Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Jihva and Just Deserts

The life of a food blogger is a hard one. Especially when events come around, and the pressure on oneself is to innovate/exhibit rather than humbly participate.
When Kay of Towards a Better Tomorrow announced Jihva for Jaggery and requested us to send in unusual recipes, yours truly immediately lined up two ambitious ventures, only to end up with thumping failures.
The lessons (oh yes, there always have to be lessons from failures): Trying to create a dish merely on the strength of having gorged on it throughout your life does not magically bestow on the eater the recipe; and payasam can curdle at any stage!
A friend recently said she didn’t believe in second attempts with recipes. She never, ever wanted to relive the failure, she said - the dish had turned an enemy, a friend who had failed her. Thanks to Jihva, I did make a second attempt, which is now making the rounds at work because I cannot bear to have a constant reminder at home of the consequence of my hubris.
Yes folks, in the first episode, I set out to make this:

And ended up with this:

Both versions are called Jeedipappu Paakam, and in the parts I come from, the first is celebrated for its addictive, ghee-laden, cardamom-flavoured, expensive existence. The texture of the jaggery against the cashew nuts it envelops is something I can only describe as similar to icing. It comes in great big slabs, or rocks, and sometimes even a pair of brawny hands find the going tough when they have to break off smaller pieces – a firm tap with a hammer, or a sturdy knife driven into it, like the blade of an axe, and then borne down upon with all the might of your shoulders, does the trick.
But this is not to say it’s difficult to eat. On the contrary, it’s easy to get carried away. A friend in hostel used to overdose on this every time I took it back with me after vacation, and even the very real risk of a troubled stomach made only more sickening by the water scarcity in the loos couldn’t deter her from chomping on it all the time.
Well, I couldn’t find a recipe for it but it had to be simple, I thought: Just melt a cupful of jaggery in a little water to a stage where the syrup holds its shape in a bowl of water when tested, pour in a cup of cashews, a few spoons of ghee and a pinch of powdered, roasted cardamom seeds, whisk it off the fire and spread it in a plate greased with ghee, and your paakam is ready. (The rocks and slabs were, I thought, a function of volume – I was no accomplished mithaiwali after all, just a zealous, new food blogger trying to wow the world.) Alas! It was not to be - I ended up with my first chikki.
Not deterred, I stopped off at the store on my way back from work, bought a cannonball of light yellow jaggery, some more cashew and spent a good part of the night powdering the former, all the while dreaming of perfection from the second attempt, and the other dish I planned to display, a traditional, festive one that too!
My second attempt was just as bad, or as good as my first – and while my guinea pigs ate it without question and even the odd compliment, the ignominy of it all rankled – and instead of leaving well alone, I launched into my second sweet soon after I got back from work.
{Drumroll} Paalataalikalu!
My recipe for this sago-and-rice flour noodles payasam came off the Net. The sago was processed as per one of my fail-proof home cooking books, and everything was going along swimmingly fine. Even the rice flour, with which I was working for the very first time in my life, was cooperating. And what did I do? I raised the heat to boil the rice flour noodles, and met my comeuppance in the form of a heaving, creamy-brown ocean of curdle that I couldn’t salvage. I, friends, had got my just deserts!
{Curtain call, bow}


  1. Little late but don't worry, they look delicious!You said it, food blogging is hard,specially for me with my loooong posts:D

    Enjoy experimenting and succeeding!

  2. i commiserate with you for all the stuff that has gone down my drain or gone to my office.:)but keep up. perseverance is the key to a good dessert.

  3. that was a hilarious post! :)
    i have failures too...especially since I can't seem to keep my hands off new cookbooks :) but as Shaheen said, do'll soon make those desserts perfectly.

  4. Hi Sra,that made nice reading!I was laughing at the way you have dexcribed your pala thalikalu!:D

    kaju pakam is one of my fav sweets.whenever we go to hyd,we get atleast a kg of it from pullareddy.I guess I am going to have to make it at home now!:)Thanks for sharing your experiences!!

  5. Asha, will do!
    Shaheen, yes, but for the life of me, I don't know where I will find the recipe for the first photo.
    Nabeela, thanks for appreciating the humour - I aim to tickle!
    Vini, if you discover the recipe for the first photo, please let me in on the secret!

  6. u know sra, we make a similar cashew candy but with melted sugar. melt sugar on low heat and when it is aliquid, add the cashews .. pour onto parchment paper and spread.

  7. Sra,
    You have a really fun blog - love the humour. You have a way with words, don't you? I'm sorry your experiments didn't turn out the way you wished, but not to worry, I hope your next attempt is a success. Er, did you mean you got your just desserts :P

    Best wishes.

  8. Shaheen, will that turn out like chikki as well?
    Faffer, thanks for stopping by, and for the compliments. I did debate whether to call it Desserts or Deserts but decided to forgo the pun!

  9. been a while since I bloghopped to your site, My God, you've churned out so many goodies.Nuts and jaggery chikki is my fav too...:)

  10. you must try the other one as well, the one i was trying to make - it's addictive, Lera


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