Aval Payasam (Flattened Rice Dessert)

Today is the first day of the month of Aashad (in Hindi), Aadi (in Tamil) and Karkadagam (in Malayalam). It is also called the Ramayana month. This month is considered very auspicious and the start of the festive season. Many temple festivals are celebrated during this month. However, it is also observed as a month of austerity. In an increasingly consumerist society, a month where shopping and purchases are limited to only essentials is significant. The monsoon has now spread all over India and flora are in a joyous state. Have you observed how plants become luxuriant with the first rains and thereafter? There is fresh grass for the cows to graze on. Fruits and vegetables are available in abundance. This month, therefore, is also thanksgiving for Mother Earth who has sustained all life forms on this planet for millions of years. I begin the month with a sweet dish to be offered to Mother Nature.

1/2 cup red, flattened rice (lal poha, aval) –  soaked for 10 minutes
1 cup coconut milk (medium consistency)
1 cup date paste (kajur paste, perichampazham saaru)
10 gms cashew nuts (kaju, munthiri parupu)
10 gms raisins (kismis, ularntha drakshai)
3-4 green cardamom (elaichi, elakai), peeled and powdered
Drain the water from the flattened rice
Transfer to a medium sized vessel
Add date paste and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes
Add coconut milk and boil for 10 minutes
Meanwhile roast the cashew nuts and raisins
Add to the flattened rice
Remove from flame
Sprinkle the cardamom powder
Serve warm or chilled

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