A Birthday celebrated with Rice Pudding, Kerala Style

29 Apr

It is that time of the year, when post 30, you fervently pray that people should forget your birthday. I turn 31 today. It is a bitter-sweet feeling. I am not overly excited neither am I under-playing it when friends and family call me to wish me a beautiful birthday. I have  never been excited about birthdays. Frankly, I think they are slightly over rated. I rather enjoy festivals and other important days such as my daughter’s birthday or my husband’s even than my own birthday. Do not know why but my birthday seems like  just another day to me.

I LOVE TO PLAN for others’ birthdays, anniversaries, last day in office and similar events. But when it comes to my own, I hate to do any planning for myself and I also do not expect anybody to plan either because it wouldn’t be as great as the way I do. Totally narcissistic. But I have high standards, what to do? :-)

Post 30, cakes can make you feel, if not a little depressed, then definitely uncomfortable. How many candles are you going to light up there? 30 odd candles and then there is no space to put the knife through! So naturally, I did not order for a cake on this birthday. In fact, it is all-Kerala strike and hence there wasn’t even a question of ordering one or going out for dinner too. All celebrations are confined to my mum’s home. My mum being the lovely mum that she always is, went through the trouble of making a rice pudding. This is no ordinary rice pudding since I have had all versions possible ( north Indian, south Indian, west, and east too). She promised me that it wouldn’t be anything like I would have had before.

So while she sweated it out (literally) in the Kitchen I made myself comfy with a book. Around lunch time she asked me to come over to taste the divine concoction. It had an enchanting aroma and I guessed it was because of the rice being cooked in coconut milk ( traditionally it is milk that is used to make rice pudding). I quickly grabbed a bowl and dug in. Simply fabulous and like she said, it wasn’t like any other rice pudding. It had a melt in the mouth kind of texture with fried coconut pieces far and in between. It was simply perfect. The sweetness was because of all the goodness of jaggery and the stunning aroma was because of the coconut milk and cardamom.

It is anybody’s guess how many bowls I would have devoured. Who needs a cake when you have the yummiest pudding made by mum?

The bananas that you see in the background (photograph above) are organic bananas from my uncle’s farm. 

This modest seeming pudding is an explosion of flavour and in my opinion, a grand substitute for a birthday cake:-)

The Recipe for Rice Pudding in Coconut Milk and Jaggery

Ingredients

1 cup of rice (basmati rice- you need to break it up a bit by grinding for a bit in the mixer grinder. Need to be careful that they don’t become too fine else will be mesh and almost dissolve into the pudding)

5-7 cups of coconut milk ( either squeezed from freshly grated coconuts, like my mum did or use the ready-made varieties available in the market)

Jaggery(grated)-2 to 2 1/2 cups depending on how sweet you would like it

Coconut pieces – a handful ( optional)

1-2 tsp of cardamom powder

1/2 tsp of ginger powder ( optional)

Preparation

Wash the rice thoroughly and throw it into a mixer grinder or blender to break it into smaller bits. .

In a huge vessel/pan, pour 2 cups of coconut milk and the broken rice and cook it in medium heat.

Traditionally, this recipe would require 2 coconuts which are grated and fresh coconut milk is squeezed out which is called the first milk. This would be thick and dense. Then a sprinkle of water on the same grated coconut to squeeze out some more, which is called second milk. finally, pour a little extra water on the grated coconut lump and squeeze out maximum that you can, which is called the third milk. The rice needs to be cooked in the third milk to start with. As and when the rice cooks, second and first milk are added after the addition of jaggery.  This is the foolproof way of ensuring the authenticity of the pudding. Only after I learnt from her the actual method of making this pudding, did I realize how much effort she had put it.

So for anyone ( like me ) who uses ready-made coconut milk right off the tin, this process would be way simpler. For ease of understanding, I have divided the 6-7 cups of coconut milk into approximately 3 lots. The first lot, like I mentioned above would be approximately 2 cups to cook the rice first.

To this,  now add grated jaggery. It is a joy to see it melt uniformly into the whiteness of the rest of the ingredients. This is when the pudding attains the chocolate like colour.

Time to add the next lot of coconut milk which would be 2 cups and let the pudding simmer. A beautiful aroma would waft through the kitchen as the coconut milk cooks the rice.

Finally, when the pudding seems to near completion added fried coconut pieces ( fry them in ghee/clarified butter for enhanced taste) and add the last lot of coconut milk to maintain the consistency.

You can keep simmering the pudding on low fire till you get the consistency that you prefer.

Top this with cardamom powder and dry ginger powder and mix thoroughly before taking it off the fire.

Let it sit for sometime and give time for the flavours to blend in. I loved mine chilled but you can have it hot and steaming.

So that is how I celebrated my birthday. My personal trainer is not going to be happy at all. I guess he might give me a break since it is my birthday. No birthday is complete without the round-up of presents.

I have to thank my mum first for gifting me a beautiful Tissot watch which I will treasure for life. It is an exquisite looking thing.

My dearest hubby, Amit- thank you for all the lovely books you got delivered home.  You are  a darling to have sent me splendid baking and culinary books and  a parenting book by Amy Chua called ” Battle hymn of the tiger mother”. For a laid back mum like me it is like a slap on the face kind of book. I love it!

My fantastic friend, Namit, cared enough to send me the book that I was so excited to buy but never got around doing so. He bought me ” Baking from my home to yours” by Dori Greenspan. It was such a  pleasant surprise. Thank you Namit

My darling friend Gayathri surprised the day lights out of me, by dedicating a birthday post. It is such a lovely gesture that it would very difficult for me to express how much it means to me. Thank you Gayathri.

Throughout the day, I recieved phone calls from school and college friends. I was touched that even after so many years, they remembered my birthday. Especially because, I haven’t let FB update it on my profile:-)

I was warmly wished by lovely twitter friends and lots of wonderful people on facebook.

Thank you all for making it so perfect. Though I am not the biggest fan of celebrating my birthday, what I excitedly count is the number of blessings that I get each year from these lovely set of people. Thank you all.

Last but not the least, my daughter gave me two meaningful pecks on my cheek and a big hug :-)

28 Responses to “A Birthday celebrated with Rice Pudding, Kerala Style”

  1. Namit April 30, 2011 at 12:08 am #

    Well, well, well… thats some birthday you had there… am glad you had an enjoyable day irrespective of being under house arrest, no thanks to the strike. Now where are the pics of your other gifts? :)

    • Anita Menon April 30, 2011 at 6:33 am #

      photos will be up shortly. Thanks for the lovely book , Namit

  2. yummychunklet April 30, 2011 at 5:47 am #

    What a great alternative to cake! this pudding looks absolutely sweet and delicious!

  3. bhuvana April 30, 2011 at 7:49 am #

    Hey Anita….

    Belated birthday wishes……….i agree mom’s pudding wins hands down over cake anyday…..lucky gal…..

  4. Dhara April 30, 2011 at 8:55 am #

    Once again Happy Birthday Anu.. I am so glad you had a Lovely Birthday and wonderful Birthday Presents..

  5. Buls April 30, 2011 at 8:58 am #

    Happy belated b’day…. enjoy

  6. Kamikaze April 30, 2011 at 9:08 am #

    Whoa! How did I miss your b’day! A very happy belated B’day to you!!!!!!! May you always be as bubbly as you are…..lotsa love!

  7. Ankur April 30, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    May god bless u with all ur heart felt desires… U have been a freind, philosopher, guide for me.. And from that one Barista coffee we had to all the chats, calls, moments we have spent I have thanked my stars to have a friend like u…

    Love u loads… and yes anyday Mom’s desert wins over Cake for sure…

    Happy birthday dear…
    Love u

    Anks

  8. Priya April 30, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

    Happy birthday!
    Think u missed one ingredient, LOVE.. Moms just have the ability to cook anything and make it the yummiest. I see she has put in great pains to make the payasam :) Ginger is a nice twist, wish we could taste it too..

    Hope u had a fantastic day.

  9. Sarah May 2, 2011 at 7:07 am #

    Happy Birthday!!! the payasam looks wonderful :)

  10. Christina May 3, 2011 at 5:03 am #

    Mmmmm…I wish I had some of this right now! I am slightly obsessed with anything coconut. I can’t wait to give this a try! :)

  11. gingerbreadbagels May 3, 2011 at 5:12 pm #

    Happy Birthday! :) This rice pudding looks amazing! I love anything with coconut.

  12. Rosa May 3, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

    Happy belated Birthday! A wonderful way of celebrating this day. That pudding must be delicious.

    I’m also in my early thirties and I still feel 16… ;-P You are as young as you feel.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  13. natalia May 4, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    Ciao ! happy belated birthday ! I love rice pudding! I’m positive you’ll love dorie’s book !

  14. Karuna May 4, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    happy blated birthday

    even i had paysam on the same day :) and it was the best as it was made by my grandma :)

  15. Ellie (Almost Bourdain) May 7, 2011 at 5:15 am #

    Love rice pudding.

  16. thecoffeesnob May 8, 2011 at 4:16 am #

    The rice pudding looks and sounds divine but how could it not really, with all that love poured into making it :)

    Happy belated birthday, Anita! Enjoy that book- it’s incredible!

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