Can South Asian Food Be Sexy?
By Salima Jivraj
Will you be my gulab jamun?
Let me just put the question out there – can South Asian food be sexy? With Valentine’s Day coming up, it’s a question that came up in my mind when thinking of how I can make Valentine’s Day my own.
Our costumes are gorgeous; movies are pretty romantic, then there are the songs and of course let’s not forget the beautiful countries that represent South Asia itself. There is beautiful history with South Asian cuisine as well and many stories tied to love, passion and romance.
Looking a bit deeper into some common ingredients and flavours, the easiest way to bring out culture (and romance) into your food in a subtle way, especially on Valentine’s Day, is to think fusion.
Since V-Day is all about the sweets, I’m calling in the expert at Sugar Mamas Events, Yasmin Shaikh to create a special Valentine’s Day sweet table – her mission: Modern desserts with a timeless South Asian twist.
With a 9-month-old cutie on her hip, Yasmin gets down to business and sets up an amazing dessert table for two. On her menu:
· Saffron and Vanilla Bean Ganache Macaroons
· Cinnamon Cream Puffs
· Chocolate-Cardamom Dipped Strawberries
· Saffron Infused Gulab Jamun – heart shaped of course.
Like a scene out out of Mary Poppins, she also whips out simple materials like glass, mirror, fabrics and lights, most of which you can easily gather in your own home. “We used a curtain in Grayed Jade as a table cover, then cream accents like lace and loose beads. Try to incorporate non-traditional colours – don’t be a slave to the reds and blacks.” Yasmin often refers to Pantone for their latest colour trends and creates colour boards before doing any event.
“Just like dressing yourself, a table is really no different. Work in layers and build. Play with textures, light and shapes. Food always looks best served on white platters,” she adds, “brings out the colours of the ingredients and lets your food take centre stage.”
All of the items on the dessert table for 2 are bite sized, perfect for nibbling and sharing over a beautiful candle filled table.
She shares her simple gulab jamun recipe and adds that you can infuse many different flavours into the syrup, she chose saffron in this case but adds replacing about 2-4 tablespoons of regular water for rose water also works really well.
Heart Shaped Gulab Jamun – Made with Love
· Sugar – 1 1/4 cup
· Water – 2 cups
· Saffron – A couple of strands (optional)
· Milk powder – 1/2 cup
· All purpose flour – 1/4 cup
· Baking powder – 1/4 tsp
· Crushed cardamom seeds – 1/2 tsp
· Milk – about 1/4 cup – more or less may be needed to make the dough the right consistency.
Instructions for Sugar Syrup:
· In a saucepan combine all ingredients and place on medium heat for 5-10 minutes (stirring occasionally).
· Remove from heat, but keep syrup warm.
Instructions for Gulab Jamun:
· Heat vegetable oil on medium heat in a large skillet. Reduce heat to low after 5 minutes.
· While the oil is heating up combine milk powder, all-purpose flour and baking powder in a large bowl
· Add milk in a little at a time until dough is sticky. Knead for a few minutes.
· Form medium sized balls with the dough – at this point you can mold the dough into any shape. For heart shaped gulab jamun start with creating bottom triangle of the heart, shape the sides and use a toothpick to make an indent at top of the heart.
· Test the oil by adding in one gulab jamun. it should take about a minute to raise to top and will turn golden brown. Keep turning to cook evenly.
· Add in 5-6 gulab jamun at a time making sure not to overcrowd the skillet.
· Remove from oil and drain
· Add to the sugar syrup and wait at least an hour for balls to absorb the syrup.
· Can be enjoyed warm or cold.
Helpful tips from Sugar Mamas Events
· Make sure that sugar syrup is sticky by touching it with your fingertips. If too runny, let boil a little longer
· Ensure that the oil is not too hot; your gulab jamun will burn and not cook evenly if the oil is too hot.
· Do not make your gulab jamun too big, they will increase in size when being fried and when absorbing sugar syrup.
· Ideally soak the gulab jamun in a heat proof container or bowl overnight
· Gulab jamun can be reheated in the microwave. Serve hot with Vanilla ice cream.
Chocolate Covered Strawberries:
· When making chocolate covered strawberries make sure that the strawberries are dry. If strawberries are wet the chocolate will not coat evenly.
· If using chocolate bars or blocks cut chocolate into small pieces. This will help with even melting. When using a microwave melt for 30 second intervals – this will help to keep your chocolate from burning.
· If your chocolate is too thick when you melt it, add vegetable shortening NOT butter.
· Be daring with your chocolates, no need to stick to milk chocolate. Use white chocolate, dark chocolate, sea salt chocolate to get a range of flavours.
· Infuse the cream with a cinnamon stick and crushed cinnamon by simmering over low heat. Remove from heat and transfer to a metal bowl.
· Cover the bowl using cling wrap, press the cling wrap into the cream to avoid skin from forming.
· Put bowl into the fridge along with the whisk you will be using to whip up the cream. This will help with the whipping process.
· Keep trying! Macaroons are tricky, but once perfected they open up a limitless possibility of flavour combinations.
· Make sure to age your egg whites and keep at room temperature. Egg whites fluff up better when at room temperature.
Thank you to:
All photo credit: Enum Malik, Popcorn Studios.
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