Pongal is the most important festival of South Indians. Pongal celebrations extend for four days. God is praised by man on these days with utmost devotion and sincerity. It is celebrated in south India to usher in the new year with immense gratitude, joy and amity. Pongal is a South Indian dish which is popularly cooked during this festival. There are two main varieties of pongal, namely sarkarai or sweet pongal and kara or spicy pongal. Kara pongal is called Ven pongal in Tamil Nadu and Huggi in Karnataka. The divine rice which is boiled with milk and jaggery in the festival is also called pongal.
Ven pongal is an intrinsic part of South Indian culture, and popularly served as breakfast in South Indian homes. It is a creamy rice dish, which is made by cooking rice with ghee and roasted moong dal. The stirring is done in plenty of water and milk. The seasoning is done with black peppercorn, cumin and salt. The delicious mixture is cooked in a huge pot till the rice and dal become soft. Cashews are roasted and sprinkled on the finished dish before eating. The simplicity of this dish emanated a divine fragrance that fills South Indian homes at festival time.
Sarkarai Pongal is cooked in the Sunny courtyard and served from the pot directly.
Milk – 2 lts
Almonds – 10
Cashewnuts – 15
Kishmish or raisins – 30
Newly harvested rice – 1 and ½ cups
Grated jaggery – 1 and ½ cup
Nutroeg powder – ¼ tsp
Saffron powder – ¼ tsp
Cardamom powder – 1 tsp
Ghee – 2 tbsps
Clean Kishmish and chopped cashew nuts and almonds. Pour milk in Pongapni (an earthen pot) and place on fire. Wash rice and dal and add to the milk when it comes to boil. Add ghee and jaggery when the rice and daal become soft. Cook on a medium fire for some time before adding almonds, cashew nuts, and the crushed and dissolved saffron, nutrieg and cardamom powders. Add Kishmish in the end and bring to one or two boils.