When the ghee melts, add cashews. On a low heat fry the cashews until they become golden.
Remove the golden fried cashews with a slotted spoon and then the raisins.
Fry the raisins on a low heat. The raisins will soon start to swell up. Stir often while frying.
Once the raisins swell, then remove them with a slotted spoon.
Set the raisins aside with the fried cashews.
Roasting semiya (stove-top method)
In the same kadai add the broken semiya (seviyan or vermicelli).
Mix well. Keep the flame to a low and begin to roast the semiya stirring often.
Roast until the semiya becomes golden. Stir often while roasting semiya for even browning.
Making semiya payasam (stove-top method)
When the semiya has turned golden, add 3.5 cups milk. Milk can be chilled, warm, hot or at room temperature. For a thin payasam, add 4 cups milk. Do note that on cooling the payasam thickens. So add milk accordingly.
Mix very well.
Keep the heat to a low or medium-low and simmer until the semiya softens. Do stir at intervals so that the milk or semiya does not stick or get burnt at the bottom of the pan or kadai.
Simmer until the vermicelli strands are softened.
Then add sugar. You can add less or more sugar according to your desired sweetness.
Sprinkle the cardamom powder.
Mix very well and simmer on a low flame to medium-low flame for 2 to 3 minutes more. The sugar should dissolve.
Switch off the heat and then add the fried cashews and raisins. You can even keep a few of the fried raisins and cashews as a garnish.
Serve semiya payasam hot or warm.
Instant pot method
Press the sauté button of your IP. When you see the "hot" display on the screen, add ghee. Let it melt.
Add the cashews and stirring often fry them until golden. Remove and set aside.
Tip in the raisins and fry them until they swell. Remove and set aside.
Add the vermicelli. Stirring non-stop roast them until golden. If the heat becomes too much, then press the sauté button to get the "less" option.
Add milk and sugar. Give a good stir.
Close the lid and position the pressure valve to sealing position. Press the porridge button and set the time to 7 minutes on high pressure.
When the cooking is done (after you hear the Instant pot beep), give a quick pressure release after 10 minutes.
Open the lid carefully. Add the cardamom powder and the fried cashews and raisins. Mix and stir.
If the consistency is thin for your liking, then using the sauté function, simmer for a couple of minutes until the consistency thickens a bit.
Semiya payasam can be served hot, warm or chilled. When it comes to a room temperature, then you can refrigerate and serve later if you prefer that.
On cooling and refrigerating payasam will thicken. So keep it to a slight flowing consistency when you want to serve it cold, so that it does not thicken too much. If at all the payasam has thickened too much, then simply add a bit of milk to thin the consistency.
If there any leftovers, then refrigerate for 3 to 4 days in a covered container. I would not recommend freezing as the taste and texture changes and becomes way off.
After refrigeration, you can reheat the payasam on low heat if you want to eat it hot or warm. Add some milk or water if the consistency has thickened too much.
Ingredient Notes & Variations
Milk: For a rich creamy payasam, make it with whole milk. If you are looking for low fat options, then make it with low-fat milk or toned milk.
Nuts: Add your choice of nuts and dry fruits.
Vermicelli: You can make this payasam with any type of vermicelli - whole wheat, rice, all-purpose flour, semolina, various millets or ragi (finger millet).
Flavorings: Cardamom powder is the preferred choice of spice in payasam. You can also add a few saffron strands.
Sweeteners: Payasam is made both with sugar and jaggery. Sugar can be added less or more as per your requirements.
Jaggery: For making it with jaggery, first cook the payasam. Set it aside for 4 to 5 minutes and then only add the jaggery. Use 4 to 5 tablespoons of chopped jaggery or jaggery powder. Adding jaggery to hot boiling milk will curdle it. If you are using coconut sugar or palm jaggery (palm sugar), then follow the same method as that of adding jaggery. If jaggery has impurities, then simmer it on low heat for 3 to 4 minutes in some 2 tablespoons of water. Filter and add this jaggery solution to payasam.
Vegan variation: Almond milk and coconut milk work perfectly. But the cooking method is different. Fry the cashews, raisins in coconut oil or neutral oil. Roast the vermicelli in the same oil. Add water just enough to cook the vermicelli. When the vermicelli softens, add 2.5 to 3 cups of coconut milk or almond milk and raw sugar. Lightly warm or heat the payasam. Do not boil. Finish with cardamom powder and the fried cashews and raisins.
Cooking payasam: Slow simmering is the key to make a good payasam. Remember to slow cook so that you do not end up with burnt patches of milk or a thick gloppy texture.
Scaling: Easily make a big batch of the payasam for special religious or festival occasions to feed a crowd.
Serving to the deities: If serving to the deities, then add a pinch of edible camphor when the semiya payasam is cooked.
Consistency: For a thicker semiya payasam add less milk and for a thin payasam add more milk. If the payasam becomes too thick after cooling, simply add some milk to lighten it.