They say that the sense of smell is closely linked with memory, more so than any of our other senses and oh boy, do I believe that when I smell Indian sweets. The fragrant scent of caramelised sugar, rose, cardamom, saffron and pistachio can trigger memories of bustling Indian weddings and sweet shops in an instance. Cardamom is my most favourite of flavours (smells also) and it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s because it evokes such strong feelings of nostalgia. 

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I have family in the North of England who we would visit for festivities such as Eid and family weddings. For a family of six with big appetites and sweet teeth, these road-trips came to symbolise a pit-stop at Ambala – the Indian Willy Wonka Factory. Quite literally, the icing on the cake. Piles of glistening, amber coloured Jalebi, rows of pastel, jewel studded Barfi and soft, pillowy Rasmalai that glistened with its fleck of silver leaf. My two sisters, brother and myself would enthusiastically urge my parents to add “just two more pieces of Gajar Halwa” or “a bit more of the green one”, knowing full well that half of it would disappear before we even got home. 

My favourite – Gulab Jamun. My favouritefvaouritefavouritehot Gulab Jamun. India’s version of a donut; deep-fried, chestnut coloured dumplings, steeped in a cardamom-rose-saffron sugar syrup. They are the definition of “melt-in-the-mouth”. Sweet, fragrant flavour bombs that make the most perfect dessert when warm with a scoop of pistachio kulfi or a drizzle of cream. 

When planning the menu for the very first PomPom Pop-Up which celebrated Indian street food, I knew that it needed to include Gulab Jamun…They went down a treat. Here is a recipe by Daksha Mistry from MasterChef so you can treat friends (or yourself) to your very own Gulab Jamun. You’ve got to love a recipe that also doubles as a good arm workout. 

Gulab Jamun

Gulab Jamun

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Course: Dessert, SnacksCuisine: IndianDifficulty: Medium
Servings

4

servings
Prep time

1

hour 
Cooking time

5

minutes

Sticky-sweet deep-fried dough balls, steeped in rose and cardamom syrup. Utterly yum!

Ingredients

  • Dough balls
  • 225 g powdered milk

  • 110 g plain flour

  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

  • 350 ml milk

  • 25 g butter, melted

  • vegetable oil, for deep frying

  • Sugar syrup
  • 200 g caster sugar

  • 100 ml water

  • few strands saffron

  • 3 cardamom pods, crushed

  • To serve
  • 1 tbsp chopped pistachios

  • 1 tsp dried edible rose petals

Directions

  • For the dough balls, mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, adding enough extra water to form a soft, sticky dough. Cover with cling film and set aside for 10 minutes. Shape the dough into small round balls.
  • Heat the oil in a deep heavy-bottomed frying pan. It is ready when a breadcrumb dropped in will sizzle gently in it. Deep fry the balls until golden brown, then remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and set aside on kitchen papper to drain.
  • Make a sugar syrup by heating the sugar and water together with the saffron until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is syrupy.
  • When the dough balls are cool, add to the syrup and leave to soak for about 1 hour.
  • Garnish with chopped pistachio nuts and dried rose petals and serve.

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