Broken wheat or cracked wheat is such a lovely grain/cereal to have in one’s pantry. The packet I got from our Indian/Middle Eastern grocery store was labelled as cracked wheat. But I had a nagging doubt in my head that it was actually the faster cooking bulgur. The difference lies in how they are produced. Cracked wheat is the broken raw kernels, whereas bulgur is made by crushing parboiled and dried grains of wheat. This makes it easier and faster to cook with. I was right, thank goodness I did not let it cook in a gallon of water for an hour or something. This stuff took just 5 minutes.
I bought it in an effort to include more fiber in our diet. It can be eaten as a porridge, hot cereal or upma (a savory vegetable laden dish prepared using semolina). I decided to treat the guys to some kheer or payasam. Though traditionally milk is used in payasam, there is a lovely variation in the south using coconut milk and jaggery. This gives the payasam a nutty aroma and flavor. Mung dal or green gram is used most commonly, though cracked wheat (or any grain really) can also be used. I decided to make payasam using bulgur, as I thought it would be a cinch to prepare. And I was right!
You have to use jaggery with the coconut milk. The flavor that this unrefined sweetener imparts definitely differs from that of regular sugar. You will find it easily in any Indian/Asian store. The color can vary from a light beige to a deep brown and this will determine the color of your payasam as well. If you don’t find it, substitute with brown sugar.
You will need:
- Bulgur wheat – 1 cup
- Water – 2 3/4 cups, divided
- Jaggery – around 250 g
- Thin coconut milk – 2 cups
- Thick coconut milk – 1 cup (see Notes)
- Cardamom powder – a fat pinch
- Ghee – 2 tbsp
- Salt – 1/4 tsp
- Cashew nuts and raisins – a few each
- Heat a large pan on the stove. Add the bulgur and roast it gently for 3-4 minutes, stirring all the while. Remove onto a plate once you get a nutty aroma and the grains turn a lovely golden color.
- In the same pan, bring 2 cups of water to a gentle boil. Add the bulgur, stir well and cook for a few minutes on low heat. The grains should absorb all the water and be cooked in 3-4 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and fluff the bulgur gently with a spoon or fork.
- Meanwhile, take the jaggery and 3/4 cup of water in another saucepan and cook on medium heat. The jaggery will start to melt and dissolve in the water, producing a thick syrup.
- Strain and add this syrup to the cooked bulgur. Place the pan back on low heat and stir the mixture gently so that the bulgur absorbs all the jaggery syrupy and turns a glossy golden color.
- Add the thin coconut milk, cardamom powder and 1 tbsp of ghee. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and cook for a few more minutes till the payasam thickens a bit. Keep stirring the payasam to avoid it getting burnt at the bottom, but if you are using a non-stick pan, that is sort of taken care of. At this stage you can taste to see if it needs more sweetness. Add regular sugar to adjust sweetness now.
- Now add salt and thick coconut milk. Stir well and cook for just a couple more minutes and remove the pan from the stove. The payasam will further thicken as it cools.
- Garnish the payasam with cashew nuts and raisins fried in a tablespoon of ghee and serve warm.
- If you are using canned coconut milk, skim the thick milk at the top and keep aside as thick coconut milk. Usually the water would have settled at the bottom. So don’t shake the can before opening it.
- If you are using coconut milk powder, the packet should tell you how to reconstitute with water to make thin and thick coconut milk.
- If you are using freshly grated coconut, you would initially grind it with just a little bit of water and strain it to get thick coconut milk. Then you can further grind the coconut with more water to make thin coconut milk.
- We prefer payasam that we can eat in a bowl with a spoon. If you like a thinner, drinkable consistency, use more coconut milk while simmering the payasam.
- If you are using regular broken or cracked wheat, it must be cooked in more water and for longer time initially. Once cooked, you can follow the rest of the recipe as such, adjusting the amount of coconut milk to your liking.
Payasam is usually served with special meals or as a dessert, but you can have this simply to recharge you after a busy day as well. It is also great for kids and vegans looking for dairy free sweet dishes.
Do try this simple recipe and let me know how it goes!
I am linking this up at these awesome blogs.
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- By Stephanie Lynn