Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Sweet Pongal/Venn pongal/Menasina gojju(red pepper curry)

Pongal Delicacies...

Sweet Pongal/Venn Pongal/Red pepper gojju....

Pongal!!! reminds us of harvest, fresh grain and great food. This three-day harvest festival is celebrated every year in Magha, from the 13th to the 15th of January. The word 'pongal' refers to the dish of sweet rice prepared on this occasion. The festival is celebrated widely in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The time of the festival is of great importance to all Hindus, as it corresponds to the solar equinox when the days begin to lengthen and the nights begin to wane.
Bhogali Bihu of Assam could be regarded as the matching counterpart of the Tamil Pongal festival.The nightlong feast with family and friends along with the preparation of traditional Assamese goodies, and the early morning worship of the Indian god of fire - Agni, are some of the major highlights of this festival. In W Bengal, it is celebrated in the form of a festival cum fair called Ganga Sagar Mela.However, this fair is not confined to the Bengalis only as people from all over India come to visit the Ganga Sagar with the belief that a dip in the holy bank will absolve them of their sins.In Punjab and its neighbouring states, this day is celebrated, as Lohri. It marks the coming of spring and the approaching end of winter. Fires are lit as dusk approaches. Arrangement for feasts among family and friends and gatherings around the sacred bonfire, and an exchange of greetings and pleasantries mark the festival celebration here. (courtesy:www.theholidayspot.com)

No matter which state, the common factor which makes the festival so special is the special food which is prepared. Here are 3 such authentic pongal recipes which are very simple and can be made any time of the year. It is rich and nutricious.

Sweet Pongal/Jaggery Rice:
You need
1cup long grain rice
1/4 cup split moong dal
3/4 cup jaggery/optional you can use brown sugar
1tsp freshly ground cardamom seeds
ghee 1/4 cup.
Garnish: nuts of your choice fried in ghee
To make: lightly fry the rice and moong dall with a tsp of clarified butter/ghee till nice aroma comes. Boil them together till soft but not mushy. In a thick pan, add jaggery with 1/2 cup water and bring it to a boil. when the jaggery melts, add the cardamom powder and mix well. Now add the boiled rice dal mixture and mix well. keep stirring the mixture for about 7-10minutes till the desired consistency is obtained. Finally add the remaining ghee and garnish with nuts of your choice.. Voila.. Sweet delicious pongal is ready...

Spicy Pongal/?Venn pongal/Khara pongal:
You need
1cup long grain rice
1/4 cup split moong dal
1tsp whole black pepper corns
1tsp jeera
ghee 1/4 cup.
1tsp cashews
To make: lightly fry the rice and moong dall with a tsp of clarified butter/ghee till nice ma comes. Boil them together till soft.
In a pan, add ghee, when it is heated, add jeera and black pepper corns and cashews.. Now add the rice dal mixture and salt and mix well. I personally like the mixture not too watery, so when I boil I dont add much water.
To go with this, is the traditional red pepper curry/Menasinakai gojju..

Red Pepper curry/Gojju: You need
1 fresh red bell pepper/optional can use green pepper or combination of red and green
tamarind paste 1tbsp
jaggery -piece of a lemon
2 cups water
seasoning: mustard, hing, jeera, curry leaves and dried red chillies 2
Gojju powder: 3tsp
To make: heat oil in a pan, add all the seasonings till they mix well. Now add the pepper and mix for 5minutes till the pepper softens. Now add 2 cups water and bring it to a boil. Add tamarind paste, gojju powder and jaggery and mix well. Add salt based on your taste and in a medium flame boil the mixture till desired consistency is obtained. This goes very well with pongal or rice of any kind...

Here is the recipe for the traditonal gojju powder
channa dale-11/2 tsp urad dal-11/2 tsp fenugreek seeds/menthya-1/2 tblsp hing-1 small grannule dhania-1tblsp jeera-3/4 tsp red chilles-6 to 8 til-1tsp cinnamon/dalchini-1'' piece Fry the ingredients in a tsp of oil till nice aroma comes and grind it to a fine powder..