When was it that the parties in Kerala started serving exotic puddings and sophesticated desserts to entertain the sweet tooths? Not long, I guess. Because all the childhood memories I have about parties were smeared with a delicious and impressive batter of payasam. It was the soul of a party, a celebration and a get together. Without a payasam, the 'salkarams' were never complete. In fact, two decades back, 'malayali' never knew a dessert other than payasam or its variations.
The small talks and chatters reverberates in my ear still though I was small and indifferent towards grown up talks. "Payasamundu.. Choodode kudicholoo" ("Payasam is ready.. Drink it while it is still hot") That is the host inviting the guests for a round of 'payasam' when they are preparing to leave. So they stay back to sip a warm cup of payasam and another round of gossips and small talks. And the 'salkaram becomes more lively again.
Semiya payasam is one of the simplest payasams from the myriad of payasams in Kerala cuisine. I prepare it often as it is Mr.KB's and junior's favourite. Junior KB asks,"Mom! why should you prepare rice,rottis and curries all the time? You could prepare payasam instead,right?" As I perspire to answer his question, I can hear myself, a little KB, nagging her poor mom with such unanswerable questions. As the elders in family, tease me saying I had the most notorious doubts of all my siblings, I guess the history repeats itself.. :)
Semiya Payasam Recipe:
Things you need:
3 cups full fat milk
1 cup of sugar or to taste
1/2 cup broken vermicelli / semiya
3 tbsp ghee/clarified butter
1/2 tsp cardamom powder/elakka podi
2 tbsp raisins
2 tbsp cashews
1/2 cup of condensed milk (optional)
Heat a heavy bottomed saucepan or 'Uruli'(a round brass vessel typical of Kerala) and add a tablespoon of ghee to it. Add the vermiselli to it and stir fry for a few minutes in medium heat until it turns golden brown. Now add the milk to it and bring to boil. Add sugar and stir well until dissolved. Cook on medium heat stirring continuosly until the vermicelli is tender and well cooked. Now add the condensed milk (if using), stir well and remove from heat. Add the cardamom powder to it and stir.
Heat a frying pan and add the remaining ghee to it. Add raisins and cashews and saute until they turn golden brown and the raisins puffed up. Garnish the payasam with this along with the ghee. Serve hot or cooled.