Sunday, January 16, 2011

PONGAL 2011

A very long post- beware! I know I have not wished any one on moving on to 2011- so here it is folks, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Neither do I look back nor do I die for a peek into the future (now I am going to let you in on a secret- despite being the rational, logical researcher- I love my daily dose to Yahoo Astrology!). I do not usually celebrate the arrival of a new year (I might have, when I was a kid, but come on I was just a kid)- to me it is just another day, another year!

On to the event at hand-

 இனிய போங்க நல்வாழ்த்துக்கள், a.k.a HAPPY PONGAL!
Celebrated to usher in the new month of "thai" (தை மாதம்), this festival finds it roots during the sangam age between 200 b.c. and 200 A.D. It is the dravidian harvest festival which means that the harvest season is celebrated in most parts of India around this time. In the south, it is three day long celebration beginning with Bhogi pongal (when people burn things, an act that implies that old paves way for the new), surya (sun) pongal (celebrate the sun god, without which there would be no harvest) finally culminating in mattu (cow) pongal (celebrate the quintessential cow). You can read about it here, here or here


Ven pongal, Italian style

Ingredients
1 1/2 c brown rice
3/4 c moong dal
salt and turmeric
3 c milk
a huge pot of water, simmering away
a few sprigs of mint

For tempering
2-3 tsp cumin
about 10-12 peppercorns
1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
a few sprigs curry leaf
1 tbsp ghee

Cashews roasted in ghee as garnish

Method

1. Cook the brown rice in the microwave with about 3 cups of water (about 25 min- just until it is half cooked)
2. In a deep saucepan, heat the milk. Once it begins to boil, add the rice and dal (I roasted the dal for about 2-3 min to release its nutty flavors, may be I overdid it here- I will explain later!). Add salt and turmeric, to taste and color.
3.Cook until all of the milk is absorbed. Now add the hot water and simmer it. Repeat this process until the rice and dal are completely cooked, now here is where I ran into a problem (aw..kitchen troubles as though they are something completely unheard of!). My dal refused to cook well and I think the reason was because I roasted it too much! Finally I ended with a pongal which had a bite to it, that is quite alright though-we did manage to finish most of it. Now the end result is totally up to you- you can have it as creamy as you want it to be (kind of pongal you might get at an Indian restaurant)

For the tempering, heat the ghee in a small fry pan. Once hot, add cumin seeds, pepper, ginger and curry leaf. Heat until the seeds splatter- do not let them burn though. This should not take more than say 30sec.

Top the pongal with the tempering and some roasted cashews. Serve it piping hot with chutney, sambhar or even kootu (vegetables with coconut and yogurt)!

Butternut squash-zucchini kootu

Ingredients


1 1/2 c cubed butternut squash
1 1/2 c cubed zucchini
salt, pepper, to taste
turmeric, a pinch
Water, to cook
1/2 frozen grated coconut

Sauce/paste

1 inch ginger, chopped
2 thai green chiles, chopped
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp ajwain (Caraway) seeds

For tempering
1 tbsp ghee
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds, rub before adding it in
1 tsp urad dal
5-6 pepper corns
A sprig curry leaves

Method

In a pan, add the ghee. Once hot, add the seeds- once  they splatter, add the curry leaves- fry it for just a couple of seconds.

Add in the vegetables (I am telling you- the orange and green...marvelous feast to the eyes). Mix them well with the tempering- a minute or so. Add in just a touch of water, salt, pepper and turmeric- simmer the heat. Cover and cook until the vegetables are tender.

In a mortar, grind coarsely the ingredients listed in the sace/paste.

Add the paste to the vegetables- cook for about 5 minutes. Finish by adding the grated coconut.



Judgement

Despite the bite to the ven pongal, it was very creamy and tasted good especially with the colorful kootu (a little color during winter- warms your heart, does'nt it?). Now for a better risotto style pongal, check the awesome veggie belly (I saw it last night and could not believe that I had also actually thought of something similar!)


Chakkara Pongal

Ingredients
Serves 2

1/2 c sushi/ sticky rice
3 cups 2% milk
1/2 c jaggery
1 tbsp natural sugar
1/4 tsp green cardamom, ground
1/8 tsp pachai karpooram (green camphor)
1/4 tsp dried lavender, ground

Garnish
1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
a handful of almonds
a handful of golden raisins

Method

Boil the milk in a deep saucepan along with the cardamom, lavender and pachai karpooram. Once it begins to boil, add the rice, jaggery, and sugar- bring to a boil and simmer the heat.  Stir often making sure that nothing sticks to the pan. You might have to add more milk/ water in case the rice is not completely done (I had some water simmering away on the side and added it as the rice was cooking).
For the garnish, heat the ghee in a small frying pan. Toast the almonds and raisins.

Top the pongal with the garnish and serve it hot or cold. Tastes good either way!

Judgement
I loved all the flavors in the sweet pongal- could feel a whiff of lavender and the camphor. And I finished that entire thing you see in the picture (thankfully it was not too sweet)

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