I was promptly declared ill, plied with sour plums and banned from school. After three days of luxuriating in bed, I knew I was much better, but wasn't prepared to show it quite yet. So it was that when Verma Aunty, our neighbour, came to visit, I assumed an expression intended to convey deep suffering bravely endured, and replied in a small, weak voice while she clucked over me. Aunty, a fabulous cook, pronounced that I should be fed nutritious, sick people food and she gave Amma her recipe for besan kheer.
It sounded very interesting, so the moment she left, I sat up in bed and demanded that Amma make me some. She obliged and soon I was eating spoonful after spoonful of thick mustard coloured kheer and it made me forget my fitful appetite.
It is the sort of kheer worth faking sickness over. I should know, I've done it, many a time. Eventually, Amma caught on and now, she makes it for me, whenever she's particularly pleased. You can always tell when Amma's in a good mood, there's a pot of payasam bubbling on the stove.
Now, technically, this is supposed to be called Besan Kheer, but well, Amma insists that it ought to be called payasam, and that it was a south Indian recipe that she knew even before Verma Aunty told her.
Besan (chickpea flour): 2 tbsps
Ghee/ unsalted butter: 1 tbsp
Milk: 2 cups
Jaggery: 1 cup
Cardamom: 2 pods
Fry the besan in the ghee, on a low flame, till it smells toasty and turns deep and golden. Once this is done, add the milk bit by bit, stirring vigorously to prevent lumps. Once this mixture starts leaving the sides of the vessel, add the jaggery and stir till it's dissolved. Now turn off the heat and stir in powdered cardamom. Serve warm, garnished with toasted coconut, if you like.