The Sensitive Kitchen

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Ven Pongal

This creamy and mildly spiced rice dish is a hallmark of the South Indian harvest festival of Pongal. The word "pongal" in Tamil means "to boil over"; similarly, this dish and its first-of-the-season ingredients connote prosperity.

3/4 c moong dal
1 c basmati rice
1 tsp salt, or to taste
5 c water
2 Tbsp halved cashew nuts
1 tsp whole peppercorns
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1/4 tsp asafetida
small sprig curry leaves, stemmed, torn in half to release flavor
3 Tbsp ghee
1 Tbsp oil

Roast yellow moong dal in a medium-to-large pressure cooker until lightly roasted and aromatic but not browned. Add rice, water and salt. Bring to a boil, then cook covered on LOW for 12-14 minutes or until rice and dal are soft.

Meanwhile, heat a small skillet to medium-high. Add 1/2 tsp ghee; roast cashews until golden. Set aside. Allow skillet to return to temperature, then add oil and briefly roast whole peppercorns. Add crushed pepper, cumin, ginger, asafetida and curry leaves; cook until cumin is starting to brown and mixture is fragrant. Stir in cashews and remove from heat.

Once the rice-dal mixture is cooked, add roasted spices and cashews. Drizzle with remaining ghee. Mix until well blended. Serve hot; pongal is at its best when eaten fresh. Serves 4.