India doesn’t get a lot of credit on the global culinary map for its puddings. In reality, we probably make more puddings than the rest of the world combined – we just don’t call them puddings. They go by names from “kheer” to “payasa,” and they’re made out of practically everything from rice to tapioca, and even bottle gourd. I reckon if you leave enough of an ingredient in one of our kitchens, we’ll find a way to make a pudding out of it.
As a child, I would always look forward to my mother’s beaten rice “payasa” at Monti Fest each year; however, I have to admit that my personal favorite is “ada pradhaman payasam” or rice sheet pudding. I adapted this recipe from Archana Doshi’s “semiya payasam” to enjoy the best of both worlds – the creamy finish of the first “payasa” and the pasta texture of the second “payasam.” Yes, it doesn’t have any rice, but the silver lining is that you can pull it off in under an hour.
Bring 4 cups of full cream milk, ¼ cup dark palm jaggery or “suray/pele godd,” ½ tsp cardamom powder and 10-15 strands of saffron to a boil.
Toast ¾ cup broken vermicelli with 15g butter in a pan till it turns a light golden-brown.
Add the toasted vermicelli to the milk and let it simmer on a low heat for 5 minutes.
While the mixture is simmering, toast 3 tbsp halved cashew nuts in 5g butter till they turn light golden-brown and then toast 3 tbsp raisins along with the cashew nuts till the raisins inflate.
Add the cashew nuts and raisins to the pudding, and serve warm.