Making Rasagullas

I opened the refrigerator and came face to face with horror.  The gallon of milk was past its expiry date.  I usually cheat and use it for another day or two, but this was a full week past its expiry date.  Worse, it was an unopened can.

How does one throw away a full can of organic, low-fat milk?  I could not bring myself to do it.  All my thrifty Indian genes rose up and stood at attention. We will find a way, they said.

I poured the milk into a large saucepan and turned up the flame.  Then I called my mother.

“How do I make khoya? ” I asked her.  “Or, er, theratti paal?”

“Boil a liter of milk, keep stirring continuously,” she said. “For theratti paal, add a cup sugar or jaggery.  But it takes hours, though you could do it on the microwave, it would be faster.”

Milk boiling has always remained a mystery to me. Maybe aliens come into the picture. Maybe time machines do.  All I know is, I can keep staring at a pot of milk that is heating up nicely, but somehow, just a few seconds before it boils over, it will distract my attention and I will be looking elsewhere.  Even milk that looks ice cold and hours away from boiling will prompty boil over in seconds if I ignore it.

I have tried milk cookers, but they scare me even more with their banshee shrieks.  So I have resigned myself to mopping the cooktop every time I boil milk.  Usually I never boil milk if I can avoid it.

Microwaving doesn’t help either.  So my Mom’s idea gave me a sudden mental picture of a huge bowl stuck in the microwave, overflowing with milk, dripping on the floor, setting off the smoke alarm..

“I have this huge amount of milk” I wailed.  “Close to two liters! I don’t want to microwave it”.

“Oh well, but it will take hours if you simmer it on the cooktop”, she said.

“Don’t worry,” I said.  “I will go off to the basement to exercise.”

“Then it will all get burnt and stick to the bottom of the pan”, she said.

My Mom does not know that I don’t really exercise for very long.  This did not seem the right time to enlighten her either.

“It’s okay”, I said. “I will hear the smoke alarm from downstairs if it does get burnt.”

Then I heard it – a sizzling noise that was growing steadily louder.  I turned around. The milk had boiled over.

As I rushed to the cooktop, I heard Mom laugh. “Why don’t you make rasagulla?”

I switched off the gas and started mopping operations.

“So how do I make rasagulla?”  I asked.

“Google it”, she laughed some more and ended the call.

That, dear readers, is how I came about to making rasagulla.

There is one easy way to make rasagullas.  I learnt later from friends’ experiences that there are even more easy ways to make rock-gullas.  But I shall stick with the rasagullas for now.

Rasagulla recipe:

1.  Boil milk.  Try not to have it overflow all over your counter top.  Mop cooktop.

2.  Switch off gas and squeeze a lime into milk.  The milk will break up instantaneously and rather satisfyingly into a million pieces, which will then clump together, leaving a lot of greeny white whey.  You have now had your revenge on the milk for messing up your cooktop.

3.  Drain the whey.  If you are a SuperWoman, you will have cheesecloth lying around right beside you, all organized.  If you are an industrious cook, you will at least use white towels and such things.  If you are me, you will just pour the whole saucepan into a large steel strainer and just trust to beginner’s luck.  Amazingly, it works.

4.  If it doesn’t drain out fast enough, squeeze it, use ladles to press it, crush it with cutting boards, anything.  The recipes will all tell you it will take 45 minutes to drain. Don’t listen to them.  You can’t let this thing get lazy.  Give it five minutes at most.

Squeeze the lump that remains to take out every last drop of whey.  You now have paneer.  You can use this to make paneer dishes like paneer makhani or palak paneer.  But since you are making rasagulla now, there are a few more steps.

5.  Dump the stuff into a food processor and grind it for 1 minute.  You will now get a nice, smooth paste.  This is the most important part of the recipe.  The traditional recipes call for rubbing the paneer with your hands until it becomes soft.  Not too much, they say, and not too little.

You can imagine how that will work.  A friend who tried the hand-rubbing technique tells me she tried 3 times, and each time she got rock-gullas instead of rasagullas.  The mixer is much better.

6.  In a saucepan, boil a mixture of 1 1/2 cups sugar and 4 cups water.  If you like your rasagullas extra sweet, you can add a little more sugar.

7.  While the sugar solution is boiling, roll the paste into small, round balls. Don’t make all the balls the same size.  That is when you will get interesting conversations like “You ate all the big ones and left just the small ones to me!”.

8.  Add the paneer balls into the sugar solution.  Reduce the heat a little and let the rasagullas absorb the sugar solution.

9. Once the rasagullas have boiled for, say, 10 minutes, switch off the gas and cool.

10.  After the rasagullas have cooled, add some rose water.  Then refrigerate.

Resist the temptation to eat one immediately. Take pictures and send them to your mother. She will never believe you otherwise.

The recipe makes around 40 rasagullas.  They were quite delicious too. But if you’d rather make rock-gullas (I hear they make excellent projectiles), you know what to do!

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37 thoughts on “Making Rasagullas

  1. I bow to you, Madame Lekhni – for your will not to waste, and your strength to be so creative a cook (not to mention your cool mom who says “Google it!”). 🙂

    I learnt how to make rasmalai once. I phoned my younger sister who is a whiz at cooking exotica. She laughed when she heard what I had managed to do. My rasmalai ball-ettes did not become big enough which is apparently a ‘baking soda’ ratio problem. Hmm. I ground them all in a blender – I do not have a ‘mixie’, just a handheld blender – and froze them all. Voila! Kulfi resulted. Nice it was too. That is the closest I have come to making dessert (barring an occasion when I made Tarte Tatin).

    I envy you at some level 😉

  2. Shefaly: I can well imagine myself doing something like that – in fact, after hearing my friend’s account, I am still wondering how I managed to not make rockgullas myself 🙂 And yes, every family has a gourmet cook with exotic tastes, right? In my case, it’s my brother..

  3. theratti paal is one of the most difficlut southie things to make. khoya is a more bastardized version. IN the former u let the milk thicken to the point its just gonna burn. the trick is to have a very light burnt aroma in it. In khoya you take it off the fire long before…

  4. @ Lekhni:

    I tell myself someone has got to give revenue to and provide jobs for the professionals, eh? 😉

    In my family, I am the one with the exotic tastes, the gourmet and the gourmand (watching her waist too); she is the one with exotic cooking abilities (mostly Indian exotica).

  5. Brilliant! When I first read “milk beyond expiry date”, I thought why rasagullah, why not theratti pal. Or the more popular version- pal gova! Is it really as difficult as max makes it out to be? People make it often back home when they leave boiled milk open for a long time.

  6. maxdavinci: I don’t know about the burnt aroma being mandatory 🙂 I found theratti paal is not difficult to make – just very time consuming. You could, for instance, boil the milk and watch cricket, just getting up to stir after each over 😉 But your comment tells me that you have tried both theratti paal and khoya? I am impressed !

    Shefaly: Ah, well, I leave all that to my brother. Exotic tastes and cooking abilities (mostly non-Indian), gourmand, all put together 🙂 Me, I really cannot even find out if the dish is low in salt 😦

    Adithya: All right, since everyone seems so interested in the theratti paal, let me confess something. I actually did make theratti paal too, along with the rasagullas. It didn’t seem worth writing a whole post about, but what was I thinking? I will write about that next.

    Soumya: How did you know I was good at mailing food ? I send food all the time to my nephew, through Skype. He assures me each time that he has received it, so who am I to question that ? 😉 Some unknown property of science, I presume.

  7. You win the Oscar for most howlarious recipe ever! And they look really good too:) I’m inspired to write about the time I made gulab jamun barfi!

  8. I wish you had broken up this into two posts:
    – The absolutely hilarious “milk-boiling-over” post!
    – The 10-easy steps to make Rasagullas post!

    🙂

  9. ok. first bless you. today i had a 2 litre milk lying around which i have JUST converted into paneer ( after of course it boiling all over the cooking range as usual – seriously, were you lost in kumbh mela?)

    The problem is that I have another 2 litres also lying in the fridge ( the milkman insists on giving 1.5 litres for two people inspite of me stalking/calling/mailing/lying in wait for him – he doesnt even come to pick the monies for some reason) so im making a LOT of paneer these days. after going through all varities of paneer dishes, rasgulla sounds like a wonderful, wonderful idea.

    ( btw, people actually do stuff like keep cheese cloth ready?seriously?what are they domestic goddesses?)
    also i am glad to note that your ma, also tells u go google and other unhelpful tips like that.hmmm i wonder whether mothers get together and have chortling chats about their slightly kitchen challenged kids ( ok i dont know whether u are kitchen challenged – i am) . we should get them to start a group blog on “muwahaahah what dumbass thing my daughter did in the kitchen today”

  10. ….some of us go all the way to India to get proper, good-quality cheesecloth. AND keep it ready.

    *runs away from the hordes of shrieking women chasing with pans of boiling milk*

  11. Are you trying to tell me that my most favorite dish is that easy to make?
    Wait till I try this recipe. I am sure I will find a way to mess it up and sue you.

  12. Dipali: I am eagerly looking forward to those gulab jamun barfis 🙂 I’ve never made gulab jamuns yet, but I know what to expect now 😛

    Rambodoc: I would never have tried this if I hadn’t been forced to. Inspiration comes from strange sources 🙂

    Rada: That’s true. My milk boiling experiences merit a story of their own, and I haven’t told half the story here 😀

    A Cynic in Wonderland: Or separated at birth? 😉 The milkman part is hilarious!
    Perhaps my mother knew that after asking the recipe, I’d forget half the details and google it anyway. It wouldn’t be the first time 🙂
    If my Mom started a group blog, she’d be surprised to find anyone even half as kitchen challenged as I am! The secret lies in lowering expectations early 😛

    ??! You do? I am VERY impressed! In India, I am too busy eating to even think of cooking. But it’s good to find a Super Woman among my readers 🙂

    Usha: You can’t mess it up! If there was any any way to mess up, I would have found it already 😀
    Thanks for the compliment about the header image (that’s what you were referring to, right?)

    Nikhil Narayanan: Now if only I could send some over to you through the Net..

    La Vida Loca: You are just hungry. Go get some proper breakfast! NOT rasagullas 🙂

  13. WOW! Those are some yummy rasagullas you’ve made!! I can work up an appetite for them right away!
    And there are people that keep cheesecloth etc ready kya?! I cant even think of them when I go shopping although I have a bad habit of collecting things that I ‘think’ will come handy some day, especially with the kitchen stuff. Amateurs act like that only!
    And my mithais never come out well 😦 I remember the time I tried to make some coconut burfi and it all fell apart. We then put spoons in it and ate it off. But your recipe is tempting enough for me to try ! G’s bday is coming up so I mite just land up doing this one and surprising him :-)))) (provided it comes out well)
    Kudos to your mom – ‘Google it’ indeed !!! ;-)))))

  14. Get thee to the nearest desi store and see if you can rustle up a decent milk cooker- it can’t be all that difficult! Trust me, your mopping boiled over milk days will be over. Er… unless you forget to pour the water in the double boiler’s tank, in which case you can mop off gooey stuck plastic/metal from your stove top when you realize the burning smell seems to resemble an iron foundry.

  15. snippetsnscribbles: Coconut burfi! That sounds terrific, and Googling says it is not too tough to make (hey, I don’t mind liquid burfi, I will just call it kheer or something :D) Do let me know how the rasagullas turn out!

    Sujatha: I have tried milk cookers 😦 Some people (and I mean, of course, Kim/Arkady/??!) import cheese cloth from India, I import milk cookers. But I have discovered, as I said in the post, that they shriek like banshees. I would rush to the cooktop to turn the gas off, and open the milk cooker’s lid. I find that the milk has not boiled yet. In fact, it seems hours away from boiling. It’s only the water in the milk cooker that’s interested in boiling.
    I stand watch over the milk, gritting my teeth at the shrieking of the water. The milk is unconcerned. It’s lazing, it’s laughing at me. After waiting there for eternity, I succeed in turning away the exact second when the milk decides to boil in one sudden motion.
    Rada is right, I can write an entire post about how not to boil milk 😛

  16. @lekhini Made em today! And they came out okay. Yippie.
    Ah every ma probabaly thinks their kid is supremely kitchen challenged. Yus the milkman is quite intriguing. Now its become a point of honour for me..to locate the dude. so far after a month and a half the honors are with him. sigh

    ??! – i have to ask you again. will you marry me? cheese cloth, recipes. wow.

  17. btw, people actually do stuff like keep cheese cloth ready?seriously?what are they domestic goddesses?

    Ooh, someone is being a sexist!! What, men can’t cook? 😉
    /end faux-umbrage

  18. Hey Lekhni, your rasgollas look FANTASTIC! Like Haldirams, even. I’m kind of tempted to make it myself.
    So how long past the expiry date do I have to keep the milk? I dont have to wait for it to grow legs, right? 🙂

  19. Yummy. This recipe sounds simple even to a person like me but in my case, I can’t guarantee that the shape will be so round though. How many did you end up eating? 😉

  20. this is insanity miss lekhni. ts my last week in tokyo and am tempted to try this now – just to stun mom yes.
    such a nice cook that i am, i might just try it .. a hazaar thanks i would deliver to you if i manage to do this i tell ya 🙂

  21. aandthirtyeights: See, you are assuming that I can make the perfect aloo curry just because I made rasagullas once 🙂 R, on the other hand, believes that he makes the world’s best aloo curry and I need to go a long way!

    Shyam: That’s the beauty of pictures – even if they had indeed been rock-gullas, they would still look quite good 😛 As for the milk, if it grows legs it might walk on you, right? 😉 Seriously, I am glad the milk wasn’t actually spoilt even though it was a week past the expiry date. Or else I couldn’t have made the theratti paal as well.

    Celine: You can make square or oval rasagullas and call them “nouvelle cuisine” 🙂 I ate less than half. I had some guests that evening who ended up being guinea pigs 😀 R loved them too, which was good. I don’t have that much of a sweet tooth!

    prasoon: You in Tokyo? Finished sight-seeing? I’ve never been there. You must try the recipe, it’s quite easy (I mean, I could do it :)) and I’d love to know what your Mom thought of your rasagullas !

  22. Lekhni

    Am I dreaming or did you write a post about making some curry with paneer in it? I found paneer in a regular store and now I have it, I do not know what to do with it 😦

    (Note to self: never shop for groceries until clear about what you are going to do with all those things!)

  23. Lekhni: Thanks. I read the recipe. I will need to substitute butter as cooking medium (I have not “met” butter for over 12 years) so it may not turn out as delicious as yours.. I will email after the experiment 🙂

  24. Hi
    I read this rasagulla recipe. very interesting. I am planning to make it after the moment i get a reply for this message.
    I am making with 2% reduced fat milk. is it ok?

    I do not have a food processor, I do have a Indian style mixer. can i use the small or medium jar to grind the paneer?

    thanks in advance
    gayathri.

    Lekhni: I used 2% milk too, as I mentioned in an earlier comment. On which sized jar to use, it would depend on how much paneer you made. If you used half a gallon or so, the medium jar might be a better idea. You don’t add water to the paneer, so it just depends on the paneer’s volume.

  25. Pingback: Self-improvement lessons from gulab jamuns | The Imagined Universe

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