January 14th is the South Indian festival of Pongal. And the special dish of the day is called…. yes you guessed it, Pongal!
Pongal marks the start of the Tamil Harvest festival. The word 'Pongal' literally means 'to boil over' and the traditional dish is made by heating fresh milk, allowing it to boil over the vessel and adding steamed rice and grains.
Pongal can be made savoury by spicing with black peppercorns, curry leaves and cumin, or sweet by adding jaggery and infusing with cardamom and saffron.
The sweet version, ’Sacra Pongal' is a particular favourite in our family and we make it frequently for special occasions or as a weekend treat!
Our healthier version uses quinoa and brown basmati rice instead of the traditional white rice base, upping the protein content and also adding a mixture of textures. The traditional version also uses Jaggery as the sweeter but we know it’s not always easy to find in stores, so we’ve opted for dark muscavado sugar instead. It not only sweetens the dish but also adds a caramel-ly flavour and a gorgeous golden colour.
Our favourite part of the dish is the crunchy topping of cashews and raisins toasted in ghee! It perfectly complements the mushy texture of the rice pudding. We chose to substitute a few tablespoons of coconut oil instead of ghee to make it vegan. The toasty, crunchy nuts and sweet raisins are like little flavour explosions in your mouth! When we were younger, our mum used to fry some extra cashews and raisins so we could eat them just as they are!
If you have a sweet tooth, you have to try out this recipe!
N & N
1/4 cup quinoa
1/2 cup brown basmati rice
1 1/2 litres boiling water
1 1/2 cups dark muscovado sugar
6-7 cardamom pods or 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
1/8 cup cashews pieces
1/8 cup raisins
1 tablespoon coconut oil
- Dry roast the quinoa in a pan for about 3 minutes and then add in the rice.
- Pour the boiling water on top, and boil everything on a high heat for 3 minutes. Then, reduce and simmer until all the water has been absorbed by the rice and quinoa.
- Crush the mixture with the back of a spoon until it becomes mushy. The mushy texture is a really important feature of the dish so if necessary, add more water and cook until it becomes mushy!
- Next, make a syrup with the muscovado sugar. Add the sugar to 1 cup of water in a pan and bring to the boil. Once it starts bubbling and frothing, reduce the heat and add the rice and quinoa mixture. Cover the pan with a lid and leave for 5-6 mins to let the grains soak up the sugar syrup.
- Remove the outer shells of the cardamom pods and crush the insides to form a powder. Sprinkle this over the top along with a pinch of saffron
- The last part is the nut and raising topping! Heat the coconut oil in a small pan and add the cashew pieces. When the nuts are toasty and golden, add the raisins. Turn the heat off when the raisins start to swell.
Serve yourself a generous helping and top with the crunchy nuts and raisins!