Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Attaining My Sugar High

I'm due to go to the land of feni and other freely available alcoholic delights shortly, and I've had a couple of requests to ferry some goodies back to this land of not-so-much variety. I'm not worried about fulfilling at least one of the requests, because a small sample from an earlier trip to the same land is still in my pantry. Two years later. Which I had a niggling suspicion of once the request was made. And confirmed happily a few hours later.

The friend for whom I'd originally brought it is rarely in touch now and I would hate to disappoint the current friend who made this request so it shall go to her. I was relating this whole episode to another friend and she said, "I like the way you keep finding things in your pantry from two years ago! It must be a veritable treasure trove." Well, I often think it's more a liability and a sign of management failure but this item is going to have a happy ending for sure!

The flip side of Treasure Trove is Bottomless Pit, and despite some periodic and concerted cleaning, I still end up with a lot of stuff. Anyway, I've said all this before on this blog, and found out that I have a lot in common with many among you, dear readers, but there was one item that I intended using up soon.

Soon came after a couple of years.

It was a packet of couscous that I had forked out a lot for at an organic store so I didn't really mind the couple of insects that revealed themselves by rising to the top once I finished boiling it; I just skimmed them away telling myself that they were too flimsy for me to feel any disgust. There was much more left over than I had estimated, and it was much more than we could reasonably eat without feeling we'd never want to eat couscous again. Not with two more fresher, recent packs of it in the fridge.

Finally, the lion's share of the remnants went into this dessert. It really was a brainwave, even if I may say so myself, and we just have half a cup of cooked couscous to use up - maybe I'll just toss it into some rice or gravy tomorrow but for now, I've come up with a strange but tasty mixture of that hoary old dessert: pudding/payasam.

This is going off to Scrumptious who's hosting Sugar High Friday this month. The theme is The Test of Time which endeavours to display ancient recipes.

Kheer (Sanskrit: क्षीर/ksheera, Hindi :खीर, Urdu: کھیر/kheer) a traditional dessert in the Indian subcontinent, usually a rice pudding made by boiling rice with milk and sugar. It is often flavored with cardamoms, saffron, pistachios or almonds that have been soaked overnight and made into fine paste. Kheers are also made with grains other than rice, and barley kheer is a common variant in Northern India and Pakistan.

It is an essential dish in many Hindu and Muslim feasts and celebrations. While the dish is most often made with rice, it can also be made with other ingredients such as vermicelli (sayviah). The recipe for the popular English rice pudding is alleged to be descended from kheer, but this would be hard to prove, since similar rice recipes (originally called potages) go back to some of the earliest written recipes in English history (when there was practically no contact between England and South Asia).

For more information, go here.

The traditional payasam in India is commonly made with milk, sugar/jaggery and rice, vermicelli or sago. I used couscous instead. Also, instead of flavouring it with cardamom powder, I used a spoon of vanilla essence and a big stick of cinnamon, partly for a Western taste and also as I suspected that the couscous would absorb the milk rapidly and solidify into a puddingy mass, but that didn't happen.

Here's how you do this:

Cooked couscous, not small: 3-4 fistfuls
Milk: 750 ml - 1 litre
Sugar: 3-4 fistfuls
Cinnamon: 2-inch piece
Vanilla essence: 1 tsp
Ghee: 2 tsp
Cashews/raisins: A fistful of each

Boil the milk and turn off the heat.

Add sugar, stir until dissolved. Add the cinnamon too now.

Now add the couscous and heat on simmer till the milk reduces. (I must say I used too much milk and even reducing it wouldn't bring it even close to pudding consistency.)

While this is going on, fry the nuts and raisins in the ghee and keep them aside.

Once you give up on the consistency, turn the pudding off heat, remove the cinnamon, cool a while and add the nuts and raisins.

You can eat it warm and liquidy or you can chill it for a day and eat a slightly thickened version the next day. I, of course, ate both!


  1. Couscous Payasam is a grand idea. It looks great too. Pantries are supposed to be treasure troves, my kids love to hang out there all the time :)

  2. Slurp! Wish I could get some Kheer and a dose of Feni right now, I am so tired after that non-stop "fun" weekend!

    Enjoy, see you later.I need to just lie down and breathe in peace today!;D

  3. What a treasure hunt Sra! Look like pearl tapioca the couscous size!

  4. Kheer is common & so in couscous ( i am forgetting the dark specks which u had to skim off:-) ), but a couscous kheer has to be something new! really great idea.

    BTW just a couple of days back I dumped my couscous ... the bugs had outnumbered the cousocus grains, & it wasn't even sitting there for 2 years.

  5. Kheer looks very delicious..

  6. You don't play nice at all. I have some Israeli couscous and I think that I am going to make some kheer with it. Gosh, you see how weak I have become for sweet stuff? :)

  7. That is super inventive :D

  8. I have limited storage space so am constantly cleaning up stuff and using them up. BUT there is still stuff from about 6 months back at any given point of time...!

    So, I just have one rule - I don't give any foodstuff which I think has been lying around for a long time, to children - their systems are not as strong as ours!

  9. kind of like rava payasam I think :) looks nice. I have one serving when its fresh and 1 when it is cold... can't take more than that. :)

  10. Sra,
    Feni , Ok so you are going to Goa , hain thik hai na!! enjoy there to the fullest!!
    and coming to couscous payasam , great idea to mix them well ...do they need little bit of more sugar than the usual kheer/payasam ...
    hugs and smiles

  11. What a terrific Sugar High Friday entry! I love all the history and that is a TRULY ancient dish! (Thanks for the Wikipedia link, it adds a bit of research classiness. I learned there that kheer is over 2000 years old!)

    The dessert itself sounds so delicious and what a smart way to use up your extra couscous!

  12. Sra the payasam sounds and looks delicious. I think it should have tasted like payasam with cracked wheat. I once made couscous kichdi wit lotsa vegetables which is also good. yeah kitchen's ae supposed to be treasure troves and I recently found my lost USB stick inside a plastic cover having whole wheat flour...wondering how it get there :(

  13. Indo, thanks. It really tasted better the next day. I used to love poking around the store room at home, still do. :)
    Asha, why, whaddyou do? I didn't like feni at all - it was like spirit.
    Cham, yes, they're just a little smaller uncooked.
    Soma, mine must have been a particularly hardy organic variety, then, because organic stuff usually rots early. Or for all you know, the specks were in the pan!
    Trupti, thank you. It was quite an experience!
    Cynthia, LOL! I've noticed that in your last few posts.
    A_and_N, thanks, just one of those lucky things. Guess where the last remaining handful went? Into the curd rice I made for The Spouse with the leftover rice!
    Miri, true. I'm v proud to say that on my recent Singapore trip, I didn't bring back any of this kind of stuff - I knew it will just go to waste, we just brought back a lot of chocolate instead.
    Raaga, Oh, I love payasam. But don't think I've had any rava payasam, should explore on next binge day.
    Jaya, yes, mostly on work, and then a half-day to myself. I dunno about extra sugar, Jaya, I just kept adding and tasting, I added the couscous the same way too - that's why my measurements are in fistfuls this time!
    Scrumptious, thankuthanku. It's a popular link - I've seen it on many other blogs. Our standard fare at home for any festival is payasam.
    Ni, I've never had cracked wheat paysam so I can't say. If it was my USB stick and my kitchen, I'd have found it in my oil can, I'm sure. :-)

  14. First a treasure trove, and now some totally innovative "fusion" cooking. "I am loving it"!!!
    Looks really like regular payasam. I think couscous payasam would taste somewhat like broken wheat payasam.

  15. Wow couscous kheer...sounds innovative....Perfect entry to the event.....

  16. couscous kheer sounds very interesting. Payesh is one of my all-time favs. Enjoy your trip!

  17. What a brilliant, brilliant idea, why didn't I think of that!!! After all, semiya and couscous are made from the same ingredient. Isn't it funny how we associate certain ingredients with only certain recipes and then out of the blue, we have a brainwave like this.

    Oh, my pantry woes are no different from yours. I love to have a well-stocked pantry but the flipside is some items in the nooks and crannies go unused and when they are finally "discovered", they are well past the use-by date or are infested with bugs.


  18. great idea to use couscous in payasam... :) Everytime I search for something in my pantry, i find something else and am surprised at it's presence so i try to move it to a more visible place so I can use it and not forget abt it...

  19. Wow really creative of making payasom with couscous.
    I would havenever everthought about it.
    So now are you going to Goa?

  20. Couscous is good as upma too. I was reminded of the days when I used to make couscous upma so often ....:)

  21. Couscous in Payasam...very novel!!! Why do you need a cheesy delight when you have indulged yourself in this....

  22. insects add protein. that's my theory. my last trip to goa, about a hundred years ago, i brought back tons of almond liqueur. awesome stuff.

  23. Aparna, that reminds me, off I go to add the Fusion tag to my post!!!
    Lubna, thanks, I don't know about innovation but it was certainly new to me.
    Mandira, when it was hot, it felt a bit pasty, but ok later.
    Mamatha, you know, I never thought of that - same ingredient, I mean. Probably because it didn't behave that way. It thickened only v slightly, semiya would have absorbed as much as it could. I'm also trying to eat down the fridge, pantry, even my utensils!
    Laavanya, I know, but they keep going back!!!
    Happy, Yessssssss, off to Goa.
    Vidya, yeah, I imagine it would be, but not sure I want to spend precious couscous on 'upma'. If it's got a Moroccan or a Middle Eastern name, then the upma would be exotic, no?
    Rachel, no, not all at the same time. But I'm quite democratic in matters of which food gets what weightage :-)
    Bee, yes, I remember you said that earlier. I've never developed a taste for liqueur/liquor, except on hazelnut something I had a sip of and never saw again!

  24. Lovely desert, the payasam in glass loves like faluda, i love the pics

  25. Never made anything with coucous. For payasam I stick with rice, am not fond of anything else

  26. sra, i am so J :) drink one extra glass of Fenny on my belaf and take loads of pics too :)
    and couscous payasam? u rock girl. seriously!

  27. Not too crazy about payasams, especially the ones made of milk.

    I've had couscous (instead of rice) with yogurt & tomato pickle. It was pretty good and almost tasted like curd-rice.

    Have fun in Goa!

  28. fantastic idea..should try this one:)

  29. Have fun in Goa....drink lots of feni and forget about them insects.....

  30. My pantry woes are similar to yours. Maybe we should have a "clear your pantry" event so it'll get us digging and clearing up stuff! :)
    Couscous payasa is such a fab idea!
    Enjoy Goa, Sra! Did not take to feni myself when I went to Goa last (a looong time ago!) but I remember enjoying their dry port wines :) Post some pix too, if u can. Have fun!

  31. oh god sra! you make me feel so good about being a grocery pack-rat!...i have tons of boxes and noodles in my pantry and i am finally getting to use them...so that i can buy more loot....would have never thought of cous-cous payasam...very innovative!

  32. sounds yumm,and not to forget healthy too....and hey those intruders in the kheer do add some animal protein...lolz
    And hey wishing u a great holiday at Goa,enjoy the land of beaches and some great sea food too,after all Goa is not only about Feni but some gorgeous food and loads of fun too(sigh.....loads of sweet memories of that place)
    And don't forget to get some cashews too,nice variety, though bit costlier(than regular ones) but worth every penny of it

  33. Couscous is a brilliant idea. And why not? It's an excellent grain shape for pudding.

    Sra, you've got courage, I must say. Skimming insects? I want to pass out. ; O LOL!

  34. Feni stinks :) I know have some couscous somewhere- but I am sure it will be protein laden by the time I get my hands on them

  35. Gayathri, thanks. The taste is quite different, though.
    Sandeepa, we rarely make rice payasam. I ate it somewhere recently, though, it's very heavy on the tummy.
    Sia, thanks :-) I don't like feni, it tastes of spirit, but of course, that's just my opinion.
    3/18/2009 9:08 PM
    TBC, oh, I love payasams, even the dal-based ones.
    Meenal, thanks, do try!
    Jayashree, we had lots of fun!
    Vani, I think something like that is already going on! Yeah, I heard the port wine is good, I brought some back for a friend.
    Rajitha, oh, so the 'project' is over?
    Alka, I kept off the cashews in the interests of my figure! LOL! Susan, It was a teensy bit pasty, though even that bit disappeared after a good chilling in the fridge! They were just specks, Susan, and they surfaced after I boiled the couscous.
    Rajesh & Shankari, yes, it does. I didn't like sake much either, when I tasted it. Don't want these drinks to "grow" on me, either.

  36. Hi,

    Just a small clarification. Ksheeram in Sanskrit means milk. Payasam is a Sanskrit word. Ksheera payasam means milk kheer in Sanskrit.


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