Sweet, simple and deliciously sweet semiya payasam that is delicately scented with cardamom is hands down one of the best Indian desserts ever!
If I were ever asked to pick one favorite spice, Cardamom, the sweet smelling spice will probably be the one I would pick. I love it for its versatility of being used in sweet as well as savory preparations and how it adds that extra special flavor to the dish. But more than that I think it is the memories that flood into my mind when I smell this delicious spice, that makes it more of a favorite than the other spices. Our house was enveloped with the aroma of cardamom during any festival day. Cardamom had to be put in any sweet preparations that were made as offerings to God during these festivals.
Festivals were always happy, busy times. Paatti and Amma busy in the kitchen, cooking up all kinds of wonderful things one can imagine. Amma coming out of the kitchen once in a while to give us instructions to clean up somewhere, arrange something for the festival or the pooja, telling us specifically to go wash up and wear something nice and traditional and reminding me to wear a bindi and jewellery 🙂
I remember how both my brother and I would keep going into the kitchen to see whether whatever is cooking is ready and trying to sneak in a taste. But no, nothing that came out of the kitchen that day could be eaten before it was offered to the Gods. So, that made it even more tempting. The sound of cardamom being crushed in a mortar and the fragrance of it wafting out of the kitchen meant that the cooking is almost over, the pooja/offerings will soon begin and end too, so we can finally get our hands and mouths on the delicious thing that was made by paatti or amma.
Many use the entire cardamom pod, but appa never liked to get that in his food, so amma used only the seeds. The seeds were usually crushed and used in the cooking and the outer shell used to go into tea leaf containers. So until that batch of tea was used up, the evening chai had a cardamom flavor to it.
One such sweet preparation in which the cardamom flavor stood out and elevated the dish to a different level is semiya payasam. Without the cardamom it is just vermicelli, milk and sugar. It is one of the simplest Indian dessert you can make and you just can never go wrong with it.
- ½ cup roasted Semiya / Vermicelli
- 3 cups Whole milk
- 1 cup Sugar
- 5-6 Green Cardamom seeds
- 3 tbsp ghee
- 6-7 cashew nuts
- 5-6 golden raisins
- Heat the ghee in a heavy bottomed pan and add the cashew nuts to it. Once the cashews start to turn slightly brown, add the raisins and as soon as they puff up, take them out of the ghee using a slotted spoon and save in a small bowl.
- In the remaining ghee, roast the vermicelli for a couple of minutes. Add the milk and let it come to a boil.
- Lower the heat to medium-low and keep cooking till the milk thickens a little, for about 15 mins.
- Add sugar and cook till all the sugar is dissolved.
- Remove the cardamom seeds from the pods and crush them well. Add them to the payasam and add the roasted cashew nuts and raisins.
- Serve warm or cold