Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Rasmalai with Strawberry Compote (Happy Diwali!)

Happy Diwali! On my favourite day of the year, it's only right that I share one of my favourite recipes - Rasmalai. For me, this light, milky dessert makes a change from the heavy, sugary treats normally associated with this time of year - and if you are having family or friends over for dinner I'm sure they will also appreciate the change.

Rasmalai originates from Orissa in the Bengal region of India, but its irresistible deliciousness has allowed it to travel across the country and the world and it is now probably one of the most well-known and favoured Indian desserts of all time. The soft, melt-in-the-mouth, sponge-like ovals are the “malai,” and the sweet, fragrant, delicately spiced milk is the “ras.” This dessert takes time to make, but is well worth it; and you can even make it a day in advance if you are having a dinner party.

Traditionally, rasmalai is flavoured with cardamom and saffron, so the vanilla, rose water and strawberry compote are entirely optional but I feel they add an uplifting and refreshing new dimension to this classic recipe.

Ingredients (serves 6)

For the Malai
1 L whole milk
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 L water
200 g caster sugar

For the Ras
500 ml whole milk
100 g caster sugar
¼ tsp crushed saffron threads
¼ vanilla pod
1 tbsp rose water
¼ tsp ground cardamom

For the Strawberry Compote
175 g strawberries
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp rose water
¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • The first part of this recipe is making the paneer, which will form the “malai.”
  • Heat up the milk in a wide saucepan over a medium high heat.
  • When the milk comes to a rolling boil, add the lemon juice and reduce the heat.
  • You will see the milk begin to curdle and split.
  • When the liquid part of the milk turns a greenish colour, pour the contents of the pan through a sieve or colander lined with a cheesecloth.
  • Let the liquid drain away and the rinse the milk solids, or paneer, with cold water.
  • Tie the cheesecloth up around the paneer and either press with weights or leave to hang from a tap until all the liquid drains away and the paneer is dry.
  • Place the drained paneer in a food processor with a chopping attachment, and blend until it comes together to form a smooth ball.
  • Remove from the processor and knead gently until you have a completely smooth dough.
  • Use a rounded dessert spoon to form 12 equal portions of the dough, and roll each into a smooth round ball with no cracks in it.
  • Bring the 200 g sugar and water to the boil together inside a large pressure cooker.
  • Take each ball of the paneer and gently flatten it until it is approximately 1-cm thick.
  • Place all of the paneer patties into the pressure cooker and allow them to cook over a medium heat until the whistle rises or for a maximum of 10 minutes.
  • Allow the cooker to cool before you open it; and then use a serrated spoon to gently lift out each malai, and place it on a dish to cool slightly.
  • While the malai are cooking and cooling, you can begin making the “ras.”  Bring the milk to the boil in a large non-stick saucepan over a high heat.
  • When the milk has boiled, reduce the heat, add the sugar, saffron, rose water, and vanilla pod, and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally until the milk has reduced by one third (about 15 minutes).
  • Turn off the heat and remove the vanilla pod from the milk.
  • Stir in the cardamom, and allow to cool slightly.
  • When both the ras and malai have cooled slightly but are still warm, gently squeeze out some of the excess sugar syrup from the malai by pressing them downwards, and then place each one into the ras.
  • Place in the refrigerator to chill completely
  • To make the strawberry compote, hull and quarter the strawberries and place in a saucepan together with the sugar, rose water, and vanilla extract.
  • Warm over a low heat, stirring occasionally and allowing the strawberries to release their juice; and then let the mixture thicken a little (about 5 minutes).
  • Allow the compote to cool slightly before refrigerating.
  • To assemble the dessert, place a rasmalai on the centre of each dish, and top with a tsp of compote. Place another rasmalai on top, and garnish with a little extra compote and some chopped pistachios if desired. Serve chilled.

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