The story behind Diwali or Deepavali goes like this. King Dashrath, the ruler of the ancient kingdom of Ayodhya had three wives- Kaushalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra. Kaikeyi was his favourite queen. King Dashrath was indebted to her as she had saved his life in a war for which he had granted her two wishes.
Dashrath had four sons. The handsome and valiant Rama was born to Kaushalya, Bharat was born to Kaikeyi and Sumitra gave birth to Lakshman and Shatrughna. Rama got married to the most beautiful and virtuous Sita. As luck would have it, on the eve of Rama’s coronation, Kaikeyi reminded Dashrath of her two unfulfilled wishes and asked him to crown her son Bharat as king and to send Ram to the forests for fourteen years. The king, being a man of his word, had to grant the wishes.
The king grew old and his heart filled with a longing to see his beloved Rama, tinged with the guilt of injustice, died of a broken heart. While in the forest, the magnificent Sita was abducted by the demon king Ravana. Later on Rama rescued Sita and defeated the demon Ravana with the help of Hanuman. Having completed fourteen years in exile, Rama and Sita then returned to Their kingdom Ayodhya and it it is in Their honor that “Diwali” is celebrated to this day, with much fanfare.
This is the gist and a fragment of the magnum opus Ramayana, the ancient Hindu literature.
From our grandmother we heard many stories about how “Diwali” signified the victory of good over evil. Diwali was the grandest festival that was celebrated in our household while growing up and I have often spoken about it. Lights, lamps, new clothes and gifts were and still are the highlights of this festival wherever it is celebrated.
But the centrepoint of this festival has to be the sweets. Homemade sweets, store bought sweets and sweets of all kinds, shapes and textures are made, bought and distributed in this festival.
It is that time of the year when friends and family get together to celebrate and to enjoy the festivities. And Jalebis are perfect for this occasion.
Jalebis are one of my most favourite sweets of all time. They are classic, crispy, juicy and crunchy and will never ever disappoint you. And my recipe for jalebi invloves all natural ingredients to get that gorgeous colour.
Some people love to have jalebis with hot milk. Infact it is a very common breakfast in North India.
Heritage sweet shops, street vendors and sundry sweet shops, you can spot these deep fried spirals dunked in sugar syrup in all cities and towns of India. And I never tire of taking jalebi pics as and when I come across them.
When I attend a wedding and I get to know that there is jalebi on the menu, my heart starts to sing and undoubtedly I have eaten some of the best jalebis in a wedding.
When I had to shoot the jalbi episode on my digital show, I had about 5 different recipes, noted down from great cooks. I tested each one of them and decided that the recipe I’m going to share with you was the best recipe.
According to K.T Achaya’s Historical Dictionary Of Indian Food, jalebis or jilebis find a mention in ancient texts dated 1450 AD and 1600 AD and he goes on to say that jilebis would be served as the penultimate sweet item in a feast.
All this history only adds to the charm of jalebis and as far as I’m concerned I simply love making, sharing and ofcourse relishing jalebis.
Jalebi or Jilebi Recipe
Crispy Spirals In Saffron Scented Syrup
For the jalebi batter
250gm (1 ¾ cup) plain flour or maida
1 tbsp of besan/gram flour
125 gm (1/2 cup) of yogurt
2 tbsp of melted ghee
Juice of 1 lime
175ml (3/4th cup) water
1/8th tsp turmeric powder
¼ tsp saffron Powder
For sugar syrup:
440 gm (2 cups ) granulated sugar
250ml (1 cup) water
¼ saffron strands
a pinch of saffron powder
ghee or oil for deep frying
Make the batter:
In a bowl add plain flour or maida and the gram flour or besan and mix well.
Put in the yogurt, melted ghee, lime juice and water and beat until smooth and creamy. The batter has to look like cake batter. Sir in the turmeric powder and the saffron powder and mix again.
Cover the batter and allow it to rest for 24 hours.
The batter is ready when it falls in a steady stream without breaking when you lift the batter with a spoon and allow it to flow.
Put the batter into a squeeze bottle, a piping bag or a plastic bag with a hole cut inside it.
Make the sugar syrup:
In a pan add the sugar and water and stir on low heat until the sugar melts.
Once the sugar melts raise the heat, add the saffron strands and boil the syrup for 4-5 minutes. Its important not to stir the syrup at this stage. Turn off the heat and add saffron powder, to intensify the colour and flavor of the syrup.
In a jalebi tawa or any large flat pan add ghee or oil to a depth of 1 ½ “ from the bottom of the pan. Allow it to become hot and reach a temperature of about 180C/350F.
Pour the batter from the squeeze bottle over the surface of the ghee or oil by squeezing the batter in a circular motion to form a circular spiral. It helps to start from the outer surface.
Simultaneously fill the pan with as many jalebis as the pan can hold. Do not crowd the surface. Fry the jalebis for about 30 seconds on one side and then flip it over and fry for another 30 seconds or until they are golden brown on all sides.
With the help of a slotted spoon, lift the jalebis out of the oil or ghee and place them carefully in the hot sugar syrup, allowing them to soak up the syrup. Don’t allow the jalebis to rest in the syrup for too long or they would turn limp and soggy. About 15 to 20 seconds for each jalebi should be good enough.
With the help of another slotted spoon, transfer the jalebis onto a rack. And prepare the rest of the jalebis in a similar manner.