Payasam Oatmeal

June 10, 2013

Payasam Oatmeal

For years I was more than a bit persnickety about my oatmeal. Cooked with water, flavored with a pat of butter and a large spoonful of brown sugar, I was a happy camper. If I really wanted to get fancy, I might have the Quaker Oats Apple Cinnamon insta-packet. This may have been born out of the fact that at the time I wasn’t a big fan of dried fruit, having lost my taste for raisins. Or it may have been that my idea of flavored oatmeal was the aforementioned insta-packets. Either way, when I first heard of people cooking their oatmeal with milk, I thought that odd and unnecessary. However, as I started to discover my breakfast needed a protein component with the carbs if I wanted to stay full for more than 30 minutes, I decided to start playing with my ingredients. Thus, payasam oatmeal was born!

Payasam is a traditional Indian dessert that just happens to be one of my favorites. Payasam is the South Indian name, so you may have heard of it as kheer, its North Indian name. It’s a rather simple dessert of rice boiled with milk, jaggery (a type of sugar), ghee, golden raisins, almonds, and a dash of cardamom. There are definitely variations on this sweet, but this is how I’ve experienced the dessert, and the main components capture a couple of must haves in my oatmeal: butter (ghee) and brown sugar (jaggery).

It was happenstance that the day I decided to attempt this crazy notion of milk in my oatmeal, I threw caution to the wind and thought, “What the heck? If I’m adding milk, might as well add some fruit. And how about some nuts?”. The fruit I happened to have on hand was golden raisins, and the nuts slivered almonds. In a palmful of each went. And as I tasted the oatmeal, I had a feeling I had had this before. “Payasam!” And so my accidental recipe was born. You could add a large pinch of cardamom to this for a more exact replica, but I usually don’t since I want something close to my brown sugar and butter oatmeal of yesteryear.

Payasam Oatmeal
1 serving
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon butter
Pinch of salt

Place all ingredients in a pot and bring to a low boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook oats according to the time on the package. Mine take 10 – 15 minutes, though I like a chewy oat – al dente style.

Gluten free alternative: Make sure you purchase gluten-free oats. While oats are gluten-free, most are so contaminated with wheat from cross-processing that you can feel it if you’ve been on a gluten-free diet for a while.

Vegan & dairy free alternatives: Replace the milk with almond milk, the butter with margarine or your preferred butter substitute, and use a vegan brown sugar. The almond milk works really well since this recipe already has an almond flavor happening, so it’s a substitution I can whole heartedly recommend.

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