Thursday, January 16, 2014

Payasa of the sabbakki-shavige variety (Kheer with Tapioca & Vermicelli) - a sweet offering on occasion of Sankranthi

Once again Happy Makara Sankranthi (belated this time)!. I know I messed up on my Sankranthi posts this week, things have been busy and I didn't time my blog posts though I cooked and ate a lot. The regular fare of ellu bella had been in the making for the last 2 weeks. BH had a brilliant idea and put the plates with chopped jaggery, dry coconut etc under the bright light we have for the indoor plants so they crisped up by that heat (just like Nammamma makes by putting them out in the Sun for a day or so) and taste delicious. I also made a pongal (totally different way, recipe will show up soon here) and this payasa (Kannada), payasam (Telugu), Kheer (Hindi) or sweet porridge (English) as part of the festival cooking. Very simple and quick if you plan a little ahead, this is a favorite at home.
DD has always been in love with payasa and that would be the only alternative to her all time favorite Gulab jamoon for her birthdays. So the tradition of payasa on her birthdays was on regularly until a couple of years back when I burnt the payasa, though I quickly transferred the contents to another pan the scalded smell had already permeated all of our new home and definitely the nostrils of my over sensitive child. Not only did she refuse to eat the sweet that day, she made me promise that I will not make payasa again for her birthday. So the birthday sweet changed to the next favored dish and since I have not messed it up, she is happy.

There are several different varieties of payasa and this is just the tip of the ice burg or the crown of the group. I learnt to enjoy eating payasa from nammamma and learnt to make a perfect, creamy payasam(paramannam) from amma. For as long as I remember, payasa was Nammamma's favorite dish to make on a birthday, so we would without fail have this dish on 6 ocassions in the year in addition to other days. She makes it mainly with semia/sevia (roasted vermicelli - this is a processed wheat product and not the rice vermicelli I talk about here) but I add Sabudana (also called Sago, sabbakki, saggubiyyam or Tapioca) to it as DD loves those pearly white additions.
Flip to amma's kitchen, payasam and peruggarilu are 2 dishes I have seen her patiently standing over the stove and make, she is not a very enthusiastic cook for the most part and is usually on the lookout to get out of the kitchen as quickly as possible. However these two are her signature dishes, I don't think she has the confidence to hand those over to me yet and I am happy to lay back and enjoy :-) when she makes it. But in the absence of both my ammas this time around, and also to serve the self interest of blogging a delicious dish on the blog, I decided to make this delicious sweet for Sankranthi and was very careful to not let milk become too cozy and adhesive to the pan.

For the uninitiated, payasa is a sweet dish with a consistency thinner than jello. The creaminess comes from milk (usually whole milk but I cheat) or cream. Traditional payasa is made thicker by slowly reducing milk on low heat which also imparts a wonderful aroma to the dish.
What do you need to make Sago-Semia payasa?
1/2 cup sago (soaked for 30 mins to 2 hours)
1/2 cup roasted vermicelli
4 cups milk (I used 2 cups of 2% and 2 cups of fat free)
3/4 - 1 cup sugar (I used 3/4 as we dont like 'too sweet on the tongue' payasa)
1.5 cups water
2 green cardamoms
2 cloves
5-6 strands saffron
1 tsp ghee

How do you make Sago-Semia payasa?
  • Wash and soak sago in water for about an hour. This is optional but reduces the cooking time drastically.
  • Rinse off the water, wash the pearls under running water once more. 
  • Cook sago in 1.5 cups of water for 45 minutes or until it is transparent. Keep stirring every 5 minutes or so to avoid burning. 
  • Once Sago is cooked (to test: hold a pearl between 2 fingers and press, it should give in easily without any hard touch at the core).
  • Add the roasted vermicelli (I used pre roasted, thin versmicelli - MTR brand). If you do not have pre roasted vermicelli, dry roast it on medium flame constantly stirring until it turns light pink in color. 
  • Mix and add 2 cups of milk (2% at this stage) and let it cook on medium heat, stirring frequently until vermicelli turns soft. 
  • Add sugar, saffron strands (crushed a little between palms) and the remaining 2 cups of milk and let it cook and boil gently until the consistency thickens.
  • Powder cardamom and cloves, add it to the payasa and switch off. 
  • Heat ghee on low heat, add cashews and raisins and roast until cashews turn golden brown and crisp. Add it to the payasa. 
  • Payasa can be served warm or refrigerator cold, both taste delicious. 
  • Get medium sized sago for this dish, very tiny ones will kind of dissolve and not hold shape while the large ones make a 'un-dainty' appearance:-)
  • You can cook sago in pressure cooker for 2-3 whistles - cooking time varies with pressure cookers. I personally like the open cooking as I know when to stop cooking the sago and there is no cooling/waiting time needed. 
  • Keep stirring the sago occasionally so it doesn't form the sticky layer on top or get stuck to the bottom.
  • Cooking both sago and semia to perfection is the only trick in this divine offering.
  • Instead of crushing saffron and adding it directly to the pan, you can soak the strands in a spoon of milk for 15 minutes and add it. 
  • Do not use condensed milk or dry milk, reducing fresh milk to the desired consistency is what gives an authentic and yummy taste to this dish. The time you spend at the stove for making this dish is totally worth the taste.  


Kaveri Venkatesh said...

the payasam looks so yummy..with lovely color...

Anonymous said...

Yum, plenty of this going round specifically around this festival season
Happy festival Season, Dear blogger.

Priya Ranjit said...

Awesome payasam looks so inviting and makes me hungry

NamsVeni Pothas said...

makara sankranthi wishes to Sattvaa readers. so sweeeet and colorful pictures. wonderful.enjoy the sweetness of the Paayasam and festival