Mahanandi

Living in Consciousness ~ Indi(r)a’s Food and Garden Weblog

Sweet Pongal, The Sankranthi Sweet

Sankranthi:

Harvest festival Sankranthi is all about celebrating rice in our part of world. Particularly in South India, rice plays an important role as the main cultivated grain and as nourishing food that people subsist on every day of their life. It’s no wonder that there is a festival dedicated to the almighty rice. Equally worshipped are the man’s best partner, the kind-hearted cow, and the elements - sun, earth and water. They make rice cultivation a success, and also add a magic touch to the rice, making the rice a cherished, beloved food of the people.

Sona Masuri Rice - Grown and Imported from Andhra, India
Sona Masuri Rice - Grown and Imported from Andhra Pradesh, India

Sweet Pongal (Tiyya Pongali):

This famous south Indian, Sankranthi sweet is traditionally made with freshly harvested rice. Very simple to make but spectacular in taste, the ordinary rice becomes mouthwateringly extraordinary in sweet pongal. The rice soaks up the milk, absorbs the jaggery, picks up the cardamom scent and takes up the generously added moong dal, cashews and golden raisins. And in this new avatar, becomes an offering to the Gods (naivedyam, we call it), and also simply irresistible to all who try it.

Some Tips:

Jaggery:

I follow the classic recipe and don’t do or like shortcuts. Method is neat and easy and the end result is always like the prasadam offering of temples. Jaggery is the traditional sweetener of sweet pongal and my choice too, simply because sweet pongal tastes better when made with jaggery and not sugar.

Rice:

The rice that I prefer is Sona Masuri. Because this variety is grown and imported from my home state Andhra Pradesh, and is the variety that I grew up on. Grain is thin, medium sized and very lightweight. Available in almost all Indian grocery shops here in US. Little bit pricey, but the taste is worth the money and farmers in my state really can use the money. Support farmers and buy this rice.

Consistency:

Sweet pongal is like a rice-dal porridge, consistency must be gooey thick and sticky. That means, the amount of liquid I usually add for sweet pongal recipe is more than the amount that I normally add to cook plain rice of equal measurements. Also, I always use equal amounts of water and milk for this recipe. Variations are - you can cook the rice-dal entirely in milk or in coconut milk, or if you are lactose intolerant and diet conscious, then in just plain water. Just add more liquid compared to the regular rice preparation.

Rice, Yellow Moong Dal, Cashews, Golden Raisins, Cardamom and Jaggery
Rice, Yellow Moong Dal, Cashews, Golden Raisins, Cardamom and Jaggery

Recipe:
For two people

1 cup - Sona Masuri rice
½ cup - yellow moong dal (pesara Pappu)
1 - 1½ cups - jaggery, crushed to fine
¼ cup each - cashews and golden raisins
¼ cup - ghee, melted
4 cardamom pods - skins removed and seeds powdered finely
3 cups each - milk and water (or 2 cups each, if you like a halwa like pongali)

Here is the 3-step method I follow to prepare sweet pongali at our home.

1.Toast and Roast:

Yellow moong dal:
Heat one teaspoon of ghee in an iron skillet. Add and roast yellow moong dal, on medium heat, until the color changes from yellow to pink. Take care not to brown. Slow-roasting freshens up and imparts a sweet smell to yellow moong dal. Remove them to a plate and keep aside.

Cashews and Golden raisins:
In the same skillet, add and heat two teaspoons of ghee. Add and fry the cashews and golden raisins till they turn to light gold. Remove and keep them aside.

Jaggery Syrup Cooked Rice-Dal Mixture is added to Jaggery Syrup
Jaggery syrup simmering…………Cooked Rice-Dal Mixture is added to Jaggery Syrup

2.Cook and melt:

Rice, moong dal and milk:

Take rice and roasted moong dal in a pot. Add water and milk. Mix well. Partially cover the pot and cook the rice and dal to tender soft. I use a pressure cooker but an electric rice cooker also works fine. Stove-top slow simmering also produces best tasting pongali.

Jaggery and water:

While the rice is cooking, in another pot, melt jaggery. Add the powdered jaggery and one cup of water. Stir and cook till jaggery melts. Bring the solution to a rolling boil. and reduce the heat and simmer for about five minutes. Turn off the heat. Let the jaggery syrup cool a bit.(Jaggery has to be cooked separately and you can’t add it directly to uncooked rice and milk. Because it prevents the rice from cooking properly and also splits the milk. Please keep this in mind.)

3. Stir and Simmer:

Adding the cooked rice: Add the cooked rice-dal pongal to jaggery syrup. Keep the heat on medium. Stir in the ghee, cashews, golden raisins and cardamom powder. With a strong laddle, stir well to combine all. Cover and simmer until the whole mixture comes together into a sticky, gooey mass. Turn off the heat. Cover and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Sweet pongal thickens further on cooling.

First offer to Gods as naivedyam (if you have this tradition), then serve it your loved ones, near and dear. Don’t forget to drizzle some ghee just before serving.

Sweet Pongal (Tiyya Pongali) - The Traditional Sweet of Sankranthi
Heavenly Sweet Pongal

For people hungering for a traditional, naivedyam kind of recipe but don’t have time or energy to make puran poli (bhakshalu), sweet pongal is The one. Speaking from experience, my suggestion is, keep your reservations aside and try it. You’ll be glad and can be proud of yourself for finally making one decent kind of naivedyam. I promise! Follow the recipe and this ancient classic delivers every time. People would ask for a second serving, diet or no diet.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Amma & Authentic Andhra, Naivedyam(Festival Sweets), Cashews, Milk, Sona Masuri Rice, Moong Dal (Washed), Ghee, Golden Raisins, Indian Sweets 101 (Monday January 16, 2006 at 3:08 pm- permalink)
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