Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Let us have a sweet ending to our 100th episode (and start the next 100!) with a special recipe for Palpayasam. Palpayasam is known as the king of payasams. The palpayasam of Ambalapuzha is world famous, though I have never had an opportunity to taste the delicacy. The Kerala palpayasam is any day more delicious than palpayasams of any other region.
There is an interesting story about the palpayasam, which my husband relates to our guests whenever we serve the delicacy. The story is about an elaborate Sadhya (feast) where many distinguished guests were gathered. Kunjan Nambiar, Kerala’s renowned poet, who was famous for his ready wit, was among the guests. After having his fill of all the special dishes served, Nambiar announced, “I am full, I cannot have anything more.” The king, who wanted to have a dig at Nambiar, ordered for palpayasam. In came palpayasam and, unable to refuse the king, Nambiar had a go at it. The King asked, “Nambiar, you said you were full and can have no more of any thing. How is it that you had so much of palpayasam?” Quick came Nambiar’s reply, “Your Majesty, imagine a huge gathering of people with not an inch to spare. Don’t they make way if the Maharaja is announced? Similarly, when palpayasam goes in, the other items in the stomach move aside to accommodate it.” Needless to mention, palpayasam is the “Maharaja” of payasams.
The Kerala palpayasam gets its special taste from the thickening of the milk, sugar and rice in vast urulis.
It is also special in the sense that there are no added flavours like cardamom or saffron and garnishing like dry fruits, etc. In its simplicity lies its deliciousness!
The payasam is made in large urulis or charakkus and is stirred with long handled ladles known as chattukam which measure many metres in length. As I promised in my post on Idichu Pizhinja Payasam, I got pictures of these when I was in my village last month.
The first picture here is an uruli, currently lying unused in our ancestral home. The second is one of people actually making the payasam at my nephew's upanayanam there last month.
Though the original version called for preparation in small urulis, I have an easy recipe to prepare the payasam in a pressure cooker without the hassles of constant stirring and the extra care to not burn the milk at the bottom or boil it over.
Special thanks for teaching me this easy method goes to my aunt, Vasantha Chithi, who painstakingly explained to me the minute details of this method of preparing this payasam, which has never gone wrong. Thanks once again, chithi.
Here is the recipe for the palpayasam.
Since I always try to simplify my recipes to suit the requirements of our younger (handsome and charming, natch) son, who lives alone and loves to cook, I am giving below the recipe for just two servings. The quantity may be increased by multiplying the ingredients to suit individual requirements. Only take care to use larger pressure cookers when increasing the quantities of ingredients.
To make the payasam with 1 litre of milk, you should use at least a 5 litre pressure cooker.
Milk (Preferably full cream): ½ litre (500ml)
Sugar: ½ cup
Rice: 2 tbsp
Sterilize the cooker by boiling 2 cups of water in it and rinse the lid and the weight with the boiled water, so that the milk won’t curdle. I do this exercise whenever I prepare milk based sweets.
Boil the milk and sugar in the pressure cooker. Wash the rice. When the milk starts boiling, reduce the heat to the lowest gas mark and add the rice. This payasam is best prepared on a gas stove, though I have prepared this payasam on an electric stove also. One needs to be very careful to control the temperature. Place a small spoon or a small shallow plate inside the cooker so that it will do the stirring action when the cooker is shut. Stir the contents well and close the cooker. Place the weight on the valve when steam escapes and allow the payasam to cook on a low heat. Switch off the stove after 20 minutes (If using an electric stove, switch off after 10 minutes). Open the cooker 30 minutes after switching off. Your delicious, creamy, Maharaja of payasam is ready.
A few points to be given special attention:
Use a cooker large enough to hold all ingredients.
Reduce the heat to the minimum after placing the weight on the valve.
Switch off only after 20 mnts.
Open the cooker 30 mnts after switching off.