Native to Kerala and deeply embedded in the Malayali psyche is the brown jaggery payasam – the Sharkara Payasam. Jaggery is unrefined cane sugar. It is rich in minerals, particularly iron. In short, Jaggery is a healthy sweetener with an earthy taste. At any family celebration – a marriage function, the naming ceremony of a new-born baby, a birthday celebration, a festival – one payasam would inevitably be this rich earthy coconut milk delicacy; varieties include moong dal, Ada or jackfruit as the main ingredient……
Payasam is customarily served on the plantain leaf at the end of a sadya; we savour the finger-licking delicacy with relish wishing it would last and last……… Nowadays they are served in glasses besides the plantain leaf. Yet another age – old custom sacrificed in the name of convenience and urbanisation.
SHARKARA PAYASAM (ശര്കര പായസം)
- 2 medium rounds jaggery OR 350 gm jaggery / sharkara
- 2 cups coconut gratings
- 1 cup Unakkalari / Red Kuthiya Ari / Basmati Rice / Raw Rice
- 2 pods Cardamom
- 1 Tbsp Ghee
- 1 Tbsp Ghee
- 1 Tbsp Cashewnuts
- 1 tsp Raisins
- Powder cardamom seeds.
- Take first and second extractions of milk from coconut grating by grinding it with water and straining. First – 1 cup thick coconut milk and second – 1½ cups thin coconut milk.
- Cook jaggery in 1 cup of water, make a syrup, strain and set aside.
- Soak rice in water for 20 minutes. Cook in 2½ cups of water in a pressure cooker or heavy-bottomed vessel. The rice should be well cooked and separate but not mushy.
- Add jaggery syrup to the rice, followed by ghee and powdered cardamom. Simmer till it becomes quite thick, stirring constantly.
- In low heat and with continuous stirring, add the second coconut milk and when ½ of it is absorbed, add the first milk and mix well. Put off the stove before it boils to prevent curdling.
- For the garnish, heat ghee, fry raisins, remove it from the kadai and fry cashewnuts till golden. Add them to the sharkara payasam. Serve hot or cold.
- Notes – Add more ghee, for a richer version.
- Quick Snack:Whenever we have Appam / Hoppers for breakfast, I use the left – over batter to make a snack for tea. Appam batter is made with rice, coconut milk, sugar and yeast.
- Sweeten the batter with more sugar, and steam it in a shallow steel vessel for about 15 minutes. If it is cooked ,a toothpick inserted in the centre will come out clean. Allow to cool before cutting.
- Serve it plain or with pickles / butter / cheese. As a meal, it can be taken with chicken curry or vegetable curry. Needless to say, it is one of our favourites.
Quick Tip: Some shops spray insecticide on their shelves. Always wash the outside of a can before you open it.