Cabbage Payasam sounds weird, to say the least, and isn’t something that sits easy in one’s mind if you know Indian sweets and desserts. Cabbage is a vegetable, a sort of “stinky” vegetable and definitely not the thing you would normally choose to make dessert out of. More so when you know just how delicious Indian payasam or kheer (Indian pudding like sweet usually made with milk, sugar, cardamom and nuts) can get.
That’s what I also thought the first time I came across Vasantha Moorthy’s recipe for “Cabbage Rabadi” in “The Vegetarian Menu Book”. My recipe that follows this post is adapted from the book.
As I was saying, I was quite skeptical how a vegetable like cabbage could be a part of something so nice. Yet the sheer unusualness of it all had me marking it down to make at the first opportunity. As it turned out, this Cabbage Payasam has been a hit every time I’ve served it for its great taste and always elicits surprise and disbelief from our guests when they discover that there was “cabbage” in their payasam!
So it’s my birthday today. I’m another year older though I’m not sure a lot wiser.
Traditionally, in my community, birthdays come and go and are not celebrated or made much of except the first one ever. Birthdays in general start with offering prayers at a temple and then a more elaborate meal than usual, called a “Sadya”, is served where the sweet dish is always a Payasam (a milk or coconut milk based sweet, usually made with rice or sometimes lentils or fruit like ripe plantain or jackfruit)
I thought of the Cabbage Payasam and that’s what I’m celebrating with today. It also happens that I’m one of those few who actually likes cabbage, provided it’s fresh and cooked savoury.
It’s important to keep a couple of things in mind when making a Cabbage Payasam. Please, please please, make sure to use really fresh cabbage, and look for cabbages that are green rather than white. The whiter cabbages and the those that are not fresh tend to develop the hallmark “stink” and will lend that to the Payaysam. Now that is something you do not want!
You may use skim milk, but full fat always gives you that really creamy and milky taste that Payasam made with milk should have.
Cabbage Payasam/ Kheer - A South Indian Style Cabbage & Milk Pudding/ Sweet (GF)
- 1 1/4 cups cabbage finely chopped
- 1 litre milk (I used xbd L of 3% fat and xbd L of 4.5% fat)
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar depending on preference
- 5 pods cardamom , powdered
- 1 to 2 tbsps almonds chopped
- 2 tbsps pistachios chopped
- Keep stirring frequently while the cabbage is cooking to ensure that cream does not form on the sides or the top and that the cabbage does not catch at the bottom of the pan. The milk in the pan should have reduced by more than a third of the original quantity.
- Add the sugar and the chopped almonds and 1 tbsp of the chopped pistachios. Cook further till the milk-cabbage mixture is a little thicker. Add the cardamom powder, mix well and take the payasam off the heat.
- The consistency of the payasam should thick but be such that you can drink it from a glass. If you would like it thick enough to serve in dessert bowls, just before adding the cardamom powder, mix about 1 1/2 tbsp of rice flour in 3 tbsp of cold milk and add this to the cabbage-milk mixture while stirring constantly. This will cause the payasam to thicken a little. Pour into individual bowls and garnish with the remaining 1 tbsp of chopped pistachios.