Josephine is Tamil (South Indian) Christian. She was 18 years old when she got married. She learnt a lot of her cooking from her mother-in-law,who, in turn, learnt hers from a family from Goa who brought her up.
So what she cooks is a mixture of Tamil and Goan food- neither of which I claim to know too much about. But I enjoy it very much and know it is authentic. From the traditional Paayasam- very Tamil , to the use of malt vinegar-very Goan, to fried biscuits called ‘kalkal’ and ‘rose cookie’- a European missionary influence- Josephine’s cooking repertoire is an interesting one .
To start with, here is the recipe for Paayasam, as promised. In the South of India this is made on any auspicious occasion like a birthday, wedding or festival, just as kheer ( a liquidy rice and milk pudding) is in the North of India. Try it – it is delicious !
3/4 cup moong daal (split mung beans- available in any Indian grocery– and very sorry there is no substitute)
1 and a 1/2 cups of coconut milk ( fresh -but if ,like me, you are not a perfectionist,the tinned kind works very well)
2 tbsp jaggery or to taste(available at an Indian grocery.If you cannot get it, replace with dark brown sugar)
a pinch of salt
a handful of whole almonds (chopped-skin and all)
a handful of raisins
2 tbsp ghee or butter
1 bay leaf, 2 pods green cardamom, 1 1 inch stick cinnamon (spices optional)
1) Roast the daal in a pan or kadhai over medium heat (stirring constantly so it does not burn) till golden brown and smells nutty.
2) Wash the roasted daal and soak in approx. 3 cups of water (of normal temperature) for 15 mins.
Transfer daal and water into a kadhai or saucepan and cook till tender(approx.15 mins).
3) Add coconut milk and continue to cook till thick and mushy (it should be mushy but still with a bit of grain).Add the jaggery and salt. Stir till well dissolved and heated through. Remove from heat.
4) Heat 2 tablespoons of ghee or butter.Add the almonds and fry till light brown.Remove. Then fry the raisins till plump and light coloured. Remove.
5) Finally add the whole spices and fry till light brown. Add this,and saving a few for decoration, add the rest of the almonds,raisins and any remaining butter into the paayasam. Stir in. Put it back on heat and let it come to a boil .Remove.
The rich aroma of the roasted daal, the depth of flavour from the jaggery and spices and the creaminess from the coconut milk- it is mini heaven ! I think it is best eaten hot with a dollop of fresh malai or thick cream (calories best forgotten).
To see a related article ,’Table for Easter’- click here