Saturday, November 18, 2006

Semiya Payasam/ Vermicelli pudding

There are many things from my undergrad days that are best buried, but there are some memories I will always cherish. Among the memorable, are the adventures in our girls-only hostel. Sneaking naps during study hours, stealing food from the dining room, dancing in the monsoons, midnight birthday parties, rooftop shooting star rendezvous, gigantic lizards fighting in the computer room...that last one maybe good to forget!! More often than not, when people talk of hostel life the first thing you'll hear is the nasty food but strangely enough our food was actually pretty good, we always had dessert as part of lunch-- always an indication of a good meal if you ask me. We would have fresh home made indian sweets (ladoo, gulab jamun, rasgulla), or a variety of cakes and ice cream. My favorite there had to be Paruppu payasam (milk pudding made with lentils) and most hated-- Semiya payasam. Lucky for me my roommate loved semiya... so our agreement was I would give her my share of semiya payasam if she gave me her paruppu payasam. I'd like to think my recipe (inherited from my mom) is a tad bit better than the starchy milky glue we got at the hostel.

Semiya Payasam

1/2 cup packed very fine vermicelli (wheat noodles)

4 tbsps sugar

3 cups whole milk

2 tbsp unsweetened grated coconut

3 pods of cardamom (slightly opened) or generous pinch powdered cardamom

1 generous tbsp of ghee (clarified butter) or butter

In a pan saute cashewnuts and raisins in ghee till cashews are golden brown. Remove the raisins and nuts and in the same pan add the vermicelli and roast for 10 mins on medium heat or till the noodles turn a golden brown. Meanwhile in another saucepan boil milk with sugar, coconut and cardamom. Once the milk is boiled, add the vermicelli and cook for 15 mins on medium heat. I like my semiya a bit thick, so I boil it for 15 mins but if you prefer it more watery then stop cooking immediately after you notice the noodles soften. Serve garnished with cashewnuts and raisins.

Variation: You can use rice instead of the vermicelli, just skip the initial roasting step. You may also have to boil the rice in milk for longer (~20 mins) -- one way to test is to take a grain of rice and squish it between your fingers, if cooked completely you should not feel anything crumble, just a smooth smoosh.

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