When I had written about the Wedding feast, one of the commenters said that (s)he had never heard of Idichu Pizhinja Payasam and I had promised I would post the recipe soon. I was waiting for a good excuse to prepare this payasam and the golden opportunity dawned today. Today was the “star birthday” of our elder son and as has been our practice for the past 15 years or more, we celebrated his birthday in his absence. Usually, we cook a grand lunch and he eats whatever stuff is available at his work place away from home. Thankfully, this time he went to my cousin’s home and had a grand lunch.
So for the birthday lunch, we prepared Mango kootan, Idichakka poduthuval (tender raw jackfruit curry), idichu pizhinja payasam, vadam and of course rice and curds.
While the recipes for Mango kootan and idichakka poduthuval will come later, today we will have the recipe for idichu pizhinja payasam.
The idichu pizhinja payasam is the most favoured payasam among Keralites and it gets its rather complicated name from the fact that the coconut milk, which is the main ingredient of this payasam, was extracted in the olden days by pounding the grated coconut in a stone mortar (called an “Ural” in malayalam and Tamil and “Okhali” in Hindi). The malayalam term for pounding and extracting is “idichu pizhinju” and hence the name. It is also known by the name Chathachathayam. It is the main neyvedyam in our Annapoorneswari temple during Navarathri, at which time this payasam is made with some 50kgs of rice and milk extracted from some 600 to 700 coconuts. The payasam is made in large urulis or charakkus and is stirred with long handled ladles known as chattukam which measure some 2 mts. long. I will try to get pictures of these during my visit to my native village next month. For the neyvedyam in our temple, a special type of banana known as kadali in malayalam is used. This is not very popular in Bangalore although I did see it in California during our last visit. I have not used this in my recipe. No flavouring agents like cardamom powder or dry ginger powder is used in the payasam and the natural fragrance of the coconut milk and kadali pazham and pure ghee enhance the flavour of this payasam.
It was very difficult for me to scale down the recipe for 4 servings, and I ventured to try it with milk from ½ coconut. I have never made this with less than 2 coconuts.
The pictures show the actual quantity of milk obtained from ½ a coconut and the quantity of payasam got from using the ingredients mentioned below.
Milk from ½ a coconut
Readymade coconut milk ½ tin
Raw rice : ¼ cup
Jaggery : 1 cup
Sugar : 2 tbsp
Pure ghee: 2 tbsp
Extract coconut milk as explained in the recipe for Parippu Pradhaman.
Wash and cook the rice in the third milk (thinnest) . (This can be done in a pressure cooker).
Melt the jaggery in one cup of water and strain it to remove sand particles and other impurities.
Transfer the cooked rice to a thick bottomed wide mouthed vessel. Add the jaggery syrup and boil until the rice and the jaggery syrup are well blended and the raw jaggery smell disappears. Add the ghee and stir well.
(If using the bananas – make small round pieces of the banana and fry them in ghee until well blended and add to the payasam now.)
Add the second milk (thinner variety) and boil for another 5- 6 minutes until the payasam starts thickening. Add the first milk (thickest) and immediately switch off the stove. Keep stirring with a long handled ladle for another 5 minutes to prevent crust formation.
P.S. : As I have said earlier this payasam is made in thick uruli made of an alloy called oodu in malayalam and vengalam in Tamil. This is a very thick alloy and retains heat for 1 – 2 hours. Hence the first milk is added only after removing the uruli from the stove. The payasam is not heated after the addition of first milk as the first milk might separate releasing coconut oil if heated.