Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Creamy and slick Lentil-N-Rice "South-Indian Risotto" With Cashewnuts("Venn Pongal") with Refreshing Mint Chutney

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Day3 of BM9: The harvest festival of Tamil Nadu, "Pongal" symbolizes the bountiful harvest and a prosperous year ahead.It is also the beginning of a New Year as per the "Tamil" Calendar. It is during this time of the year that the harvesting of Paddy crops are done and the dish called "Pongal" is made with the newly harvested rice. It can be made sweet or savory.
On this day this is what is done: The Sun God is offered boiled milk and jaggery. A plank is placed on the ground, a large image of the Sun God is sketched on it and Kolam designs are drawn around it. In the center of the plank is drawn a large figure of the Sun God with his effulgent rays. The "ceremony" for the Sun God starts after the auspicious moment of the birth of the new month "Thai". Prayers are rendered to the Sun God to seek his benedictions.The Sun God is given pride of place during Pongal. In the villages, people gather in the courtyard and prepare the Pongal in the open. The clay pot in which the Pongal is cooked is decorated with flowers, sugarcane pieces, turmeric plant etc. The first offering is made to the Sun.(Courtesy: Pongal Festival).

While the recipe for Pongal is as old as the "Pongal festival" itself, this recipe has my signature all over it. I mean, this is how a Pongal should be, according to me anyways. After several tries with the water, milk and rice consistency I ended up with this version that my family enjoys too. Tastes best if eaten with "refreshing Mint chutney".Cashew nuts are highly desired but totally optional. Note: The "procedure-steps" were done on another day with plenty of nuts and other stuff. Pongal can be plain or dressed-up and that's what I love about it.
For the Pongal:
  • 1 Cup Short-Grain Raw Rice ( I used "Laxmi" Brand "Ponni" Raw Rice, available in Indian stores)
  • 1/4 Cup Split and hulled Green Gram "Moong Bean"
  • 3-1/2 Cups Water
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 1/4 Cup Cashews, split into halves
  • 1 Tsp Coarsely-ground Black Pepper
  • 1/4 Tsp Whole Peppercorns
  • 3/4 Tsp Cumin Seeds
  • 6-7 Green Chilies
  • 1" Ginger, peeled and finely cut
  • A pinch of Asafoetida/Hing
  • 2 Stalks Curry Leaves
  • 3-4 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Clarified Butter "Ghee"
  • Salt as needed
For the Mint Chutney:
  • 1 Tbsp Bengal Gram/Split Chickpea
  • 1 Tbsp Split Black Gram/Urad dhal
  • 3-4 Dry Dry Red Chilies
  • A pinch of Asafoetida/Hing
  • 1/2" Ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1-1/2 Cups Fresh Mint leaves, packed
  • 1/2 Cup Fresh Cilantro Leaves, packed
  • Marble-sized Tamarind, seeds removed
  • 1/8 Cup Fresh/Frozen Grated Coconut
  • 3 Tbsp Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Clarified Butter "Ghee"
  • Salt for taste
  • Make the Mint Chutney: In a shallow pan, add 2 tbsp of Olive Oil and fry the Split chickpea and Black Gram. Once they are browned, add the dry red chilies.
  • Sprinkle a dash of asafoetida/hing.
  • Add the chopped ginger pieces and then transfer the fresh mint.Fry the leaves until they shrink and slightly change in color, approximately for 2 minutes.
  • Switch off the stove. Add the fresh/frozen grated coconut, cilantro and the tamarind.Mix and cool the mixture.
  • Transfer the mixture to a blender jar once the mixture is almost at room temperature.
  • Grind the mixture to a "slightly coarse" paste.
  • Transfer to a small bowl. The refreshing mint chutney is ready to be consumed.
  • It can be had with Wheat thins too.
  • Make the Pongal: In a shallow pan, heat the Olive Oil, add the cashew nuts and fry till they are slightly browned.
  • Once the nuts start to change in color, add the cumin seeds, green chilies, coarsely ground pepper corns, curry leaves, a pinch of asafoetida/hing and ginger pieces.
  • Wash the rice and split green gram and soak it in water for 30 minutes prior to cooking. Cook or pressure cook them together with little salt, a few grinds of the pepper milk, 3-1/2 Cups water and 1 Cup Milk.
  • Once they come out of the pressure cooker, using a steel ladle give it a quick stir to make it goopy. Then spoon in 2 tbsp of Ghee or more and stir to incorporate. Transfer the nut mixture.
  • Quickly mix to evenly distribute the nut mixture.
  • Serve it piping hot with refreshing Mint Chutney.
  • Water and rice-bean ratio could differ depending on the type of rice used. For this recipe, short-grained Ponni or Sona Masuri is preferred. 
  • The ratio might also differ if the rice is cooked in a pan rather than in a pressure pan. More water/milk should be added to end up with a creamy consistency.
  • Try it with Peanut chutney if Mint chutney is not your kind of a thing.
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  1. Fabulous chutney and mouthwatering pics of the process! Ven pongal looks yummy too

  2. ...i want that now CL...I was actually dreaming about it this morning too!....:((

  3. Pongal looks just superb and the decoration is simply stunning.

    Hamaree Rasoi

  4. This is one of my favorite dishes and so drooling here. :)

  5. Absolutely filling one.I love to have some.Big fan of mint,so am drooling over the chutney too ! Nice one !

  6. South Indian risotto- wat a fabulous name to our pongal..both pongal and chutney looks delicious and inviting..

  7. that tadka on top seriously makes me wanna try it :)

  8. Looks so delicious! Great clicks too


  9. Oh My God. i'm simply drooling here. Wonderful presentation.

  10. Pongal n chutney is jaw-dropping. Love the combo with vada. A filling breakfast.

  11. Was actually wondering what a south-indian risotto is until I saw the name Venn Pongal... Yummm... Super good pictures...
    Krithi's Kitchen
    Event: Serve It - Festival Potluck


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