This rich and flavorful coconut milk paayasam is thickened with cooked chana dal. While crushed cardamom adds fragrance, ghee-toasted cashews and coconut pieces provide a mild crunch to this creamy pudding.
1 cup chana dal
2½ cups jaggery or brown sugar
6 cups fresh coconut milk*
1 teaspoon cardamom, crushed
3 tablespoons ghee
¼ cup unsalted cashew nuts, broken into pieces
¼ cup coconut, cut into thin pieces
1 tablespoon raisins
Heat one tablespoon of ghee in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the dal, and fry until it is golden brown in color. Keep stirring while frying. Remove the saucepan from the stove. Rinse the dal, and leave it in a strainer for a few minutes, until it is completely drained. Combine the dal and one and a half cups of water in a heavy saucepan, and cook until the dal is soft to the touch (approximately ten minutes). Most of the water will be absorbed by now. Add the jaggery (or brown sugar) to the dal, and cook it over medium heat for about ten to twelve minutes. Stir gently, so that the dal is not mashed and it does not stick to the pan. Pour in the coconut milk, and cook for another twenty to twenty-five minutes over low to medium heat. Avoid boiling—it will result in separated coconut milk. When it has thickened, remove it from the stove, and sprinkle it with crushed cardamom. Heat the ghee in a skillet, and fry the cashew nuts. When the nuts start turning golden brown, add the coconut slices and raisins, and keep stirring. The coconut will turn golden brown, and the raisins will become plump as they soak up the ghee. Add the fried garnishes to pradhaman. Serve warm or cold.