Poppy Seed Payasam is a nutty and creamy sweet dish made with white poppy seeds, coconut and saffron simmered in milk and topped with toasted cashews. Payasam is a typical Indian traditional sweet usually made for festivals and as a sweet treat in homes.
Poppy seeds are tiny seeds known as kasa kasa in Tamil. Indian recipes usually use white poppy seeds rather than the black ones, so look for them in your Indian supermarket. They are used for their flavour, texture and thickening qualities.
Did you know that poppy seeds calm the mind and stimulate the digestion? In Ayurveda the taste is pungent, astringent and sweet. Its heating action acts as a vata calmer. Used with nutmeg or valerian they can induce relaxing sleep.
Kasa Kasa Payasam
4 cups full cream milk
0.75 cup palm sugar
4 Tblspn white poppy seeds (khus khus)
0.25 – 0.5 cup grated coconut (depending on preference)
0.25 tspn cardamom powder
few strands saffron
Soak the poppy seeds in a tspn of water for 15 mins and blend into a fine paste with the cashews and the grated coconut.
Prepare the saffron by soaking in a little hot milk until the milk turns a deep orange.
Simmer the rest of the milk over a medium flame until it has evaporated down to 3/4 of the original quantity.
Add the sugar and simmer for a couple of minutes while stirring.
Mix the blended paste with a little cold milk to remove lumps and add, stirring, to the boiling milk. Mix it well to get a uniform consistency.
Now add the saffron liquid and stir in the cardamom powder.
Remove from the heat and serve.
recipe notes and alternatives
If the payasam does not thicken enough, add a little chickpea flour or rice flour mixed to a smooth paste with a little cold milk. Add slowly to the payasam while stirring. Continue to simmer and stir until the desired thickness is acquired.
Rather than using cardamom powder, bruise 4 cardamom pods and add to the milk when simmering in step 3 above.
It can be garnished with cashews and sultanas sauteed in a little ghee.