But one thing that sets the women apart is the manner in which they can whip up a full spread before you can snap your fingers when guests turn up unannounced. My MIL (mother-in-law for the uninitiated) too falls in this category.
I clearly remember one lovely Bangalore evening when my father-in-law’s college mates decided to give him a surprise. Ten of them arrived mildly wet from the unexpected drizzle. Minutes after serving them cups of coffee and some snacks that were conveniently sitting in the cupboard, my MIL appeared with cups of hot payasam that smelt heavenly. My quizzical look was met simply with a mischievous smile. I was later to find out the secret to the ‘instant’ payasam.
Consider yourself blessed, for here’s the recipe:
Boondi Laddu Payasam (Yes! It is exactly that!)
Some boondi laddus
Milk (roughly half a glass to one laddu, but you can adjust depending on the consistency you are looking for)
Sugar (as required)
Broken nuts for garnishing
Break up the laddus and boil with one-fourth the quantity of milk you wish to use (If you do not want the payasam too strong, you can pick out some of the cloves in the laddu before boiling). Cool and run it a mixie till nearly smooth. Boil the remaining milk and add to pureed laddu. Add sugar as required.
Heat a spoonful or so of ghee and fry broken nuts of your choice and sprinkle it on top of the payasam (This is purely optional). Awesome payasam is ready to serve. You can add minimal milk and serve it as kheer too.
The best part about this preparation is it’ll keep your guests guessing. It actually tastes like a version of badam-kheer (badamgir, in case this doesn’t strike a bell!)
You can substitute boondi laddu with just about any milk sweet/barfi/laddu/peda. Just make sure not to boil the sweet with milk if it has curd as it will curdle (Sweet shops tend to add some curd to the milk while making kalakand, therettu-pal and similar sweets to fasten the process and give it that sticky-thread-like consistency). Just mix milk and puree it straightaway and top it with warm milk.
Fusion ideas and other quick solutions:
- I have ground cooked curry and used them as dips for both Indian and western finger snacks such as chips, pakodas, cheese balls etc. many times. You can grind just about any gourd or capsicum-based curry with sautéed tomatoes, onions and red chillies (as reqd) to come up with wonderful dips and sauces. Leave out tomatoes if you don’t want it tangy.
- You can puree mor-koahambu (both araithu-vittadhu and vedikka-vittadhu) with any pickle on hand for lovely tangy dips.
- Add any chutney sitting in the refrigerator to salads or raitas. They add a unique flavour. For instance, you could awe your guests with a cucumber-capsicum salad with coriander-mint-yoghurt dressing. This could simply be a bowl of diced cucumber and capsicum mixed with a teaspoon or two of coriander-mint chutney and a few tablespoons of thick curd.
- Don’t have time to grind coconut and spices for porichcha kootu? Simply add a few spoons of coconut chutney or thogayal or thengai-podi if available to five it an almost similar flavour. You can also add coconut thogayal or or thengai-podi to prepared simple sambar to give it a flavour similar to araithu-vitta variations.
PS: Readers must forgive me for the poor photographs that accompany my posts. I’m using my humble skills in photography to come up with the best i can! Do bear with me as I scale up the culinary as well as photographic ladder as the blog evolves. Incidentally, the scribbles on the wall that you see in one of the pictures is the artwork of my 3-year-old nephew. You’ll probably get a glimpse of him and his skills too in later posts!