Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cherupayar Payasam – A traditional dessert with sweetened green grams, from Kerala

Cherupayar Payasam – A rustic beauty from the home kitchens of my native land where in, the green pearls get dressed up in the silky coconut milk , along with the seductress dark beauty, jaggery and perfumed by the sweet scent of crushed cardamom and divine ghee.

A favourite of mine and someone else too….. none other than the first man in my life, my father. Along with the many passions he shared with me, he also passed me the gene to take delight in some real old world beauties, some classics from the dark kitchens of yore, like this Payasam, Poruthal Ada, and the temple Payasam - Panachamritham from the Pazhani Temple of Tamil Nadu. Few of these tasty treasures bring out the kid in my father …….bring smiles on my face thinking about those close-to-my heart moments we shared. Those happy moments of the past, make me look out of the window and walk in the valley of memories and am sure, I may never complete writing this post, not being capable of capturing those emotions in right words!

Before I move to the recipe, let me explain the difference in the pictures above: When my parents visited us in 2009, they brought some naadan sharkkara, the jaggery available in the stores in Kerala and Payasam on the right was cooked using the same. When I prepared it a couple of weeks back ( the one on the left), I used the jaggery available in my local Indian grocery store, and its is quite darker in shade and also tastes slightly different , to be specific more overpowering than the ones we get in Kerala. The darker shade of my Payasam is often a point of query in one of my previous posts too and I hope, this explanation justifies. As for the consistency part – my preparation looks thicker than the one my mother made and that’s because I photographed my version much later in the day after making it and by then , it had become little thick. These types of Payasam tend to get thicker as the resting window expands and one way to dilute is by adding more coconut milk and bring to boil again, just before serving. Though implied, let me write it clearly that one should aim for the consistency in my mother’s preparation.

Traditionally, any type of Payasam (a traditional dessert that is made similar to a rice pudding, but with a consistency of a thick milk-shake) is prepared in a big Uruli, a wide mouthed bell metal vessel and this particular one is made using freshly extracted coconut milk , of various consistencies, added to the mixture of green grams sweetened with jaggery and a small amount of grated coconut, cooked down to a very thick consistency. At my place, the same mixture of sweetened green grams is used for making another traditional snack called Sughian which is deep fried fritters, using the same mixture as filling. So when Mummy prepared it last time, she used the same mixture prepared for Sughian and added coconut milk and finished it with a drizzle of ghee and ghee fried coconut chips and cashew nuts. This time when I made it I took a short cut ‘coz of lack of time, using some of the leftover cooked green grams , frozen grated coconut, refrigerated melted jaggery and canned coconut milk. Kindly check the notes below , if you re using freshly squeezed coconut milk.

Here’s how I made it.

Ingredients: (Approx.)
  • ¾- 1 cup cooked cherupayar/green grams/whole moon bean, without salt
  • ½ cup melted and filtered jaggery (as per the sweetness)
  • 2 tbsp grated coconut
  • A pinch of salt
  • ½ cup canned coconut milk , diluted with ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup canned coconut milk , diluted with 2 tbsp water
  • 4 pods of green cardamom, crushed
  • 1 tsp + 1 ½ tbsp ghee/clarified butter
  • 2 tbsp Thangakothu / coconut slices/cuts
  • 2 tbsp broken cashew nuts.
  • In a wide sauce pot, heat melted and filtered jaggery; when it is hot add the grated coconut with a pinch of salt and stir for about 2 minutes and then add the cooked cherupayar/green grams. As you let it cook in low heat, keep mashing the cooked cherupayar/green grams, with the back of a wooden spoon, until the mixture reaches a very thick and almost dry consistency; At this stage, when you keep stirring, it becomes a huge round mass. At this point, add 1 tsp ghee and crushed cardamom. (Note: If you decide to finish the rest of the cooking later, you may turn off the stove now and let it come to room temperature, before refrigerating the cooked mixture. Its refrigeration life depends on how well you cooked down the mixture to an almost dry consistency.) Now dilute ½ cup of canned coconut milk with ½ cup of water and pour it to the sweetened mixture and loosen it; let it come to a boil, and let everything bubble together in very low simmering heat. Now, add the thick coconut milk (¼ cup canned coconut milk , diluted with 2 tbsp water) and bring to a boil and again simmer for few more minutes. You can turn off the stove when it still has a liquid consistency (as Cherupayar Payasam like many of its siblings, tend to thicken as they rest ).
  • In another small pan, heat 1½ tbsp ghee and fry some broken cashews and keep aside; fry some small coconut slices/Thangakothu, till its turns golden brown in colour and pour everything, both the broken cashews and coconut slices, including the leftover ghee to the Payasam and serve warm after 30 minutes.
Notes: Please note that the taste of this Payasam is purely dependent on the Sharkkara/jaggery – coconut milk proportion and hence go generous on the latter but use jaggery according to your sweet tolerance. Coconut milk is a significant ingredient in enhancing the taste. The above measurement is as per our family’s taste preferences; feel free to adjust the proportions. This tastes better if you are using freshly squeezed coconut milk but canned coconut milk, diluted with water, is also good. Also, please keep in mind that those using freshly extracted coconut-milk, should be going for more quantity as the consistency of the canned one is totally different from the freshly squeezed one; hence make changes accordingly as coconut-milk is the taste enhancer here. Adjust the number of crushed cardamoms based on its strength. Some home grown ones are quite strong.


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