Payasam- with milk
This is a very old and revered recipe that is an essential part of the South Indian meal. Payasam is especially prepared during festivals or on auspicious days and is eaten before any of the other foods. Consisting of minimal ingredients payasam instills a ‘homey’ feeling from the very first bite.
It is a sweet dish that may be consumed hot or cold. I would describe the consistency to be like a rice pudding or porridge. Payasam is most often made with rice but may also be made with vermicelli, like it is here.
There are several types of payasam and different versions all throughout India. For example, in Northern India payasam is called kheer and is considered as a holy food, reserved for occasions such as weddings.
I made my first Payasam on the day I received my new cookbook, Mysore Style Cooking by V. Sandhya in the mail. It was very simple to make and the ingredients are not difficult to come by. I felt almost child-like and comforted by this sweet dish and just had to share!
3 cups milk (I use whole)
2 tablespoons ghee
3 tablespoons cashew nuts, halved
3 tablespoons saisins
1 cup semiya (vermicelli)
1/2 cup jaggery
10 cardamom pods, crushed, discard the husks
10-20 almonds, finely chopped
1/4 tsp saffron, soaked in 1/2 cup hot milk (I use the milk from the pot)
Preparation: Bring the milk to a boil in a heavy-bottomed pot and keep over a moderate heat, uncovered, until it is reduced . Now lower the heat and allow to simmer.
Heat the ghee in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the cashews and raisins and fry until the cashew nuts turn to golden brown, then remove from the pan and set aside.
In the same pan, fry the vermicelli until it turns golden brown. Once browned add the vermicelli to the simmering milk, along with the ghee and cook over a low heat for 15 minuted until it becomes soft and the payasa begins to thicken.
Stir in the jaggery, cashew nuts, raisins, cardamom, almonds and the soaked saffron along with the milk, and mix well.
Remove from heat. Serve hot or cold