Last saturday the theme of the day at home was RCI Kerala . I made a Kerala meal and an evening snack of Banana fritters. It was a co-incidence that a procession passed my neighborhood celebrating a ratha yatra with a huge frame of Adi Shankaracharya on it and the women followed it singing Soundarya Lahri. I am not sure what festival they were celebrating but I was celebrating my love for Kerala and its people. Some of my closest friends are Mallus and I love to tease them with a Lal Salaam.
Dad had gone out for a while and I had my peace time making this elaborate meal of the Vegetable ishtew, Pal Payasa, Whole wheat Kerala Paratha and Crunchy Cauliflower.
Most people visit the usual tourist circuit of Kerala, it is no doubt beautiful but my favorite has to be Allepey, the backwaters, the houseboats and the wilderness. That is one Kerala that everyone knows. I was lucky to go to another part of Kerala called Kasargod. This is amazing topography, the hills, ghats that churn your tum and the famous Bekal fort. I has mentioned here about the visit on this blog before too. Sharing here some pictures of this majestic fort.
We had gone to the Swami Ramdas Ashram, this is an amazing place. There are no temples here. The place reverberates is Ram Naam chanting almost round the clock., Everyone is welcome here with open arms and a warm smile. No one demands any contribution of any finance or physical help in any activity. You are informed about the daily routines of worship like bhajan, aarti, chanting but not forced. Yet one feel like being part of all out there.
It is amazing how much they take care of visitors, Once you walk into the ashram and request for an accommodation. You are provide with a cot, coffee is delivered at the doorstep, breakfast and both meals of the day are served at the dinning hall. In the evening they even provide milk and bread for those who prefer it. The height is they even wash your clothes. Remember this is an ashram yet not a single penny is charged for anything. They will do every thing for those who go there to the chant the divine name. We realize it to be our duty to do what little we can.
One comes back with so much peace and absolutely swept away by their hospitality.
We were served Pal payasa once during the 2 days that we were there. Its the simple rice and milk sweet that is associated with the divinity of naivedya.
Before I go on to the recipe for Pal Payasa, I noted When I was setting up for the shoot how the color dominating was white. Yes I associate white and cream with Kerala. The white of the lungis and the cream of the mundus, was I trying to bring that into my setting unconsciously? May be. I loved the way the plate looked. I did make an exception though to the white of all purpose flour that is used for Kerala paratha, instead I used Whole wheat flour. They turned out softer and tastier.
I really don't need to refer to Pal payasa recipe but yes Manisha makes Ammini's recipe sound like a real special creation check it out here and its fun too read too.
1/2 cup raw rice
4 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon saffron strands
1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder
1/4 teaspoon ghee
handful cashew nuts
handful black currants and golden raisins
To begin there is a bit of preparation that we have to do. We need to wash the rice thoroughly and soak it in water for 1/2 hr. It will make cooking easy.
After 1/2 hr. Take a 4 litre capacity vessel, as you will need space for the milk to foam up why its boiling. Add the rice to the pot and milk and keep it on sim for about 15 mins. Though you need not keep stirring just keep a watch, who wants a spillover when you are cooking an elaborate meal. Check the rice, if it looks rice and fluffy and almost ready to burst into a starchy crumble add the sugar at this point. What separates a Phirni from a Pal payasa is this. The phirni is made creamy with the rice crumbling into the milk. A phirni clings to the ladle whereas the rice grains are self respecting in a Pal payasa. A good Palpayasa is sipped where as a phirni is to be licked up. So just when the rice is plump add the sugar. The osmotic pressure change in the liquid lets the rice be but it will help thicken the milk into a richer density. Now while this thickens for another 10 mins in another vessel or the tadka spoon/ katori take the ghee and heat it til it melts. Remove from heat and add the cashew nuts. They will turn a nice golden give it a shake to get an even color on both sides. Add it to the thickening payasa. Bring to a boil once with continuous stirring. Add the saffron strands and put off the heat.
Pal payasa needs to cool completely for couple of hour to be enjoyed thoroughly as a fine speciality. If you like it warm reheat and enjoy else chilled if you prefer it that way.
Fly dear post too the distance land of RCI Kerala to congregate with fellow Kerala lovers. Hurry LakshmiK and Jyotsna are waiting at the Currybazar.