Maybe enough's been said about 'God's own country-Kerala' and all its resplendent glory in all the lonely planet guides, makemytrip.com ads and oblivious corners in the sunday paper dedicated to travel. and maybe we all suffer from an overdose of it and the many stereotypes that we are subjected to. But truth be told, it is a beautiful place and a labyrinth of culture, traditions, quirks and simple beauty. I call it home. I am a fraud mallu on most days (oh, and btw, many Malayalees can get offended by the term 'mallu') but i am a true blue mallu when it comes to a)food, b)the 80's-90's Mohanlal movies and c)feeling good about Onam. My memories of Onam are very fond and it obviously abounds in yum food, fine aromas coming in from the kitchen, mom-made upperi and sharkara paratii, the sadya on banana leaf, gathering flowers from the garden for the athapoo, the oonjaal in the front yard, pattu pavadai and celebrations in school, dressing my sister up as King Mahabali when we were growing up (yes, she was very very small to consent to that) and those crazy games off the top of my head. All the more reason why i try to do what i can to make it special in whatever ways i can even though i am away from my folks right now. this one's for Amma and Acha who gave us awesome memories growing up and made us want to make special memories of our own. We love you!
My loyalties are pledged for the Malayalee way with food (minus the coconut oil) more so now 'cos i am in Onam-mode. Lalalalala!! Paying due acknowledgment to my sweet tooth, i luuuve home made sharkara (jaggery) payasams. My all time favorite is the cherupayaru payasam and i have taken painstaking efforts (read cut fingers and sore hands to scrape the coconuts and extract the milk) to follow the original recipe to the T, all to get that old familiar taste. If you are short of time (like i was this Onam), you could always buy the tetra packed coconut milk and dilute it as per the below instructions.
You will need:
-1 cup cheru payaru / moong dal
-Coconut milk - Onnam Paalu/First milk - 2 tablespoons tetra packed coconut milk diluted with 3 tablespoons water)
-Coconut milk - Randam Paalu/Second milk - 1/2 cup tetra packed coconut milk diluted with 1 cup water
-Coconut milk - Moonam Paalu/Third milk - 1/2 cup tetra packed coconut milk diluted with 2 cups water
-Jaggery/Vellam - 220 g-Ground cardamom or Elaichi- 1/4 teaspoon
-Dried ginger or chukku - 1/4 teaspoon
-Finely pounded Jeera - 1/4 teaspoon
-a drizzle of ghee
-a handful of halved cashew nuts roasted in ghee
How you go about it:
Pressure cook the cheru payaru in the third milk (moonaam paalu) till thoroughly cooked and mash and set aside (consistency should be similar to that of a mashed porridge-But make sure you don't mash all of it up. You may want to leave some bits as is for the consistency)
Melt the jaggery and be very careful 'cos jaggery can tend to be VERY hot (yes, that's experience talking). Hang around and keep stirring to ensure that it does not burn.
Strain the molten jaggery through a sieve into the cheru payaru and bring it to a boil.
Reduce for 5 min and add the second milk (randaam paalu) and keep stirring.
Reduce again for another 10 minutes on a low flame.
Add the chukku, elaichi and jeera powder along with the first milk.
Keep stirring to ensure that that the mix does not split. Take it off the flame after 2 minutes and make sure you keep stirring even after you have taken it off the flame.
Keep aside till it cools down, add the roasted cashew nuts and drizzle the ghee. You are good to tuck in!
P.S: The taste of the payasam will depend on the quality of the jaggery that you use. So make sure you use the best quality that you can lay your hands on. Also, the measurement of the jaggery that I have mentioned is entirely dependent on my taste preferences. You are free to crank it up a few notches or bring it down.
Another pointer, the coconut milk. Make sure you use fresh coconut milk 'cos if the milk aint good, you can bet the payasam ain't gonna be any good!
The payasam tends to thicken as it cools down, be it in the refrigerator or out of it. So make sure you do not reduce it too much, just to ensure a nice fluid-y consistency.
If there is excess, store it in an air tight container in the coldest part of your refrigerator 'cos it will keep well for 2 days (the voice in my head says "Pah! u wish it lasts that long!")
P.P.S: The payasam tastes just as yum even when cold. Try it! and join the club! :D
P.P.P.S: Special thanks to Visswa, a good friend, for the first couple of pictures in this post. He's got a fabulous eye for photography and makes everything look so good! :)
Get out there and spread the love! Sing some old movie songs, dress up in your Onam settu mundu, get the food cooking! ഓണാശംസകള്!