masala or Chilli Paneer that I usually make.
Wanted to go the Kashmiri way as the monthly challenge at ‘Chefs Across Boundaries’ was the cuisine of this beautiful state. The challenge was set up by the very talented Nidhi S Raj. Thanks for this opportunity Nidhi 😀 It was a learning experience and lots of fun!
As I knew nothing about this cuisine apart from the famed ‘kehwa’, I sought help from a buddy who belongs there. A big Thank you to my dear Nasima Singh for referring this khazana of a book to me.It is called ‘Taste of Kashmir’ and was easily available on the iphone app store and now I can try several new things from this wonderful cuisine!
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Chamani Qaliya ( A cousin of the rich Shahi Paneer, I say)

Here is what you need

500 grams paneer/cottage cheese
½ cup milk

The following ingredients to be boiled in milk and water :
A small piece of broken dry ginger/saunth/can use fresh grated ginger if dry not available)
½ tsp aniseed/saunf
A pinch of asafoetida/heeng
¼  tsp turmeric
10-12  cashewnuts and almonds each
A medium sized onion,cubed (skip to make jain style)
4-5 cloves garlic (skip to make jain style)

Dry Masala powders
A pinch of ginger powder
A pinch of garam masala
½ tsp Kashmiri lal mirch/ red chilli powder
½ tsp coriander/dhaniya powder
Salt to taste ( I add a tsp)
¼ tsp sugar (skip if not desired)
A pinch of cinnamon powder ( or an inch piece of cinnamon)
A pinch of black pepper powder

2 Tbsp ghee
1 bay leaf/tej patta
3-4 cloves/laung
¼ tsp caraway seeds/Shah jeera
2 green cardamoms/elaichi
1 black cardamom/badi ilaichi
½ cup of thick, well beaten curd/yogurt at room temperature
4-5 strands of saffron/kesar ,rubbed well in the mortar and pestle with a few drops of milk

Cut the paneer pieces into cubes and fry/shallow fry. I personally don’t like to fry them so I just add the chopped pieces to the gravy at the end.
In the mortar and pestle, run and grind the saffron with a few drops of milk or water till the colour and aroma is released well. Leave soaked while you prepare the gravy.
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In a heavy bottomed pan/kadai take the milk and add half a cup of water, dry ginger piece, aniseed, onions and garlic (if using), cashews, almonds, turmeric powder, asafoetida and bring to boil. Lower the flame and boil for 10-12 minutes.
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Strain and save the soup/stock to be used later for the gravy.
Remove the dry ginger piece from the sediment and grind it to a paste.
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Heat the ghee in a pan/kadai and add the whole spices- bay leaf,cinnamon stick,black cardamom, green cardamom, cloves and  caraway seeds.
Roast in ghee on low heat till they release the aroma.
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Add the cashew and almonds paste,
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Add salt, chilli powder, coriander powder, ginger powder, garam masala powder, black pepper powder,cinnamon powder, ( if using) and sauté covered on low heat till the ghee is released.
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Add the strained soup saved from before and curd (make sure curd is at room temperature else it will split in the gravy) and cook for another 10 minutes on low heat.
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At this point, I remove the large pieces of sabut /whole masalas (bay leaf, black cardamom etc as I don’t care for the big pieces in the gravy while eating)
Stir in the saffron  and the paneer and mix gently so that the gravy coats the paneer well.
Serve hot with rice or, like I did, with butter nan and roti.
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Kaala Jamun or Kala Jam

Gulab Jamuns have an elder sibling, called Kaala Jamuns or Kala Jaam. They, vis-a-vis their copper coloured siblings Gulab Jamuns, have a thicker, tougher outer covering,denser inner texture and almost black colour which gives them their name, Kaala meaning black. I saw a beautiful picture of Kaala Jamuns a few days back and wanted to try making them. Played around with my Gulab Jamun recipe this morning and was very happy with the results.
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Ingredients

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For the Gulab Jamuns
Khoya/Maawa/Milk Fudge –1 cup
Chenna/paneer/cottage cheese – ½ cup
Maida/All purpose flour – 2 Tbsp
Corn Flour-1 Tsp
Baking Powder – 1/8 tsp
Ghee – for frying

For the Filling
Khoya-paneer mixture- 2 Tbsp (taken from the khoya-paneer mixture)
Food colour , any – a drop or two( may use a pinch of saffron instead , steeped in a Tbsp of warm milk)
Sugar- ½ Tsp
Cashews, roughly chopped- 1 Tbsp
Almonds, chopped- ½ Tbsp

For the sugar syrup
Sugar – 2 cups
Water – 2 ½ cups
Finely powdered cardamom – ¼ Tsp

  1. Sugar Syrup– Prepare the sugar syrup by mixing the water and sugar and bringing it to a boil. Simmer for a minute. Remove. Add the cardamom powder.
  2. Grate and knead the chenna and khoya separately and mix them.
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  3. The Filling– Separate 2 Tbsp of the khoya and paneer mixture for the filling. Add the food colour, sugar and the chopped nuts. Reserve.
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  4. Jamuns– Add the maida, corn flour and baking powder to the remaining khoya and paneer mixture. Mix well and knead to bring it together. It will be a soft doughy consistency.
  5. Separate into sixteen equal balls. Flatten each and place the filling. Make roundels again. You may keep them round shape them oblong like I did here. The balls should be smooth and free of cracks or they will scatter in the ghee.
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  6. Heat the ghee to a medium temperature- it should not be very hot. I always use a deep saucepan with a handle to fry the gulab jamuns. It is easier to stir them without touching them and there are lesser chances of them breaking. Also it ensures even browning.
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  7. Fry all along on low medium heat. When they reach a copper brown hue, you have gulab jamuns ready.
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  8. To get Kaala Jamun, continue to fry till they reach an almost black colour.
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  9. Once evenly coloured, drop them into the warm sugar syrup. Fry them on low-medium heat throughout. Do not crank up the heat or you will end up with an uncooked centre.
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  10. Soak for some time and serve warm. Kaala Jamuns need to be soaked longer than gulab jamuns as they have a thicker covering.
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  11. They can be kept in the refrigerator for up to two days. Warm them in the microwave before serving.

*You may skip the filling and make them plain
*In case khoya is not available here is an excellent Instant Khoya recipe by my friend and a very innovative cook, Neha Saxena Gulati.

Instant Khoya

Take 1/2 cup heavy Cream (If using Amul cream, refrigerate it for a few hours and use just the top thick cream. Discard the watery part)
And 1/2 Cup powdered milk. Mix both in a microwave safe bowl with a spoon till in incorporates well.
Now microwave it for two minutes. Remove and mix  and microwave again for thirty seconds.
It usually gets done in about 2 minutes and 30 seconds. In case you feel it hasn’t come together, microwave for another 30 seconds. Make sure you don’t overdo it else it might burn. Keep an eye.
The same can be done on stove-top in medium heat, in a non stick pan. Just cook till all comes together.
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I am taking this popular Indian delight to Fiesta Friday# 26 at Angie’s. A big thank you to Prudy and Jess for co-hosting the event ❤
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Rabdi Angoori or Mini Rasmalai

Rasgullas are addictive! You get addicted to making them, that is. Though, each time I make them, I say a little prayer – such temperamental creatures they are! But I just cannot stop making them. I am glad I am getting them right almost always now.
Once you get the basic rasgulla right, there are so many ways you can play with it!

Toh Pesh-e-khidmat hai Rabdi Angoori 😀

Mini rasmalai to be quotidian: D
Angoori Rabdi

Recipe

RABDI ANGOORI/ MINI RASMALAI ( MINI COTTAGE CHEESE BALLS IN SAFFRON FLAVOURED MILK SYRUP)

Prepare the ras/rabdi/milk syrup and let it cool to room temperature before you proceed with making the mini rasgullas.

Rabdi/Ras/Milk Syrup
1 litre whole milk, cow milk is better as it gives a nice colour and flavor
3 Tbsp Sugar
1 tsp fine ground cardamom powder
8-10 saffron strands, steeped in warm milk
2 Tbsp Slivered pistachios, almond and chopped cashews

Bring the milk to boil, reduce heat and cook while stirring for about 20 minutes till the milk thickens but not very much. It needs to be thin enough for the ragullas to be to be able to soak the milk syrup well.Add cardamom powder and 3 tbsp sugar. Cook for another 5 minutes and take off the heat.
Add 8-10 saffron strands that have been soaked in one tbsp warm milk. Let cool to room temperature.Add the chopped nuts.

Mini Rasgullas

(The procedure is exactly the same as followed for rasgullas here, only the size of the paneer balls is smaller)

1 Litre cow milk, cream removed (I buy the milk an evening prior, boil,cool and refrigerate. Next morning, remove the cream and proceed to make chhena/paneer)

Chhena

(Here is the pictorial for making chhena)
Bring the milk to boil, add 1-2 tbsp lemon juice gradually so that the milk mass and whey separate completely. Strain in a colander lined with muslin/cheesecloth. Wash well with fresh water to remove the lemony sourness. Drain the water by squeezing. Hang to get rid for any excess whey/liquid. After about 20-25 minutes remove and rub the chhena with fingers and heels of the palm till the chhena gives out some ghee/fat. It takes me about 5 minutes to get there. By now the chhena is like a dough ball that comes together easily, neither too hard nor too soft. Take pinches off the dough and make small balls, you should get about 25. Remember, they are going to double up on boiling so size them accordingly.

Sugar Syrup– While you make the mini rasgulla balls, bring to boil 5 cups of water with a cup of sugar. Add half a tsp fine cardamom powder. Just as the syrup comes to a rolling boil, add in the mini rasgulla balls. Boil covered for 10-12 minutes on medium flame. Take off the heat.

Assembling Rabdi Angoori- Squeeze the mini rasgulla balls gently to get some of the water out and add them to the ras. Chill for a couple of hours. Garnish with more slivered nuts just before serving. Enjoy!

 Rabdi Angoori prep

*If you have the ras ready, cool it to room temperature and add the mini balls. If not, transfer the mini balls to a big bowl of room       temperature drinking water
* I use the same Rabdi to make Mango Rabdi. Instead of the mini rasgullas, I add about a cup of mango pulp and half a cup of mango    bits. Mangoes have to be very sweet and flavourous else they can spoil the lovely rabdi richness
*Nuts may be skipped in case of allergies

Angoori Rabdi 1

Red Velvet Cake with homemade cream cheese frosting

Red Velvet Cake with homemade cream cheese frosting

The Red Velvet- I was enamoured with the colour and texture of this beautiful cake ever since I saw it for the first time and dug into it, at a small patisserie in Edinburgh. The allure of this double-hued delight mesmerized the eye and the taste buds! I promised myself I’d bake it someday.

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Now, baking is something that I have taught myself pretty late in life. I am not your natural expert baker. Hence started a series of trials, in more ways than one! The Red Velvet had me on my toes the past few weeks, seemingly mocking all my efforts!

The first attempt was complete rubbish! By the third, I got the crumb right but the colour couldn’t decide whether it wanted to be mahogany or burgundy :-/. The beet ‘route’ didn’t work for me at all and I decided food colour was the way to go!

Yesterday my friend Sirisha Mantha posted a lovely chocolate-date cake  recipe on the  facebook food group I am a memeber of. It said cocoa,it said vanilla, it said buttermilk- My heart said
Red Velvet!!

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So here is my version of the red velvet –  beautiful red colour, perfectly soft crumb and delectably moist!

I make no claim to its authenticity as a true red velvet but a big slice of this with some capsicum corn pockets on a plate and I had all the three guys at home smiling wide!

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Red Velvet Cake

All Purpose flour/Maida – 1 ½ cup
Sugar – 1 cup
Eggs – 2
Butter – 1/2 cup
Butter milk – 3/4 cup
Baking powder- 1 tsp
Cocoa powder – 1 Tbsp
Vanilla extract – 1 Tsp
Liquid Red food colour- 1 Tsp ( Add slowly and adjust as per the shade of the red desired)

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a 9 inch pan

In medium sized bowl, sift flour, cocoa powder and baking powder 2-3 times

In a big bowl, beat the butter and sugar till creamy. Add egg to the butter-sugar mixture and mix well.Add in the buttermilk and mix.Now add the red food colour gradually till you get the desired shade of red. I used a little more than one tsp.Add the flour mix in three batches, mixing after each addition. Add in the vanilla essence.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.Let it cool fully, cling wrap and refrigerate for an hour. This helps in slicing the cake.After an hour, remove from the fridge and with the big serrated knife slice horizontally into two halves

 

Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream cheese is difficult to come by in the small town I live, so I made mine at home.

Fresh homemade cottage cheese- 200 grams(Find the recipe here for making cottage cheese at home)
Thick Yogurt/curd  2-3 Tbsp
Powdered Sugar- 1 Tbsp
Heavy Cream 200 Mils
Vanilla essence ½ tsp

Crumble the cottage cheese and blend with the powdered sugar and  2 Tbsp of yogurt adding more yogurt only if required. Ensure that the yogurt/curd is not sour.  The mixture needs to be thick, creamy and smooth. This is your homemade cream cheese.

Beat the heavy cream till stiff peaks form and gently fold in the cream cheese and the vanilla essence.

Spread the cream cheese frosting between the two layers of the cake. Cover the top and the sides generously. Smooth over with a wet spatula. Actually, I quite liked the rustic look.

Slice and enjoy!

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Making Paneer/Cottage Cheese at home

Paneer/ cottage cheese is used in a variety of sweet and savoury dishes. Though it is easily available at sweet shops and the supermarket, I like to make mine at home. For Indian desserts like rasgullas, rasmalai and gulab jamuns, fresh home made paneer is a sure- shot way to get excellent results.

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Here is a stepwise illustration on how to make paneer/cottage cheese/chhena at home.

You need

Milk- 1 litre
Lemon Juice/Vinegar- 1-2 Tbsp diluted with 1/2 a Tbsp of water
Some ice cubes (optional)
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  1. Bring to boil a litre of milk (though any variety may be used, I prefer fresh cow milk)
  2. Gradually add lemon juice/vineager stirring the milk till the time the milk  mass  separates from the greenish whey/liquid
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  3. Turn off the heat
  4. Add 10-12 ice cubes
  5. Strain and wash thoroughly with cool drinking water to get rid of the sour lemony smell
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  6. Transfer to a muslin cloth,tie the cloth holding the corners and hang for 10-15 minutes to drain the excess whey.
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Your fresh homemade paneer is ready to use.
It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours but is best used fresh.
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Rasgulla,cottage cheese balls in sweet syrup

My first post is a sweet one. The no-fry,no-ghee Indian dessert loved by most and relatively low-calorie as far as desserts go!

rasgulla or roshogulla

Rasgullas- the soft and squeezy delight from Bengal

Hailing from the eastern state of West Bengal, these light-delights are so loved that one sees rasgulla eating competitions at weddings. I have seen a participant, who eventually was declared the winner, down three dozen at a go!!

Here is a recipe very close to my heart, perfected after more than half a dozen trials till I reached close to perfection. Rasgullas are now almost a weekly affair in my house. Two months back I wouldn’t have dreamt of making them at home!!

You follow the directions below and get perfect rasgullas at home 🙂
Let me warn you-making rasgullas is very addictive! Once hooked to making them, you just aren’t able to stop!

RASGULLA

For the Rasgullas you need
1 Litre cow milk, cream removed (I buy the milk an evening prior, boil,cool and refrigerate. Next morning, remove the cream and proceed to make chenna/paneer)
1-2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice/Vinegar / 3-4 Tbsp curd
Tip- Off late I have started using curd for splitting the milk. You don’t need to wash the chhena and it gives perfectly round rasgullas. 

Paneer
Split the milk

To Make Chenna
(Here is a step wise guide to making paneer/chhena at home)
 Bring the milk to boil, add 1-2 tbsp lemon juice gradually so that the milk mass and whey separate completely.Add 10-15 ice cubes. Rest for a minute.
If using curd, simply keep adding the curd till the milk splits. Strain and drain the chhena well and proceed to make rasgullas. No need to put the ice cubes and wash the paneer! 

Making paneer at home
Strain through muslin cloth
Making Paneer at home
Wash well under running water
Making Paneer at home
Hang for 15-20 minutes for the water to rinse

Strain in a colander lined with muslin/cheesecloth. Wash thoroughly with fresh water to remove the lemony sourness. Drain the water by squeezing. Knot the muslin cloth and hang it  to get rid for any excess whey/liquid.After about 10-15 minutes, remove. The chhena you get will be crumbly like in the picture below.
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If it is too wet, it is not drained well and will be impossible to knead. So, make sure chenna is crumbly and slightly dry and yet a little moist.

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Knead it to get a smooth dough

Rub the chenna with fingers and heels of the palm till the chenna gives out some fat/ ghee/chiknaayee. It takes me about 5- 7 minutes to get there. By now the chenna is like a dough ball that comes together easily, neither too hard nor too soft.

Take pinches off the dough and make small balls, you should get about 15. Remember, they are going to double up on boiling so size them accordingly.

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Make small chhena balls

For the Sugar Syrup

For the Light Sugar Syrup to boil the rasgullas

1 cup Sugar
5 cups Water
1/2 tsp fine cardamom (ilaichi) powder

For adding to the Light sugar syrup after boiling the rasgullas

1/4 cup Sugar (I keep the sugar very low. Please  increase the sugar to 1/2  or 3/4 cup here to get sweeter rasgullas)
1/2 cup Water
8-10 saffron strands (optional- I haven’t used here)
1-2 Tsp rosewater/gulabjal (optional- I haven’t used here)

While you make the paneer balls, bring to boil 5 cups of water with a cup of sugar (light sugar syrup). Add half a tsp fine cardamom powder. Just as the syrup comes to a rolling boil, add in the rasgulla balls. Boil covered for 12- 15 minutes on medium flame.
I make my rasgullas in two batches so that the rasgullas get enough space in the water to expand and also keep their round shape. If the syrup is less or there are too many gullas in the liquid, they will either become flat or lose their shape.
You may uncover to check every 5 min minutes.

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Boil them in light sugar syrup till they double up

To check if the rasgullas are cooked, drop one in plain drinking water. If it sinks, it is done. If it floats, boil for a couple of minutes and check again. Switch off the gas.

Making rasgulla at home
Drop in a plain glass of water. If it sinks to the bottom, it is done!

Transfer gently to a big bowl full of clean drinking water. There should be enough water for the paneer balls else they might lose their shape.dd one fourth cup sugar and half a cup of water to the same light sugar syrup in which the rasgullas were boiled  and give it a boil so that the sugar melts. Add in the saffron strands (if using) when the syrup becomes warm, do not add while it is hot.Let the sugar syrup cool to room temperature ( takes about 30 minutes)
Remove the rasgullas from the plain water, squeeze gently and drop into the sugar syrup.
Chill for three hours. You may top with some finely slivered pistachios and almonds.
Enjoy!

Problems and possible reasons and solutions

Bengali Rasgulla

Tricky buggers, but delightful once tamed! And super addictive! My friend Suchitra commented yesterday on the numerous successful rasgulla attempt on CAL- my food group on FB. Sadly, some misses too :(. I know how disheartening it is to not get it right. I got into the kitchen last night and made a fresh batch

Just tried one- perfect! No lemony taste, just the right amount of sweetness, no kich kich sound when you bite in.

1. The right milk is the first step, I cannot say that enough!! Fresh cow milk from the dairy works best. I always use that, never had a failed attempt with that. In case you do not have access to that, try with a good brand of cow milk. People have tried with Amul and got good results.  A friend in the UK gets perfect results with Tesco green milk 
And try, try, try till you figure out what milk works
People living overseas should give them a go with 2 % milk.

For people living in the US– My friend and co-blogger, the brilliant Sonal Gupta has done a fantastic detailed post on rasgullas. The post has exhaustive notes on the right kind of milk and how to go about making rasgullas. Find this very helpful post here on Sonal’s blog simplyvegetarian777.wordpress.com. A big shout of thanks Sonal 🙂

2. I remove the malai/cream and then proceed to make chhena because my trial with full cream milk gave me greasy Rasgullas. But your choice, you can go with full milk.

3. While making chhena, do not boil the milk after adding the lemon juice. That leads to chewy Rasgullas. Better still, use curd to split the milk. No washing required, but drain well. If the paneer is too moist, rasgullas will break. Paneer made with curd gives perfectly round rasgullas 🙂 

4. Washing the paneer THOROUGHLY is vital, else you get the lemony taste in Rasgullas. I pour 3-4 glasses of drinking water and wash all of it with my fingers- very nicely!

5. Draining the chhena right is again,very important. Too dry and the Rasgullas go dry, too moist and the Rasgullas scatter in the syrup. This comes with handling the paneer. But a couple of attempts and you get it right.

6. I do not add any binder– sooji,maida,cornflour or arrowroot. Nothing against binders but I wanted to do it without them for the fasting community in my family 😉 Also, I got softer Rasgullas without the sooji/maida- yeah, I did try making them with both.

7. Kneading well is important! The chenna has to be crumbly to start with. Knead it till you get a smooth non-sticky dough like consistency. Knead till it leaves out some ghee/fat/chiknaayee. And stop then.

8. Make smooth, crack free chhena balls.

9. I transfer the chhena balls to water at room temperature to stop the cooking process. This also ensures I don’t get chewy Rasgullas due to over cooking in the residual heat. Keeps their shape well while I cook batch 2 of the Rasgullas in the same syrup.

10. I cook the chenna balls in light (less sweet) sugar syrup to get spongy Rasgullas. Later add more sugar and water to the SAME sugar syrup. Then cool the syrup to room temperature and add the cooked chhena balls which were put into water at room temperature. We are using the same syrup and not making two syrups here.

11. I always leave them in the syrup for 3-5 hours before serving so that they soak in the sweetness. Eating immediately is fine too, only they will be little less sweet.

12. The water sugar ratio of 1:5 gives medium sweet Rasgullas. If you want them sweeter, you can increase the amount of sugar

13. I make them in an open vessel. People use the pressure cooker too. I felt they get a little yellow in the cooker. Also I enjoy watching them double up, hence the open pan with a lid works beautifully! 😉

14. Sometimes Rasgullas shrink after they boil and double. Usually happens because of the wrong milk in my experience. They do shrink a wee little bit once taken of the heat, but not remarkably so.

15. If you get flat or shapeless rasgullas, it is because they aren’t getting enough space to expand. Use a deep and wide vessel. I make the rasgullas in two batches so that they have enough space and also because it gets done in less amount of sugar syrup- no wastage. If you want to make them at one go- you may double the amount of sugar syrup.

16. I keep the sugar low in the rasgullas. If you like them sweeter, please add more to the syrup after having boiled the rasgullas once.  If you feel they are less sweet even after the second soak for three hours- remove the rasgullas, add sugar to the syrup, give it a boil, cool and soak the rasgullas again for a couple of hours.

17. And, above all-  pray! I always do when I make them 😀

Roshogulla