I've been shouting from the rooftops about my signed copy of Ottolenghi's new book, and I was hoping that this next recipe would be from the book. We decided on a jaggery and coconut sago pudding, but by the time we read through the recipe, mum and I almost fell asleep. It was tame and predictable and rather un-ottolenghi-like, so we decided we'd take matters into our own hands and make a signature Kathija Dessert, which in this case is a Sago Payasam with Musk Melon and Coconut Milk.
For those not in the know, payasam is a south Indian dessert without which no celebration is complete. There are a zillion riffs these days, but traditional varieties include rice or broken wheat cooked in milk or coconut milk and sweetened with either sugar or jaggery.
Mum's version is a little untraditional - musk melon is not something usually associated with payasam. But it adds a lightness and delicate floralness to an otherwise rich and clawingly sweet dessert.
It's also worth noting that this payasam is very hard to mess up. I've always been intimidated by the idea of making payasam, but this is a good place to start. If you scoop out the melon, soak and cook the sago in advance, the rest of the payasam comes together in a matter of minutes.
Sago and Musk Melon Payasam with Coconut Milk
Soak the sago in enough water to cover and keep for 1/2 hours.
Rinse the sago, put it in a pot with plenty of cold water and bring to the boil.
Let it simmer for 20 minutes.
When it turns translucent, rinse it under running water to remove excess starch, and keep aside.
Mix the coconut milk, milk, condensed milk and heat it while stirring continuously.
Bring to a simmer, remove from heat and add the rosewater.
Add the drained sago to this mixture and it cool in the fridge.
Stir in the melon pulp and rounds right before serving.
1 cup sago (tapioca pearls)
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup condensed milk
2 tbsp rose water, or to taste
2 small ripe musk melons, scooped into tiny rounds
1 cup musk melon pulp blitzed from the portions left over after scooping into rounds