Diwali recipe: Gulab Jamun and Cardamom ice-cream

Diwali is amazing for two reasons. It’s a celebration of good over evil, light over darkness. Secondly, it’s the one time of the year that dentists sit on their waggling fingers at family functions and the rest of us wade thigh-deep into our sugar spun fantasies eating multiple cham chams, googra (coconut pastries), kaju katri, (cashew fudge) topra pak (coconut fudge) barfi, jalebi, sev and even kulfi.

My pick of the bunch will always be gulab jamuns. Although they’re not part of the ultra-special sweets that are traditionally eaten just around Diwali– they are my favourites. Pretty little milky doughnuts: a burnished bronze on the outside and white and cakey inside. Soaked to the core with delicately flavoured rose syrup and nestled happily beside some fresh cardamom flecked ice-cream. Hold me back.

The pleasure of these is not only in the eating but also that you can make them well in advance and the gulabs will sit happily in the fridge and the ice-cream in the freezer for a week or more in before your friends and family arrive.


Makes around 40 jamuns (enough for 20 people if they ate two each)

  • 500g caster sugar
  • 750ml water
  • ½ tbsp cardamom seeds (leave the husks out)
  • 2 tbsp rose water or to taste
  • 275g full fat milk powder (I like Fudco or Natco)
  • 70g self-raising flour
  • 1 tbsp course semolina
  • 200ml warm milk
  • 1 tsp ghee
  • 1 L sunflower oil for frying

First make a simple sugar syrup. Into a deep sided pan, add the sugar, water cardamom seeds and rosewater and bring to a rolling boil on a medium heat stirring every now and then until it starts to thicken into a light syrup (thicker than water but not sticky enough which will take around 10 minutes. Taste and add more rose water (sparingly) if needed.

Heat your frying oil up to around 140 degrees (not 180 as you might normally if frying) in a deep-sided pan and lay out a plate covered with kitchen paper.

To make the jamuns, mix the flour, milk powder, semolina and ghee together in a bowl and add the warm milk to the mixture slowly bind together into a dough. You might not need all the milk so add it slowly until you get a soft pliable dough. Don’t overwork it but just knead until it comes together.

Roll the dough into little balls and lay them out on a tray. These will inflate in the hot oil so around 10g each will be good for 2 balls per person.

When rolling, you might need a dab of warm ghee or oil to get a good ball. Try not to press too hard or get cracks in the surface of the ball because they may split a bit. But equally, be gentle on yourself if this is your first time. It takes some doing to get this bit right.

Fry a few at a time, around 4 to 6 jamuns and for around 5 to 6  and up to 7 minutes each until the outside is golden brown. Remove and drain. It’s worth testing the first batch. They’ll be hard on the outside and cakey inside and not gooey.

Fry the rest. After they have cooled a little, put them in the syrup and leave to soak for a day or a few hours at least before serving. If not serving straight away, refrigerate.


Serves 8

  • 1 vanilla seeds scraped from the pod
  • Seeds from around 20 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 300ml double cream
  • 300ml full cream milk
  • 150g sugar
  • 5 egg yolks
  • A handful of smashed pistachios to decorate

Pour the milk, cream, cardamom and vanilla seeds into a saucepan and heat (stirring frequently) until small bubbles start to appear around the rim of the milk, but it’s not yet boiling. Take the pan off the heat and leave to infuse for around 15-20 minutes.

Sieve out the cardamom seeds. Then, in a mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the sugar together until pale and fluffy and very slowly whisk into the cream mixture. Then pop the pan back on a very slow heat, stirring constantly until the mixture coats the back of a spoon and turns into a custard, then, take off the heat.

Leave to cool in the fridge overnight (and pop your ice-cream maker in the freezer) then churn when cold or pop it in a plastic box and in the freezer, whisking once or twice every couple of hours until frozen.