Happy Pongal, Happy Lohri and Happy Sankranti!
Growing up all over India exposed me to so many different types of festivals and culinary delights to go with them. One of my favorites growing up was the festival of Pongal. It is predominantly a harvest festival just like Lohri and Sankranti (which is celebrated primarily in Northern India). The festival of Pongal and the dish “Pongal” are unique to the Tamil cuisine and the state of Tamil Nadu in India. However, I have been told that some Tamilians in Sri Lanka also celebrate this occasion.
I was fortunate enough to be raised by parents who celebrated and partook in every local cultural event and festival and being married to a Tamilian, Pongal is an “adopted” festival for me. (Look at my posts on my other “adopted” festivals).
There are multiple kinds of the dish “Pongal”. My favorite is the sweet version or the “Sakkarai” Pongal. My husband is not a big fan so I made this instead. It’s a savory version called the “Ven” Pongal.
Hope you enjoy my version of “Ven” Pongal”.
1 Cup of Rice – rinsed and drained
1/2 Cup of Moong daal – rinsed and drained
2″ ginger root peeled and grated/minced
1-2 Bay leaf
2 Tsp cumin seeds
1 Tsp whole peppercorns
2 Tbsps vegetable oil/ghee
Salt and pepper to taste
5 cups of water (more depending upon the desired consistency)
Heat the ghee/oil on medium heat and add the cumin seeds. Let sputter. Add the ginger and mix well. Add the rice and daal and roast for about a couple of minutes to release the aroma.
Add the water, bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Pressure cook for 15-18 minutes. Let the steam from the cooker be released naturally and don’t force open the cooker.
You can add more water and cook a bit more depending on your preference of the Pongal. Some people like it mushy and some like it a bit firm. I like mine like a risotto.
“Tadka”/ Seasonings to temper
1-2 Tsp mustard seeds
1 sprig of fresh “Kari”/ curry Leaves
2-3 Green chillies chopped (Optional)
2 Tbsp cashew pieces
2 Tbsp raisins (optional; I like them so I put them in this version)
2 Tbsp ghee
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the ghee on medium heat and add the mustard seeds. Let sputter. Add the “Kari” leaves and the chillies. Mix well and be careful not to burn. Add the cashew pieces and the raisins on medium heat and brown a bit.
Be careful as the dry fruits may burn if you don’t watch over them. Add the Pongal in the mixture and heat through. Check for salt and pepper.
Serve hot with pickle if desired.