He didn't look nervous. There was a certain untouchable calm on his face that didn't match my own trembling self. My mom invited them inside the house, had them seated, he and his mom. I peeked though the little opening in the kitchen outwards to the hall. I wondered why his calmness should surprise me. Hasn't he always been that way - calm, composed and confident.
The setting was a bit too perfect. A tray busting with samosas and a pot full of perfect gingery chai was placed in my hands while my sister puffed one last brush of rosy blush on my cheeks.
As I walked through the narrow passage leading to the hall I could hear them talking about the bus trip, the rocky roads and unbearable summer heat of Rajasthan. Despite the air conditioning, the heat was suddenly more obvious in my sweaty palms, or was it mere imagination, I can't recall. But I turned around and went back into the kitchen, opened the fridge with a large spoon in my hand and had many spoonfuls of ras malai which was supposed to be offered later, if we progressed to the talks of engagement.
Though it sounded like a typical Indian arrange marriage set up, we had known each other for little while and romantically known from the day we met that we were meant to be. Today was an official 'meet my parents' day.
Things went rather smooth from that moment of 'oh should I eat this' to the wedding. Since then, M has never been invited to my parents house without a generously piled plate of samosas and bowlfuls of ras malai. After all, it is where it all began.
Ras Malai or Rosh Malai as the Bengali's like to call it is a popular North-Eastern Indian dessert. Traditionally, freshly made cottage cheese is shaped into dumplings and soaked in sweetened milk. Here, I have used the non traditional but also a popular milk powder route not only because it's easier but also because that's how my family has always made it.
1 cup milk powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg, whisked
1 tbsp ghee
For sweet milk
2 litres whole milk
3/4 can condensed milk, about 200g or as per preference of sweetness
1 tbsp almond powder
2 cardamom pods, skin removed and seeds crushed
Generous pinch of saffron
Slivered almonds and pistachios for garnish
Heat milk with saffron, almond powder and cardamom until it reduces by little less than half. Make sure to stir from time to time to avoid sticking at the bottom. Takes about half an hour.
Whisk in the condensed milk and keep on low flame.
Meanwhile lightly knead together the milk powder, baking powder, ghee and egg to form a smooth non sticky dough. If the dough is sticky, add 1 tsp of milk powder at a time until smooth, crack free dough is achieved.
Divide the dough into 16-18 equal size balls and lightly flatten them.
Keeping the milk at medium high heat, with a spoon add all the balls into the milk and heat for 3 minutes.
Cover and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. The dumplings will rise to the surface, double in size and should be soft all the way through.
Chill for couple of hours before serving. To avoid the thin layer of skin to form on the top, cover the bowl with cling film touching the surface. I don't bother with it.
Garnish with nuts before serving.