To ease you into this, Ras malai is best described as light, spongy, cheese dumplings soaked in creamy,thick, sweetened and flavored milk. It tastes very similar to Tres Leche but well no real comparison, just an idea for those who like to imagine the taste before they try the recipe. Milk-based sweets are quite popular in the eastern state of Odissa. Ras Malai is one among the numerous such desserts that actually seems to me, as the love-child of rosugulla (sweetened cheese dumpling) and rabdi (thickened and flavored milk). This recipe came up during one of the several conversations with my ma, while going through recipes that would be interesting and challenging for me to try. She shared this classic recipe and I jumped straight into experimenting with it.
I used the traditional approach for making the “chenna” or the cheese at home and went from there. Nothing better than home-made ingredients for dishes that invoke a jumble of emotions. So without further delay, here it is:
Step 1: The cheese
2 lts whole milk
2 whole lemons
Step 2: For Malai
1 lt whole milk
½ cup condensed milk
Sugar to taste
½ tsp rose water
Pinch of saffron
2 cardamom pods crushed.
Step 1: For the “chenna” or cheese
1.Bring the milk to a boil. When it starts boiling, add lemon juice. The cheese separates out almost immediately leaving behind a light green liquid.
Tip: This remaining liquid is very nutritious and I used it in my dal for dinner.
2.Reduce the heat and wait for 2 mins till larger lumps form.
3.Then pour the mixture through a cheese cloth.
Tip: Run the cheese under cold water to wash out the lemony taste and to stop cooking it any further since this recipe asks for very soft cheese.
4. Squeeze out water and let it sit and set aside.
This is a basic process for preparing cheese which can be used for various other purposes too.
Step 2: For the “chenna” or cheese dumplings
1. Process the chenna in a food processor (about 1-2 mins) to make a smooth paste.
Tip: This step ensures that the dumplings don’t crack while cooking.
2. Make round smooth balls according to the size you need.
Tip: Smoothen out the balls when rolling them and if flattening it out, ensure that its even on all sides.
3. Pour 5 cups of water and 1 cup of sugar into the pressure cooker and add in the cheese balls.
Tip: Sugar ensures that the density of the syrup is apt so that the balls don’t break apart.
4. Place the pressure cooker on the stove and wait for the first whistle.
5. Turn off the stove after the first whistle,wait for exactly 5 minutes and then place it under running water to release any steam.
6. At this stage, the balls should have almost become about 1 ½ times their original size.
7. Remove the cheese sponges using a slotted spoon and set aside to cool.
Step 3: For the malai
1. Reduce the milk to half its quantity over low heat. Keep stirring continuously.
2. Then add condensed milk, and sugar according to taste
3. When done, add rose water, crushed cardamom and saffron.
Now squeeze out any syrup from the dumplings and let it soak in this milk mixture for about 20 minutes before serving.
This has been one of my few challenging ventures but I realized that all it really takes is the desire to keep trying till you get it right. Now, put on your apron and delve into this decadent world of surprises well equipped with the trade secrets that I just passed onto you!