It’s interesting how the main dish of the festival and the festival itself share the same name. The Pongal festival is believed to herald a new era of prosperity which is signified by the bringing in of the new harvest.
It is believed that when the month of Thai (the beginning of Pongal) starts, it brings in love, peace and harmony along with prosperity and joy into the life of the Tamilians. It is also the beginning of the wedding season when harvests have been sold and money is aplenty for conducting marriages. The Pongal festival is the epitome of Tamil culture when the best skills of its people are displayed; its celebrated to thank Mother Nature for her bountiful blessings of rain enabling a good harvest and hundreds of people throng the temples irrespective of caste or religion!
The Pongal festival is celebrated over four days and the first rice of the harvest is used to cook the ‘Pongal’. There are many varieties to the Pongal itself with both sweet and spicy versions being made during the festival. The sweet version has jaggery and coconut shavings to make it a celebratory dessert dish. Even on a daily basis, Pongal can be prepared and is a popular breakfast dish of Tamil Nadu.
The Ven Pongal or Khara Pongal dish is very simple to prepare and needs an equally short time to cook too. It’s great as comfort food on a lazy weekend.
Preparation Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 15 mins
Uncooked Rice – 1 cup
Split Yellow Moong Dal (Lentils) – ½ cup
Ghee – 2-3 Tbsp
Cashews – 7-10
Salt – Per taste
Oil/Ghee – 2 Tbsp
Ginger – 2 tsp, finely chopped
Cummin Seeds – 1 ½ tsp
Black Peppercorns – 1 ½, crushed
Curry Leaves – 1 sprig
Take a heavy bottomed pan and dry roast the rice and dal separately till a fragrant aroma starts to emerge. Add sufficient water and salt and cook in a pressure cooker for about 3 whistles or till the rice is done and slightly mushy. Be careful the rice doesn’t start to stick to the bottom of the pot as it can lead to a sticky situation!
Next, fry the cashew nuts in ghee and keep aside.
To prepare the tempering, add the ghee into the pan and sauté the finely chopped ginger for about 5 seconds before adding the cumin seeds and crushed peppercorns. Add the curry leaves last to maintain their vibrant green color before switching off the fire.
Pour the tempering and the fried nuts over the cooked rice and dal mix and toss gently, but thoroughly. Keep covered for a couple of minutes for the flavors to blend before serving hot Pongal to the family!