Friday, February 09, 2007

C is for Carrot-Cashew Payasam

The myriad cuisines of India all love their vegetables! Veggies are diced and sliced, grated and mashed, stir-fried and curried into hundreds of vegetable dishes. In this series, the A to Z of Indian Vegetables, we take an alphabetical journey through the various avatars of vegetables relished in Indian cuisine. For each letter, we will make a tasty vegetable dish that illustrates one manner in which vegetables are savored in India.

C is for Carrot-Cashew Payasam: Desserts
Bazu, one of your guesses was correct: The C of Indian vegetables uses a beautiful orange-hued winter vegetable...the carrot! Desserts came early in this series, but of course we had to devote one post to the use of vegetables in Indian desserts. And carrots are the quintessential dessert vegetable, with their vibrant color and inherent sweetness. The two most popular veggie-based desserts in India are probably dudhi halwa and gajar (carrot) halwa. The latter wins hands down in my book, because carrots are inexpensive and ubiquitous, unlike the dudhi (bottle gourd), which is difficult to find here in the US.

If you are looking to be sneaky and smuggle in some vegetables into dessert, there are a number of recipes that lend themselves to easy modification. One is the aforementioned halwa, where grated veggies can be cooked in some milk and sugar and then mixed in with some khoya (milk that has been thickened almost to the point of becoming solid). The resulting halwa has the consistency of a thick pudding. Another dessert that is readily "veggie-fied" is kheer. Halwa needs khoya and kheer merely calls for milk or evaporated milk, making it the more low-maintainance choice. The links at the end showing recipes from other bloggers will give you an idea of how one can cleverly make an array of vegetable-servings-masquerading-as-desserts!

I have already made one version of carrot kheer last year. Since then, I have made it numerous times and it is a definite crowd-pleaser. For this series, I was looking for a variation, and came across the recipe for carrot-cashew payasam in one of my favorite cookbooks: Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan. Payasam is the Southern Indian counterpart of kheer. A combination of pureed carrots and raw cashew paste, it looked creamy and decadent and I just knew I had to make it for this series.

Carrot-Cashew Payasam

Adapted from Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan
(serves 4)
1. Soak 1/2 cup raw cashew nuts in 1 cup of warm milk for 20-30 minutes.
2. Grate 1/2 lb carrots, then saute them in 2 tbsp ghee for a few minutes until just-tender.
3. Bring 6 cups of milk to a boil, keep stirring and simmering until the milk reduces to half the original volume.
4. Meanwhile, drain milk from the soaked cashews (save the drained milk!). Place cashews and sauteed carrots in a food processor or blender and make a coarse paste, adding some of the drained milk as required for the grinding.
5. Add the cashew-carrot paste and 1/2 cup sugar to the milk. Stir well and cook for a few minutes.
6. Stir in 1 heaping tsp powdered cardamom and stir well. Remove from heat.

The verdict:
I did enjoy this kheer a lot, but the rich taste of the cashews was a little lost in the preparation, I thought. I also don't love the pureed carrots, preferring to leave them in the grated form. In the end, I keep going back to my old version of the carrot kheer. This recipe is worth trying, though: both variations of carrot kheer have their own unique taste.

How do you serve this dish?
This kheer is very rich, and best enjoyed chilled, served in a small bowl (katori). It can also be served warm, as a side-dish to some hot, puffy puris (fried flatbreads). You can get creative and try it as a sauce for some vanilla ice cream, but I have not tried that yet! Warm carrot halwa and ice cream are a classic combination, often served at Indian wedding receptions.

Fellow bloggers have come up with many delicious vegetable-based desserts. Here are some of my favorite finds:
Two classic Indian desserts...
Carrot Halwa from Kitchen Chick,
Beet Halwa from Green Jackfruit,
Two regional sweet potato desserts...
Ranga Alur Puli from Lima-Delhi,
Sweet Potato Kheer from Food For Thought,
And two very unusual veggie-based desserts...
Green pea and Chickpea Ladoo from Happy Burp and
Onion Kheer from My Dhaba

Previously on the A to Z of Indian Vegetables...
A is for Aloo Gobi: North-Indian Stir-Fry
B is for Bharli Mirchi: Stuffed Vegetables


  1. Nupur, I really look forward to each addition to your alphabet!

  2. That's a beautiful shot of payasam, Nupur. Looks so delicious!

  3. Paysam is the most commonly found dessert on the buffet at my local south Indian restaurant, but theirs has vermicelli, cashews and raisins. I really like it, but haven't tried making it because the recipes all seem to make huge quantities and it looks to be very rich. Do you think it would be a disaster if I used skim milk?

  4. Hi Nupur

    Thanks for the carrot payasam recipe. Just this morning I was wondering what to do with all the carrot in my fridge. Will surely try out your recipe for payasam today.

  5. Hi Nupur,
    I love the color of this kheer! I own a copy of Dakshin too and I love all the recipes from the book. I prefer to use grated carrot in carrot kheer too; I think it gives a better texture and some real carrot satisfaction :)
    Your post reminded me of another carrot-y dish(drink?) - carrot milkshake! I first tasted it when my friend's mom made it for us when we were "studying" one day, back in India :) I have been making it since. Just puree cooled pressure cooked carrots with cold milk, sugar and cardamom until smooth. I guess you could say it's almost kheer, eh? :)
    - Roopa

  6. That color is so fetching Nupur. Arent we Indians a sneaky lot? Getting veggies in through desserts!!

  7. Hi Nupur, great recipe and great pics! I really like the idea of the series too :)

  8. Carrots and cashews, wow! Sounds really rich and tasty. I have had my eye on Dakshin for awhile now... I guess with this endorsement I'll have to break down and get it. Photo looks beautiful - I love the pastel peachy-orange on the dark tapestry :)

  9. Lydia, I look forward to writing each one too! :)

    Thanks, Sailaja!

    Cathy, I think quantities can be very safely halved in payasam is not a recipe that calls for very precise quantities. Skim milk would result in a very watery dessert suggestion would be more like non-fat or low-fat evaporated milk, because it is thick in the first place.
    Vermicelli or rice kheer/payasam are by far the most common types. But I much prefer to sneak in some vegetables than eat more rice/pasta at the end of the meal :) You could definitely add raisins to this one too.

    Lakshmi, let me know if you like it :)

    Hi Roopa, *love* the carrot milkshake concept. A sort-of instant kheer! How awesome of you to share it :) I know I will be serving it in the dog days of summer.

    Ashwini, that we are :) But the sneakiest one I have eaten is "chocolate zucchini cake"!

    Thanks, G :)

    Linda, do you notice how those silly carrot strips kept sinking into the kheer, drowning my feeble attempts at food styling :D ? Dakshin is well worth every penny, especially given the amount of Indian cooking you do!

  10. I love the pretty pastel color this payasam has, and I'm sure it tasted divine! Healthy and Delicious - how often do one come across a recipe like that!

  11. Oh, that looks divine! I too love the idea of using veggies in desserts. When I was little, my mom used to make desserts that were a bit like pudding. She used carrots or butternut squash, and a bit of cardamom if I remember correctly. I want to try your recipe! I'm so glad we have so many letters of the alphabet yet to cover =)

  12. This is a great recipe with cashews and carrots...Must try it with puris...
    BTW, Your Pav-bhaji recipe is the best, thanks so much. I even did a post on it a while back.


  13. hi nupur, the humble old carrots look and i,m sure taste truly divine.grt!luv,yoma.

  14. The payasam looks heavenly.
    Visiting you after a long time. Didn't know you were back to active blogging. Good to see you back.

  15. Nupur: Made this for my brother's birthday. I was skeptical at first, but turned out to be a hit. I made a few minor modifications though. Used baby carrots instead of grating carrots, no saute-ing in ghee, just boiled them and ground them in the blender. :) Replaced the cardamom with saffron. Deadly - I ate more of it than anyone else. ;) Gaajar halwa is one of my fav. sweet dishes - but never turns out like my mum's. This is a cool substitute.

    Good job! :)

  16. Nupur,
    Found this picture copied here,

    I remembered 'coz i recently tried this recipe.Shn of Kitchen Mishmash had warned about this blog!

  17. Thanks for the wonderful recipe!

    I recently made it with soy and rice milk, it was delicious!


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