Rasmalai (Cottage Cheese Dumplings in Saffron Flavoured Milk)

Are you one of those people who start off to do something and end up doing something else? Well, when it comes to cooking I end up doing something very different from what I intended to :D (thats a huge grin). Well, since the past few weeks I've gotten obsessed with the 'home made' tag. I tried my hand at making butter, curds (yogurt), ghee (clarified butter) and paneer (cottage cheese) and was almost dying to write a post about how the freshly sourced 1 litre of milk fetched me so many by products. I was pretty pleased with myself and wondered why I didn't try all this years ago. I always thought making things at home was hard work and only grannies could do it - pickles, ghee, jams et al. But no! I was mistaken! I have a friend & ex-colleague who used to make home made ghee and send it across to me religiously every fortnight when my son was just weaned. The fragrance of home made ghee was just something else. It filled those moments with so much bliss and I would steal a teaspoon or so despite my rising weight. This friend of mine was the one who coaxed me to try many things at home so that my son could have a healthier way of life from his early years. Following her advice, I regularly make home made curds if nothing else. 

Paneer or Chenna as its called in most of North India is of Indian origin and is a kind of cheese. Paneer is widely used to make a variety of sweet & savoury dishes. It is a good source of protein for vegetarians and unlike other cheeses, is not aged. Paneer is most famously found in Palak Paneer (Spinach and Cottage Cheese) or Mutter Paneer (Peas and Cottage Cheese) and is typically famous in Northern parts of India than South India. 

Last week when I was trying to boil the milk I realised that it had already gone bad before it came to a boil and I had Paneer instead of butter and curd that day. I just followed the instructions ringing in my head and got some delicious Paneer which I refrigerated for a few days before I decided to try my hand at making a home made sweet dish which was healthy as well (err..well, not as unhealthy as other sweets at least). Since hubby dearest prefers Rasmalai to Rasgullas, Rasmalai it was. 

The recipe is by Titli Nihan - A darling ol' British lady who loves to cook Indian/Pakistani fare and has loads of recipes which ofcourse are tweaked to suit the Brit palate. I stumbled across her video on Youtube when I was searching for 'how to make ghee' and I totally loved her videos (so meticulously shot & edited by herself). I soon found myself spending hours going through her videos and my son totally loves her now. Titli is his best friend. He loves her narrations - they do sound a lot like fairy tales :-). I don't doubt that he will turn into a chef one day at the rate at which he watches her 'how to' videos :D

(Printable Recipe)

Yield: 10-12 rasgullas/dumplings
Preparation time - 20mins

You Need:
For the rasgullas (dumplings)
Note: Alternatively you can use 250gms of Paneer -use really fresh Paneer from a trusted source if you are not familiar with the quality of Paneer. Fresh Paneer is always creamy and melts in the mouth. Slightly older Paneer turns chewy & dryish - which is why many first time eaters hate it (not their fault!)

For the ras (sauce)
To make the rasgullas/dumplings: 
1. In a pan bring the milk to a boil and stir in the lime juice for about a minute and remove the pan from the fire. This is the curdled milk - pour it into a cheese cloth/muslin cloth/bairas and give the cloth a squeeze allow to drain from a height for about 30mins till all the liquid has drained off and what remains is 'cottage cheese' or 'paneer'. 
2. Knead the paneer for about 10minutes or till it ceases to be crumbly. The texture should be smooth and will be a soft ball. You will know when your palm gets a bit oily.
3. Break the ball into 8-10 small lime size balls and then flatten them in the middle of your palm to make flat discs. Take care to see that the edges are not broken or else they will break when you boil them in the sugar water.
4. In a sufficiently wide bottomed pan place the 750ml of water and when it boils, add the sugar and dissolve it. Place the flat paneer discs gently and cook for about 8-10minutes. (Alternately you can use a pressure cooker to cook the discs - just take 1 whistle and then leave it for 5 minutes before opening the cooker - but ensure your cooker is large enough to accomodate all the discs else they will stick together and look triangular in shape) The discs will inflate to a slightly larger size and look transparent. Turn off the flame and allow to cool. These are Rasgullas (Paneer Balls in Sugar Syrup) 

To make the sauce:
1. Place the milk in a pan and when it comes to a boil add the sugar and simmer for about 15 minutes or till the quantity reduces to half. Stir in between to avoid the milk from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
2. When the milk has thickened a bit and reduced in quantity, remove from the flame and add the coarsely powdered cardamom and saffron strands and stir. The saffron  will lend a beautiful pale yellow colour to the sauce.

To assemble:
1. Remove each dumpling from the sugar syrup and gently squeeze any excess syrup. Place them in a wide bowl
2. Pour the sauce over them and garnish with almond and pistachio slivers.
3. Refrigerate for at least 30minutes before serving.

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