Ras Malai is a completely milk based Indian dessert. It is made of sweetened cooked paneer in a sweet milk custard sauce.
Ras Malai will always remind me of my first Diwali with my husband. For our first Diwali as a married couple I was extremely pregnant! We were living in our first tinny apartment together. It got sweltering hot in the summer and freezing in the winter, but we were in love so none of that mattered. We lived in an area with very few Indians, so we didn’t have the organized public festivals or the Indian Sweet shops that many areas of California have. I knew that our first Diwali was supposed to be super special so I was determined to do my own research and cooking. That year my husband and I made these wonderful paper lanterns out of pieces of pine wood glued together in a three dimensional rectangle frame with a space for a candle in the middle. The frames were covered in colored wrapping tissue paper. We put a candle inside and they glowed marvelously with the different colors. We still laugh about the time my husband was putting the lit candle in one of his paper lanterns and the whole back panel erupted in flame that quickly consumed the entire backside and put it self out. We laughed for hours!
A few days before Diwali I researched Indian sweets online that I could make for the holiday. I knew that sweets were significant in my husband’s Punjabi culture for all happy events. I had not been to India yet and had not eaten many Indian sweets, so most of the recipes I looked at I had no idea if they even tasted good. I looked through the recipes trying to find something I could make with limited ingredients and tools. I finally found one that only called for milk, sugar, cardamon and saffron, all ingredients I had on hand.
So on the day of Diwali I tipped toed to the kitchen when my husband was still sleeping. I warn you this is not the easiest Indian dessert to make. There are a lot of steps but it is well worth the work. This recipe was also the first time I ever made paneer ( homemade cheese), so it was a major learning process. I can not take credit for this recipe! I got this recipe from the lovely ladies at ” show me the curry”. I have included a link to their page and video. I literally watched it over and over again. I followed the recipe exactly and it came out perfect.
When I finished making the dish I put it in the fridge. My husband woke up and saw that the kitchen was a mess. He look at me laughing, ” what did you make?”. I tired to act coy, but he started searching the kitchen. He got to the fridge and I tried to block it but he was too determined. He looked in the dish and said ” Oh my God is that Ras Malai?! How did you know that was my favorite dish!”. I was so happy and relieved that I made something he liked. He grabbed a spoon and went in for a taste. He took one bite and smiled so brightly! He said ” It tastes amazing! My mom does not even make Ras Malai at home, she buys it from the shop. Yours is the best I have ever tasted.” I glowed with so much pride! It felt good to make him that happy and to make our Diwali special. These days I make Ras Malai a couple times a year, usually for a holiday or anniversary or if we have an important guest. It is still my favorite Indian sweet even though I have tried so many others.
Whole Milk – 8 cups (divided)
Lemon Juice/or vinegar – 2 Tbsp
Water – 5 cups (in a pressure cooker)
Sugar – 1 cup
Saffron – pinch
Cardamom Powder – 1/4 tsp
Pistachios & Almonds – 2 Tbsp, roughly chopped
Sugar for the Ras – to taste about 1/2 cup
1. Boil 4 cups milk in a steel pan and boil the remaining 4 cups milk in a non-stick pan (The milk in the non-stick pan needs to be reduced to half the quantity so once it comes to a boil, keep the flame low and keep cooking while stirring occasionally. Grind saffron with a small amount of sugar and add it to the milk while boiling).
2. Once the milk in the steel pan comes to a rolling boil, slowly add lemon juice.
3. When the milk curdles (paneer), switch off the stove and strain the paneer in a cheese cloth.
4. Pour a little cold water over the paneer and hang the cheese cloth on the tap for approx 30 minutes to remove all of the liquid.
5. Remove the paneer from the cheese cloth and run it through a food processor to smooth it out. ( you know that its done with the paneer forms a ball and spins with the blades.) You can knead the paneer by hand but it will take a long time to make it smooth.
6. Divide the paneer into 12 equal portions a little smaller than the size of a ping pong ball.
7. Roll the portions in your hands until a smooth ball is formed. Lightly press the ball until it flattens out.
8. In the pressure cooker with water, dissolve 1 cup sugar and add the flattened paneer.
9. Close pressure cooker lid and cook until one whistle sounds. Immediately switch off the stove and set the timer for exactly 5 minutes.
10. After 5 minutes, carefully take the pressure cooker to the sink and pour cold water over the lid to remove the pressure.
11. Remove the cooked paneer with a slotted spoon into a bowl and allow it to cool.
12. Meanwhile, the milk in the non-stick pan should have reduced to half. Add sugar to taste, cardamom powder and nuts. Switch off the stove and keep milk aside.
13. Once the paneer is cool enough to handle with your hands, gently squeeze out the sugar syrup from the paneer and place the paneer into a serving dish.
14. Pour the prepared reduced milk over the paneer and chill in the refrigerator.
15. Garnish with additional chopped nuts.