There’s something about those festivals where your whole family comes together and celebrates with delicious food and gatherings. Onam is one such festival for our family. I can never forget all the years we’ve come together, prepared elaborate Onam Sadhyas (Onam Feasts) and had so much fun making “Pookollam” and dressing up. Have you celebrated or heard if Onam? My stats show me that most of my readers are from the US and so I have always been curious if all the things I talked about on this blog made sense to you guys.
This year’s Onam has been different. However, give you an insight to our traditional onam celebration routine, it’s something like this: My Nani (maternal grandmother) is the best home cook/chef in the world. She is the one who makes most if not all the dishes or supervises everything that is made for the Onam Sadhya. It’s a totally Vegetarian spread and every little thing is absolutely delicious! One of the star components of the Sadhya is the payasam (rice pudding). There are many different payasams that Nani makes but the Rice Pudding or “Ari Payasam” as we call it in Malayalam is my favourite.
As I said, this year we could not celebrate Onam the way we always did due to many reasons. But I couldn’t just not have payasam on this day. So, as I was browsing through various cookbooks for Fall recipes, I came across Tara O’Brady’s Kheer from her book Seven Spoons. An ah-mayzing recipe in itself, I decided to club that recipe and my Nani’s payasam recipe and make my own version. Trust me, it literally blew me away at how AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS it was. The recipe is absolutely easy, super customizable and you end up with a mouthwateringly fantastic dessert. I will highly highly recommend the caramelized pineapples because they are the things that add character to this dish. However, if you decide to eliminate them then consider adding some roasted nuts or dry fruits to add a more in-depth flavour/texture to the dish.
Few things to keep in mind for this dish:
- Use raw unboiled rice. What I mean to say is, the rice that you already buy, packaged from the grocery store to consume with dal/gravy etc. is boiled rice (i.e. the grains are boiled first and then packed which you later cook and consume.) This recipe needs unboiled rice. (You may use Basmati Rice but the cooking time may vary.)
- Use coconut oil or ghee. Both work well, I mentioned both so that you can choose according to your dietary requirements. I haven’t used any other fat so if you try your own substitute then I am not sure if the end product will have the same flavour.
- Use the entire almond + water mixture. We will not be making the traditional almond milk. The pulp adds a lot of body to this pudding and I promise you, you’ll love it. Also, I don’t like wasting the pulp because I seldom use it when I put it inside my refrigerator.
- Use fresh cardamom pods if you have those. If you do not have access to it then you may use ¼ to ½ tsp cardamom powder.
- Using a vanilla bean isn’t compulsory, you may add vanilla extract instead (½ tsp).
- If you do not have jaggery, you may use brown sugar, palm sugar or even coconut sugar.
Almond and Cardamom Rice Pudding (Payasam) w/ Caramelized Pineapple
For the Payasam/Pudding:
- 115 g Raw white rice (Masoori Rice)
- 120 g Almonds (Raw)
- 500 ml Water
- 3 pods Green Cardamom
- 1/2 bean Vanilla (or 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract)
- 40 g Jaggery
- 80 g Unrefined cane sugar (Or dark brown sugar)
- 1 tbsp Ghee/Coconut oil
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1 small Ripe Pineapple (cored and cut into thin wedges)
- 80 g Dark brown sugar
- 1 tsp Ghee/Coconut oil
- 1/4 tsp Salt
Make the rice pudding/payasam:
- In a high powdered blender add the raw almonds and water. Blend for 1-2 minutes or until smooth. Set aside. (Do not strain)
- Wash the rice in water a few times till the water runs clear.
- In a medium-large heavy bottom saucepan, add the ghee/coconut oil. Place on medium high heat. Add the drained rice and stir for 45-60 seconds.
- Now add the almond milk mixture. Jaggery, Sugar, Salt and scraped Vanilla bean (along with the pod). Stir.
- In a peston-mortar smash the cardamom pods and add those to the payasam mixture as well. Stir.
- Bring this to a boil. Once it reaches boiling point, reduce the heat so that the mixture keeps simmering.
- Let the mixture simmer for 25-30 minutes, stirring frequently. Add about 1/4 cup water at a time if the pudding is too thick for your liking. When the mixture is thick enough to suspend the rice throughout the payasam, your payasam/pudding is ready. You can also taste test to ensure everything is soft and cooked and sweet enough for your preference. Discard the vanilla bean and the whole cardamom pods before consuming.
Caramelized Pineapples: (Do this only before serving)
- In a non stick saucepan, add the sugar and set it on medium low heat. Let it melt and caramelize (about 3-5 minutes). Do not stir. You may swirl the pan.
- After the sugar is caramelized, add the oil/ghee and sugar. Swirl the pan to combine.
- Then add your sliced pineapples and let them caramelize for 1-2 minutes on each side.
- Add your payasam to the serving bowls and pour over the caramelized pineapples along with the sugar syrup and its juices over the payasam bowls. Serve when the pineapples are warm.
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