Ven Pongal is a wonderful dish, served as breakfast or tiffin in South India and also quick and easy to make with simple ingredients.
Traditionally, Sakkarai pongal, the sweet version and Ven pongal, the savoury one are prepared for ‘Thai Pongal’ – the Tamil Harvest festival – the Tamil equivalent of Thanksgiving. It is celebrated, by boiling the first harvested rice of the season and as it overflows, saying ‘Pongalo Pongal’ and “Thai Pirandhal Vazhi Pirakkum” meaning “the birth of the month of Thai (comes in January as per the English Calendar) will pave the way for new opportunities”. The act of overflowing denotes and symbolises, abundance and prosperity. All done outdoors, in appreciation of the Sun god, solar energy provider of the bountiful agricultural produce.
“You make these interesting dishes, when I am out of town.” observed Sri. Objection, my lord (feminist issue? no offence please, sticking to a standard phrase here), beg to differ “You are out of town, when I make these interesting dishes.” Ven Pongal is a type of Kitchdi, which I make often, as Pa loves it. He enjoys Millet Pongal and we have come to enjoy it along with him. Encore, made it again. We wolfed down, our respective share of the soft, buttery and peppery Ven Pongal. No one spoke, sign of good food. Now ‘All izz well’ (did you just sing it like Rancho, in the bollywood movie Three Idiots?! Don’t even bother answering that, rhetorical question!)
Prep time : 5 mins; Cooking time : 15 mins; Serves : 4
Ingredients for Pongal:
- 1 cup rice | millet (preferably kuthiravalli | barnyard millet, samai | little millet, thinai | foxtail millet)
- 1/4 cup moong dal | payatham paruppu | green gram lentil
- 2 – 3 green chilies
- 1 inch ginger
- Rock salt powder to taste
- 5 1/2 cups of water
Ingredients for Tempering :
- 1 tb sp Ghee | clarified butter | cooking oil of choice
- 9 -11 cashewnuts
- 11/2 tsp jeera | cumin seeds
- 1 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
- 3 stems of curry leaves
1. Finely chop the ginger and green chilies. Set aside. Grind the cumin seeds and peppercorns together coarsely, in a mortar pestle or a dry grinder. Set aside.
2. Dry roast rice | millet and moong dal together, till fragrant. Wash and rinse them well. Take a pressure pan and add the rice, lentils, finely chopped ginger, finely chopped green chilies and water and pressure cook with the whistle for upto 3 – 4 whistles. Switch off heat. Once the pressure is released open the pressure cooker and add salt.
3. For tempering take ghee | oil in a pan, fry the cashewnuts, curry leaves and freshly ground cumins seeds and peppercorns in that order till lightly brown and fragrant. Add it to the pongal in the pressure cooker. Mix well.