Festive Recipe: Pongal for the urban kitchen

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Come mid-January and it’s time for Tamil Nadu’s favourite festival, Pongal. The harvest is marked by cooking festive rice dishes which also take the name of the festival. Thousands of pots of sweet and savoury Pongal are cooked up across the state, celebrating rice, the staple that sustains everyone in this southern state.

Essentially a rural festival, Pongal is celebrated by cooking the newly-harvested rice in earthen pots over a firewood stove. It boils over even as day breaks and prayers are offered to the sun, giver of life to the farmer.

But just because you live in a town or city, far away from the paddy fields and the sugarcane groves doesn’t mean you have to do without Pongal. It is possible to make an authentic, great tasting Pongal in any modern kitchen in quick time. Here’s how:

Pongal, Two Ways


1 cup rice
¼ cup moong dal
1 cup milk
Salt to taste
1 cup grated jaggery
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp pepper
1 inch piece ginger, chopped
¼ cup ghee
2 tbsp raisins
2 tbsp cashew nuts
1 tsp cardamom pods, crushed

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Image source: blogger.com


Wash and drain the rice and dal and set aside.

Pour 3 cups of water and the milk into a large pressure cooker and add the rice and dal.

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Image source: emlii.com

Cover and pressure cook over a low flame for 15 minutes. It is essential to cook on ‘sim’. Once done, let the pressure drop before opening.

While the rice is cooking melt the jaggery with a splash of water and strain to remove any impurities and grit.

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Image source: revisfoodography.com

Roughly crush the cumin and pepper.

Divide the rice into two parts.

Heat half the ghee, drop in the ginger and cumin-pepper. Pour over half the rice. Add salt to taste and warm over a low flame. Your savoury or ven pongal is now ready to serve with chutney and sambar.

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Image source: wordpress.com

To make the sweet pongal, add the jaggery syrup to the remaining half of the rice and heat gently

Heat the remaining ghee, drop in the cashew and raisins and the cardamom powder. Empty the whole thing over the sweetened rice. Stir well and serve warm or at room temperature.

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