Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Aval Payasam – Dessert of Gods! Indian Milk Pudding with Brown Rice Flakes.

At times, some people we come across at various phases in life leave a long lasting impression on us, no matter how short the span of interaction was….it could be just a one time meeting or a day’s interaction or for a season or more…..they touch our lives and leave their handprints and become part of our life and memory.

This post is about one such person and her mother who are part of my college life and still holds a special place in my heart…….because that mother once served me one of the tastiest and yet simplest payasam/milk pudding for the first time in my life…..from then onwards , that particular dessert competed for the first place in my list of favourites, along with Paalada Pradhaman and Parippu Pradhaman, though I was never fortunate to taste it one more time. Another thing that stuck with me was the grace on that mother’s face…… a beautiful woman,fair complexioned with black curly locks of hair and a small red dot on her forehead ! And then there is her daughter, my firend, Anj - a chubby bubbly girl who was/is in love with music with a serious crush on the singer, Unnikrishnan those days…..and we used every opportunity to tease her :)

Often times when CJJ and I refresh our college days and exchange stories of the bygone era, I always notice a recurring phenomenon in my thought process and that is, Anj’s mom’s Aval Payasam and one more episode often gets pulled back into my active memory shelf and each time whenever I mention that episode , I see CJJ chuckling and that’s something precious as he is someone who believes that I crack jokes only once a year and he keeps count on any addition of my yearly quota!!!

Well, the only thing I remember about that episode is a close friend of ours telling me, trying to control her laughter badly, “ you know what….our Anj got into an empty bus last evening and she tried to get the best seat and finally ended up standing till her stop !! “ Whenever I try to visualise that episode , I always burst into laughter and after more than a decade, I happened to get back in touch with Anj through one of the social networking sites and on one of the mails, I forced to narrate the story in her own words and here’s an an excerpt from the mail:

……Ah..ha S…….i still remember the day as if it were yesterday..am surprised u have forgotten….anyways…”I was the hapless victim”..so maybe that’s why I remember it more..that day we already had gone to ann’s during the lunch break..we waited in those ann’s steps for 1 hour but we didn’t get our fav’rite chocolate donuts so we(me, A and S) went back again in the evening and bought donuts from ann’s …A bought those cream puffs..which we both never liked..was tooooooooo creamy…anyway..i remember this because my hands were full…donuts plus all those M&B’s from library which I used to read like mad(esp.during Sr. B’s class…)…..when we finally reached the bus stop we were so tired we allowed atleast 5-6 buses to pass..for an empty bus..and then came our “eagle” :) :)….I was the first one to get inside the bus…I sat on one seat..then decided that was not good enough(cos it was just opp the driver.).then I got up and went to another seat..that one was the aisle seat..and I wanted a window one…I got up…and went to another seat..but somebody pushed me aside..so tried another one..again was pushed by someone..finally…I was the only one standing in the bus..everyone else got a seat x-cept me…by that time all were laughing their heads off…that was o.k…but there was this one lady who kept looking at me ..and then laughing..so hard ..she was actually crying.. and that too at regular intervals..till we reached the stop….i swear even the bus driver and’ killi’ were laughing at me…I never got inside that “eagle” bus again…and I doubt whether I’ll ever tell this story to my daughter…but u know what..those donuts got crushed…:( :(..


A week back, I was watching TV and they were airing Seinfeld’s Subway episode and to me , the scene where Kramer travels in train seemed to be the sitcom representation of this episode I was referring to . Watch the scene HERE.

Anyway, on my request Anj gave me the recipe for Aval Payasam too.This is what she mailed me:”…. Hey! Here’s the recipe u asked “ For 1/2 a litre of milk….take 1 big handful of brown aval(not white)…amma said “oru valliya pidi “aval…wash and drain the aval(this process should be really fast..aval should not be soaking wet).Now fry this in about 1 tbsp of ghee…till u get a nice smell…add this to the boiled milk…add about 1 –heaped glass of sugar (our typical steel glass)..and continue cooking in a nice thick uruli till the payasam gets condensed and becomes a rich pink colour…u have to keep stirring in between,…this payasam does not reqire any garnishings like cashew,kismis or elakka..in fact that spoils the taste..it should just have that “vattiya” taste,,and the taste of the brown aval…

Here’s how I translated her mother’s instructions into cup and spoon measurements :

  • ½ cup brown rice flakes/Aval (chemba aval)/beaten rice
  • 1 tbsp ghee/clarified butter
  • 2 1/3 cup milk
  • ½ cup sugar or to taste
  • In a thick bottom vessel or Uruli, a wide mouthed bell metal vessel, heat milk and bring to a boil.
  • While milk is heating up, give brown rice flakes/Aval a quick rinse in cold water and dry immediately with a kitchen napkin. Heat ghee/clarified butter in a shallow pan, and fry brown rice flakes/Aval for a minute, till ghee is coated well and a nice aroma comes.
  • When milk comes to a boil, add the ghee-fried brown rice flakes/Aval and stir well in medium heat. Now, add sugar and stir well until it dissolves into the milk. At this stage, reduce heat and let it simmer for a while, about 20-30 minutes, until it thickens to the consistency of a Payasam.
Verdict: This serves two adults but if you have a spouse like mine - who does not miss any single opportunity to dissuade me from making payasam, relished major portion of it and left some, may be less than a quarter portion, feeling guilty that he should not do such a thing to me - it is better to increase the proportions and this happened not just once, but twice. I guess that says how divine tasting it is .

Now that I used the word divine tasting , let me share one more line from my friend’s mail, “…a speciality ‘nevidhyam’ for sree Krishna…amma usually makes this payasam for sree Krishna jayanthi..for the little Krishna…according to the hindu mythology is a big fan of both aval and paal payasam and with this dish he gets the best of both!!!!

I know this has been a really long post for a simple recipe but as I started pouring my thoughts on the same, I lost sense of the length of the post……

Related Posts:

Parippu Pradaman/Payasam Semiya Payasam


No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 Kitchenmishmash.blogspot.com. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pappadam Thalichathu…..Pappadam gets a makeover!

For a young girl who grew up sitting on the steps of her mother’s kitchen , gazing at the coconut palm fronds swaying in the morning breeze while her mother refilled the plate with laced Paalappam hot off the Appachatti with a side of warm and creamy potato stew, it was literally an eye-popping and jaw- dropping moment when she got a plate of some mushy pile of rice with some tiny specks of yellow here and there, drenched in a pool of coconut chutney for breakfast on her first day at the hostel. She walked back to her room, holding the plate carefully without letting the chutney flow out of her rimless plate . She stared at the food in front for a while and started taking small spoonfuls and after three or four , she realised it could be a distant relative of the tasty Pongal she had relished at one of her classmate’s marriage at Nagercoil. There at that moment, she started missing HOME badly but didn’t realise that it was only the first scoop of reality shock in the many more to come.

She went back to the hostel mess to fill her lunch box and instead of plain white rice, what she found there was another soggy mix of rice mixed with curd and a bowl of lemon pickle. Though the idea of mixed rice was hard to stomach, she filled up the box and by the lunch time at the office, the curd rice had become ice cold and she stopped eating after a couple spoonfuls. By evening her stomach started grumbling and all she could do was run to the bakery at the ground floor of that office building and buy some chicken puffs which strangely had an orange colored filling , quite different from her favourite spicy chicken puffs she was used to, from the famous Best Bakers near her home. But she sank her teeth into it as though she had not seen food for last one week.

Back at the hostel, it was time for dinner , and she grabbed her plate and glass to hit the mess ( pun intended) one more time and there her eyes widened and face beamed at the sight of plain steamed rice……. but all that joy was short lived when she noticed the curry of greens, overcooked and soggy in a pale green water and a yellow side dish of some unknown vegetable mixed with lentils, again in a liquid base. For someone who grew up eating her greens as a dry stirfry with a touch of grated coconut and mustard seeds, the sight of those dishes were quite unappetizing. She served some rice and curd on to her plate and picked a couple of deep fried flat round discs, that looked somewhat similar to the Pappadam from her mother’s kitchen and ate her dinner with a heavy heart and welled up eyes, thinking of her home, parents and the innumerable times she rejected the tastiest food her mother cooked for her with all that love and care!!!!!

That was one of my first experience in the web of real life learnings outside the coziness and comforts of my home ……the experiences that taught me the meaning of thoughtfully crafted home cooked meals and the value of staying with parents……slowly I learned to adjust to my new surroundings, wash my own clothes,tidy up the room and bath and eat whatever food that was available, as long as it was edible and free of worms !! Literally, 2 ½ years of ‘taming’ ( yes, I meant it) that gave me the foundation to start a family and run a house without the luxury of a maid !!

I survived those days with frequent visits to my cousin’s and local guardian’s homes for some home cooked meals and they were kind enough to take me as a refugee. At one point of time, I was so used to that bland hostel food that my stomach resisted badly whenever my aunt fed me all those familiar dishes cooked in coconut oil!! And those days whenever I had a sudden urge to eat some simple meal, I went to the nearby restaurant and ordered just plain steamed rice, curd and a spicy fish fry….the only combo that gave me a break from the soggy mess at the hostel-mess.

Knowing my plight, my mother utilised every opportunity to courier some of her tasty creations whenever any of my cousins travelled via the city I lived and they passed on that classic shopping bag in jute-‘Big Shopper’, stuffed with boxes of fish fry, chicken fry, the tastiest yet simple Moru kachiyathu ( a yogurt based sauce) in an old Horlicks bottle and a huge plastic bottle filled with my life saver, Pappadam Thalichathu. On such days me and my other two roommates from Kerala, my best roomies ever, waited to get back from work and literally ‘attack’ the big shopper like barbarians (or a class below) ! The tantalising aroma of non veg food cooked in coconut oil with spices and curry leaves was so unbearable for our hostel warden that she scooted from Room No: 7B on her routine checks….poor lady, little did she know what she was missing ;-P

We always saved that big bottle of Pappadam Thalichathu for later as it could be easily stored for 3-4 weeks. We were quite stingy with the portions each one got to make sure that we get a whiff of curry leaves fried in coconut oil with a bite of mustard seeds and fried onions along with those crispy diamond shaped Pappadam everynight for dinner and for me , it was the taste and smell of home… the taste and smell I longed for!!!

Here’s the recipe for Pappadam Thalichathu that holds a special place in my taste memories.

12 medium size Pappadam/Indian wafers (buy the ones from Kerala)
1 -2 tbsp coconut oil plus more for deep frying Pappadam
1 tsp mustard seeds
2-3 small red pearl onions, thinly sliced
1 small sprig of curry leaves
½ tsp red chilly powder

  • Cut Pappadam into diamond shapes. You may tightly roll 2-3 Pappadam at a time, into a tube, and then cut them into small pieces using a scissor or knife. Deep fry Pappadam- diamonds until it is crisp and puffed up well; drain them and leave them on a plate.
  • Heat 1-2 tablespoon coconut oil in a large wok/cheenachatti/kadai and splutter mustard seeds and add thinly sliced onions and curry leaves. Sauté onions until they turn brown. Switch off the flame and ( to avoid burning the chilly powder) remove wok from the burner; add chilly powder and mix well with seasoned onions and curry leaves and transfer all the fried pappadam to the wok and coat thoroughly with the spices and herbs.
  • This can be stored in an airtight container for weeks (provided you have fried/browned small onions well). • Serve with rice.

No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 Kitchenmishmash.blogspot.com. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Peach & Plum Jam – A melody in fruit and spices….

Two weeks back, I woke up one morning telling myself, “ I am going to start blogging from today!! “ and curled up under the cover thinking about the peach and plum jam I made the previous night , the fruity fragnrance of which had invaded the dark passages of my nostrils and found its way to my clogged up brain. The intoxicating smell of the fruits cooking in the pot , with a subtle note of the spices filled up our kitchen and living room, awakening all my senses as well as reviving the spirits of the blogger in me . Though I had paired the fruits out of a random brainwave,the temptation to blog grew stronger when CJJ, entrusted with the responsibility of taste –test as the fruits were coming to a rolling boil, made an unexpected remark that “I have a gut feeling that this jam is going to be awesome…”!!!

Days passed by and nothing happened…..and whenever I logged into my blog account , the picture of that muringakka/Drumstick curry stared back at me. Towards the end of that week, I saw CJJ spreading some of that jam on a slice of bread and heard him saying, “ hmm…wow” . Again I told myself , “Todayyy …I have to take a picture and write this down before I forget the recipe” .

One more week passed and nothing happened…..and last weekend, CJJ offered me a slice of bread slathered with some of that jam and as I digged my teeth into it, once again , I felt the same urge and today I saw myself rummaging my closets for the bag of camera and its accessories and also spent a good amount of time searching for the camera manual as I realised I had completely lost touch with the basics of photography itself. I know it will take some time to get back to my grooves again but atleast I am glad that I am making an attempt.

As much as am inspired to write about this simple concoction from my kitchen and make a come back to the blog world, I see myself sharing the thoughts of that school kid who lived in my body two decades ago. She always had some strange inhibitions to go back to school after a week of absence due to fever or some other sickness, wondering if she would still have a place among her friends. As I write this I have the same feelings , same doubts……though the number of supporting mails and comments I received from dear blogger friends and readers, over the last few months, is enough to convince me that I have a place there in your hearts!!! Thanks a ton for all those thoughtful messages and reassuring mails :)

Well, though that was a long prelude for a simple Peach & Plum Jam, I really don’t have any exact measurements to write down a detailed recipe. I will just note down what I threw in and hopefully, that would give you a canvas to make your own creation.

I started by chopping 4 ripe peaches and 6-8 dark plums ( as big as a lemon and not the small ‘cherry size’ variety I have seen in India during my childhood) into small chunks and discard the fruit pits. Squeeze one orange and pour the juice to a medium size sauce pot , along with fruit chunks and 3 ½ to 4 cups of sugar ( varies depending on the natural sweetness of the fruits); throw in 5 whole cloves and 5 pices of flat cinnamon with around 1 inch length. Bring everything to a rolling boil and skim off the foam that accumulates on top. Continue this process in medium heat, stirring every now and then , until the the foam is reduced, fruits are cooked well and start to thicken a bit. At this stage start mashing the fruit chunks with a potato masher or with the back of a wooden spoon; for the latter you need to use some of your elbow grease. The whole process of simmering and thickening will take about 40-60 minutes and towards the end, add 1-2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice and simmer for another 5 minutes and turn off the stove. In case, the taste of lemon juice is over powering, you may add a drizzle of honey and stir for another 1-2 minutes before turning off the stove (I did). Before ladling the warm jam into sterized jars, remove the whole spices with a fork . I noticed that the jam thickens as it cools, so stop at a consistency where the mixture is still a bit loose in texture. Store in an airtight jar and refrigerate.

Will I make it again? Sure! Perhaps during the next season!

Thanks again for being patient with me and for keeping this place alive by your occasional visits :) I will try to keep this page active though the frequency of the posts might not be the same as earlier!


No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 Kitchenmishmash.blogspot.com. All rights reserved.