Assisting in the kitchen starts for most Keralite babies from the time they babble. First starts with a few veggies to play around with and unique shaped vessels that become perfect drumming sessions. Then as friendships evolve all those coconut shells become makeshift vessels and the red mud characteristically the, “chaya” (tea with milk).
Slowly chores assigned are to grate coconut, shred veggies, pluck the mangoes and drumsticks so on and so forth. The whole family is involved here. slowly and steadily the young ones take in bits of the deep dark secrets of that traditional kitchen. There are no cookbooks, there is no right and wrong, it is just watching and learn. This to me is Kerala cuisine.
Most of Kerala will swear by the goodness of coconut. It stays, gives identity to the cuisine. This nutty coconut adds the base for the spice mix and lends itself to the silky smoothness of the dessert long before we marketed it in tinned form. The dehusked coconut is stored a few at a time in the kitchen when the whole coconuts are stored outside. Grating and milking that coconut was an everyday thing.
Extracting the coconut milk
Mum orders the expertly cut semispheres of the coconut to be grated on the “Cherava”.this long seated wood grated has a metal scrapper at its end. It is the sound of the coconut being grated that woke most of us up in our childhood. The earlier you get up, you get a handful of fresh coconut to munch on. That was a big incentive!! We fell for it each time, no doubt!
The grated coconut is pounded and squished to release the 1st milk or the coconut cream. Add in some drinking water and there we go again with the squishing and extracting more coconut milk. These two sets of milk are never mixed. The second water added one is for cooking and the creamy first lot is for garnishing and reserved for desserts.
There are mainly two varieties of payasams in Kerala. Prathaman and payasam. I am not too clear on the difference between the two yet! As for the milky element that makes these desserts, there are only two, cows milk like the one used in ada prathaman or coconut milk like the one I am using today or in the quick aval payasam. There is one thing for sure. No festival, birthday or any family gathering is complete without one of these.
Today I have a simple one made with broken wheat payasam. These are wheat grains broken into a few bits, not semolina or bulgar. “Nurukku ” as in pieces of “godhambu” is wheat. This form of broken wheat is popular in Kerala and is very similar to steel-cut oats. The milk base for this broken wheat porridge us coconut milk and the recipe shows how the milk and the cream are incorporated to give that unique feel with pounded jaggery. Hope you like this vegan payasam and will love to tell us how it added to your celebrations. Keep us in the loop and leave your thoughts in the comments. For more from us, do subscribe.
Nurukku godhambu payasam
- 1 cup broken wheat I used emmer wheat
- 1.5 cup drinking water
- 1.5 cup coconut milk the second extract or diluted canned coconut milk.
For the jaggery syrup
- 1.5 cups jaggery grated or crushed.
- 1/2 cup drinking water
for finishing the payasam
- 1/2 cup coconut cream first thick extract or canned coconut cream.
- 1/4 tsp green cardamom powder
- 1/8 tsp dry ginger powder
- 1 tsp ghee / clarified butter
- 1 tbsp cashew nuts
- 1 tbsp raisins
- Soak the grated jaggery in the cup of water and set it aside.
- Once the jaggery starts to dissolve set this on low heat and mix it occasionally till it melts completely.
- Strain this syrup to remove any impurities and set aside till needed.
- In a seperate heavy bottomed pan, I use a casrole, add the water and bring to a boil.
- Add the broken wheat to this and mix without any lumps.
- As it begins to cook and swell add the second extract of the coconut milk.
- Let this mix cook, keep stirring so it doesnt catch the bottom.
- Once the broken wheat has cooked it will start appearing glassy, mash a few and see if it is cooked well.
- Then add the jaggery syrup and mix well.
- Add the green cardamom powder and the gingerpowder as well and stir it in.
- Let this cook on a low heat till the payasam thickens to a honey consistency.
- Now stir in the thick coconut cream and remove from heat
- in a small pan add the ghee and roast the cashews. once tehy are done, add the raisins and allow them to plump up.
- Add this ghee roasted nuts and raisins to the payasam along with the ghee and stir well.
- The payasam is ready. Serve the payasam warm.