STEAM COOKING

Steaming is perhaps the oldest form of cooking – even before the cave man discovered fire. It is said that food was softened over hot springs or stones in ancient times. Steaming is a moist method of cooking that combines hot air and moisture to soften and cook ingredients.

Steaming is a preferred method of cooking for the simple reason that it retains the nutrient factors when compared to other forms like baking or frying, retaining color, flavor as well as texture. Research has established that steamed food only showed a loss of 40% vitamins in vegetables compared to 70% that is lost when the same is boiled. All the essential goodness is retained and there is lesser requirement for fat too. Food is not exposed to intense heat as in other methods.

To get the optimum results while steaming:
Choose ingredients and ensure that they are of good quality and not rotten or stale. The reason for this is steaming enhances flavors and any ‘unwanted’ aroma or flavor will only get accentuated.

Ensure that you have proper gadgets for steaming and the appliances are in order. If steam escapes or the lids are not proper it will delay the cooking as well as prove uneconomical

Make sure that the vessel containing the ingredients is placed well above the water and there is no chance of the outer liquid entering the substance.

While dicing vegetables or meat or poultry ensure that they are of the same size so that they are evenly cooked in the specified time

Ensure water levels are adequate to complete cooking.

If you are cooking more than one item in a steamer make sure there is some space between containers to allow circulation of steam to ensure faster cooking

To save on fuel bring all frozen foods to room temperature before steam cooking.

Place juicy foods in the bottom so that they don’t drip liquids and spread their flavor on to other foods

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SEMIYA PAYASAM

The term SEMOLINA or SEMIYA [ in Tamil Language] is derived from the Italian word ‘semola’ meaning ‘flour’. It is obtained by milling wheat – in the process when the bran and the germ are removed and the starch is broken into coarse pieces. Semiya made from Durum wheat is usually yellow in color where as it is white when derived from softer varieties of wheat. It is used to make a variety of dishes including puddings the world over and can also be used as coating for dishes to give a crispy flavor.

The beauty of this ingredient is its adaptability. Any kind of dish can be made from this – sweet or savory dish with any spice, in liquid, semi solid or solid form. In India Semolina is used to make a variety of dishes – both sweet & savory like Halwas, Payasams, Puddings, Upma, Falooda and Bath varieties.

Ingredients:
Semiya – ½ cup
Sugar – ½ cup
Thick Milk – 1 cup
Cashew & Kissmiss – As Required
Cardamom Powder – ¼ tsp
Ghee – 2 tlbsp
Water – as required

Method:
In a heavy bottomed pan put 1tlbs of ghee and fry Semiya till light brown. Add enough water to cook the Semiya. Take care not to over cook.
When soft add thick milk and let it boil on low flame till it reduces to half the quantity.
Add sugar and stir till it dissolves. Add Cardamom powder and remove from gas.
Heat rest of the ghee and fry cashew and kissmiss till golden brown.
Add to the Payasam. A strand of saffron soaked in warm milk for ½ an hour can also be added for flavor.

Can be served hot or cold.

Tips:
For a different flavor and when in season you can add mango pulp to this mix while adding sugar to get a nice mango Semiya payasam. But please ensure that the heat is switched off the moment the mango pulp is added to avoid curdling.

Nendran Pazha Pradaman (Banana Payasam)

Bananas in general are a good source of Potassium and dietary fiber. There are many varieties found in India, the most famous one in Kerala being the Nendran Pazham. Chips made from these unripened bananas are famous the world over and popularly known as ‘Nendran kai chips’. When ripe they are known as Nendran Pazham and are longer than the normal varieties and have thick skin. They are very delicious to eat as it is. Several delicious recipes can be made from them including Payasam, Halwa, and Desserts & Sweets.

Ingredients:
Nendran Pazham – 1 Big
Thick Jaggery Syrup – ½ cup
Coconut Milk – 1 Cup Thick
Coconut Milk – 1 Cup Thin
Ghee – 3 tlbs
Cashewnuts – Few
Water – if required

Method:
Remove skin and pressure cook banana till it is soft.
Split it into two and deseed removing the black center portion. Mash well with a ladle
In a heavy bottomed pan pour 2 tlbsp of ghee, add the mashed paste and fry in low flame for a couple of minutes.
Add the thick jaggery syrup and mix well. Add a little water if you feel the mix sticking to the bottom of the pan. Let it boil for 5 minutes in low flame.
Add thin coconut milk first and boil till the mix is slightly thick
Add the thick coconut milk now and mix well. Let it boil for a couple of minutes and switch off the stove.
Fry Cashewnuts in remaining ghee and add to payasam.

Tips:
For those who find the taste of coconut milk overpowering, plain thick milk mixed with 2 tlbsp of Condensed Milk can also be used.
Ready made coconut milk or coconut powder mixed with water can also be used in this preparation.

Paal Ada Pradhaman [Rice Flake Milk Payasam]

Another delicacy from God’s own country – Kerala. This payasam is made using rice flakes which are specially made at home for this purpose. But now a days good quality ready – to – use rice flakes are available in all departmental stores. Extremely delicious, this payasam is part of any big celebration or feast in a Kerala household.

Ingredients:
Rice Adai – 1/4th cup
Thick Milk – 2 ½ cups
Sugar – 1/4th cup
Ghee – 2 tsp
Cardamom Powder – ¼ tsp
Fried Cashewnuts – optional
Condensed milk – 1/3 rd cup

Method:
Soak Rice adai in boiling hot water for 15 mins.
Drain and rinse in cold water.
In a pressure cooker add adai + milk and pressure cook till you get one whistle.
Switch off the stove. Heat a heavy bottomed pan [or retain the cooker itself] and transfer contents to it and place it on medium flame to thicken and reduce further.
Keep it on the stove till the milk is reduced considerably and the payasam takes on a pinkish tinge.
Add Condensed milk and stir well for 5 mins.
Add sugar and cardamom powder, stir till sugar dissolves completely and switch off the heat. Roast the cashew in ghee and add if required.

Tips:
If you do not have too much time on hand to reduce and thicken the milk, more of condensed milk can be added. If you do so, remember to use less sugar than mentioned otherwise you will land up with a dish that is too sweet to consume.
Always remember to add sugar carefully to boiling milk since it is likely to curdle. So always switch off the stove after sugar is added.
Adding sugar will also dilute the payasam. So thicken it first to the maximum and then add sugar.

Chakka Pradaman – Jack Fruit Payasam

READ THE PREVIOUS POST FOR ELABORATION ON “PAYASAM”

Any preparation from Jack fruit is considered a delicacy in Kerala and especially “Chakka Pradaman”, which is a sweet dish made from jack fruit. The aroma of this dish [ when cooking] will automatically bring visitors to your house.

Ingredients:

Fully Ripe Jack Fruit – 1 cup

Thick jaggery syrup – 1 cup

Thick coconut milk – 1 ½ cups

Thin and finely sliced coconut pieces – 2 tlbsp

Cardamom Powder – ¼ tsp

Ghee [CLARIFIED BUTTER] – as required

Method:

Chop jack fruit very finely and pressure cook the pieces with minimum water. After it cools down grind the pieces in a mixer to form a smooth paste.

Pour jaggery syrup in a heavy bottomed kadai and add the jack fruit paste and stir well to mix.

Continuously stir for about 10 mins or till it thickens and blends well. It should be thick in consistency.

Lower heat and add coconut milk slowly and mix well.

Do not let the mixture boil since the coconut milk may separate.

Add Cardamom powder and switch off stove just before it reaches boiling point.

Fry the coconut pieces in ghee till golden brown and add to the mix.

Serve hot or cold.

Tips:

Ready made “Chakka varatti” [JACK FRUIT PASTE MADE WITH JAGGERY] paste can also be used to make this payasam in case you don’t get jack fruit and you are desperate to have this. . Mix the varatti along with little milk or jaggery syrup to make a thick batter. Place this in the “kadai” [VESSEL] and repeat steps as mentioned above. In case you require more sweet ensure you add extra jaggery syrup to the batter and stir well.  

Payasam

 Payasam in Tamil or Sanskrit and Payesh in Bengali  – this dish is indeed unique for one cannot find an equivalent to this in the English language except for a generic term like ‘Dessert’.

 

Payasam is a South Indian sweet dish made in every household on any occasion that calls for spiritual, religious or any happy occasion / celebrations. The word Payasam immediately conjures up happy moments and sweet memories and is generally associated with a soothing and pleasant emotion. It is also served as a dessert at the end of a sumptuous 4 course meal.

In North India it is popularly known as ‘Kheer’.They can be in liquid or semi solid form. The ingredients that form an integral part of any payasam is – Milk, Sugar, Jaggery, Cardamom, Coconut Milk, Dry Fruits & Ghee.

From the health point of view it has much to offer depending on the ingredients used and when consumed in moderation. Although the general misconception is that it adds calories to your intake, it can be full of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals.

The varieties are innumerable and the range of ingredients used astounding. Right from rice & spices to fruits and vegetables several elements can be used to make payasam. The sweet element here could be sugar, jaggery, honey or any other sweetening agent.

Tamilnadu is famous for its ‘Paal [MILK] Payasam’ & ‘Akara Vadasal’ while Kerala is renowned for its’ Chakka [JACKFRUIT] Pradaman’, ‘Ada Pradaman’ and ‘Aravana Payasam’ that is offered to Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala. Other varieties include Semiya [VERMICELLI] payasam, Javvarisi [SAGO] payasam, Paruppu [LENTIL] Payasam, Carrot Kheer, Nendhra Pazha [ETHNIC VARIETY OF BANANA] Payasam, Coconut Payasam, Badam [ALMONDS] Kheer, Channa Dal [BLACK CHICK PEAS] Kheer…. the list is endless indeed!!!

Magical Mint Juice

Mint or Pudina, as it is popularly known in India, at once conjures up cool and refreshing images in the mind. For centuries this herb has been used as both seasoning as well as for its medicinal properties. Right from chewing gum and mouthwash to toothpaste and ice creams Mint is a popular flavor.

A chilled glass of Mint Juice combined with a dash of lime is heavenly and gives respite from the hot, summer days. Mint juice can also be had with lime, honey and pepper topped with ice for that soothing effect. It is a naturally flavored drink that does wonders to energize a tired body. Lime juice supplies the required amount of Vitamin C

Mint Juice

Ingredients:

Pudina (Mint)  Leaves – 1 Cup [Washed and cleaned]
Sugar – 1 Cup
Water – 1 Cup
Ginger – 25 gms crushed coarsely
Lime juice – as required
Pepper Powder – optional

Method:

Heat Water and Sugar and bring to a boil.
Lower flame and let it boil till sugar completely dissolves.
Remove from stove. Add Pudina leaves and ginger to the sugar syrup.

Keep the container closed for an hour.
Strain through a fine filter. Store in refrigerator.
When required take one part of syrup and mix with two parts of water. Add lime juice as required to give a tangy taste.
Add a pinch of pepper powder if you like.

Tips:
A dash of green food color can be added to give a green tinge to the syrup. Children will love the bright green color.

This syrup should be consumed within a day or two. If you wish to make in large quantities you can add preservatives to make it last longer.