1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose white flour
1/2 cup milk
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
3 cups water
3 cups sugar
Tiny pinch of saffron
10 to 15 whole cardamom
1 teaspoon powdered pistachios (optional)
In a deep mixing bowl, combine the cream, flour, and milk. Stir well for a few minutes to obtain a smooth paste. Let this batter sit on the countertop for 15 to 20 minutes.
Warm the oil for deep-frying in a wok or deep fryer over medium-high heat. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of the batter into the hot oil. Do not overcrowd the wok; fry them in batches. Adjust the heat. If the oil is too hot, the ball will fry too quickly, and if it is not hot enough, they will disintegrate. They should take about 3 minutes to become golden brown on all sides. Try frying a test ball, and if it disintegrates, add one more tablespoonful of flour to the batter. Don't be in a hurry to flip the balls; spoon some hot oil over them to cook the tops and then turn gently after a few seconds. When you put the batter into the hot oil, it will soon spread and flatten a bit and rise to the top. When the balls are golden all over, drain them on many layers of paper towels and set aside.
To make the syrup, combine the water and sugar in a large deep saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and crush the saffron into the syrup. Cool to room temperature. Remove the skins from the cardamom and powder the seeds finely in a mortar and pestle, or between two sheets of wax paper with a rolling pin. Mix the crushed cardamom seeds into the syrup. Gently mix in the fried balls, making sure they are all immersed in syrup. Cover and let them soak for at least an hour. When ready to serve, lift them gently out of the syrup and lay them attractively in a serving dish. Sprinkle with powdered pistachios if desired. Refrigerate unused portions.
Recipe courtesy CUISINES OF INDIA (Ecco Press, 2001) by Smita Chandra and Sanjeev Chandra