Saturday, April 28, 2012

FESTIVALS - PONGAL




Festivals are celebrated with delicious delicacies among the Palakkad Iyers. Festivals mean good food and fun - as in all communities. But then, there are unique items prepared on specific festivals lined up in the calendar.

‘Pongal’ is the harvest festival of Tamilnadu but since Palakkad Iyers are basically Tamilians (though settled in Kerala), they celebrate ‘Pongal’ – though on a modest scale – with ‘Pongal’ and ‘vadai’.

They make two varieties of Pongal – ‘Chakkara pongal’ (sweet) and ‘venn pongal’ (savory).

Rice-dal mix
Dry roast the moong dal till light brown. Mix the rice (1 glass) and dal (nearly 1/2 glass), wash well and pressure-cook with ¼ glass more than the usual amount you use to cook rice (ie.2 ¼ x 1 ½ =nearly 3 ½  to 4 glasses water if using Basmati rice & dal). I add 3 glasses of water an 1/2 glass of milk for this special occasion. The rice has to be overcooked.

Chakkara Pongal

This is similar to ‘vella payasam’ – the only difference is it is not prepared from rice alone but with a mixture of rice and moong dal.

Ingredients

Over-cooked rice-dal portion (1:1/2 glass).

Jaggery – 1 1/2 glass (you can add or decrease the                                                amount as per your taste)
Ghee – 3 - 4 tbsp

Cashew nuts – 2 tbsp

Coconut pieces – 1 ½ tbsp

Raisins – 2 tbsp

Cardamom powder – ¾ tsp

Method –
Heat 1 tbsp of ghee in a kadhai and fry the cashews, coconut pieces and raisins separately till golden brown and set aside.
Heat 1/4 glass of water in the same kadhai and dissolve the jaggery and strain to remove impurities (or use organic jaggery which is usually clean).
Heat the syrup well till it thickens and add the cooked rice-dal and stir well.
Add ghee and continue to stir till almost dry.
Add cardamom powder and mix well.
Garnish with roasted nuts and raisins and serve hot after offering it as ‘neivedhyam’.

                Venn Pongal

Ingredients

Rice – 1 glass
Yellow moong dal (dry-roasted to a light brown) – almost ½ glass
Ghee – 3 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Urad dal – 1 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Black pepper – 1 tsp
Pepper powder – 1 tsp
Curry leaves – 8
Cashew nuts – 2 tbsp
Salt to taste

Method

Pressure-cook the rice-dal mix with 3 1/2 - 4 cups cups of water. It has to be a bit overcooked.

Heat 1 tbsp of ghee in a kadhai and fry the cashew nuts till golden brown and set aside.

Heat the entire ghee, add mustard seeds, urad dal, and cumin seeds and whole pepper corns. When they crackle, add pepper powder and curry leaves and a pinch of asafetida and salt.

Add the cooked rice - dal  mix and mix well.

Garnish with roasted cashews.

Serve hot with chutney or sambar.

Tips
If you are not weight-watchers, you can add a dollop of extra ghee in your plate of pongal and relish the extra taste!

© Copyright 2011. Brinda Balasubramonian.

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