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A sumptuous breakfast spread

Ven Pongal with Vada , Sambar and Coconut Chutney

A pot of boiling water with rice and lentil is a usual sight in every Tamil kitchen on the morning of their harvest festival, Pongal. This offering to God later finds it place on the breakfast table with the numerous other dishes to feed the Family who have gathered to celebrate. It’s very typical in India to have an elaborate break fast on special occasions. My memories of any festival are mostly associated to the specialities served on the day and Pongal is no different.

I wanted to join in the celebration this year by cooking up the traditional breakfast. This is my way to say a big thank you to Tamil Nadu for making me feel at home during my years there ,teaching me some great values in life and for giving me some wonderful friends.

So let’s get cooking .On a regular day you can just whip up a quick breakfast by serving pongal with coconut chutney.

Serves 4-5

For Pongal

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup raw rice
  • ¼ cup Mung Daal

For Seasoning

  • 1/2 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Black Peppercorns
  • 1 Green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp finely chopped Ginger
  • 8 -10 Cashew nuts, halved
  • 1 tsp Oil
  • 2 tsp Ghee
  • 1 sprig of Curry leaves
  • Salt to taste

Method

Dry roast the Mung Daal for about 3-4 minutes or until it gives a nutty aroma.Soak the  washed rice along with the roasted daal in 4 cups of water for about half an hour.

Transfer the rice, daal and water to a pressure cooker and cook for about 15 -20 minutes on medium flame.

Heat oil in a pan big enough to hold the rice mixture. Fry cumin seeds, cashew nut and peppercorns until the cashew nuts turn brown. Add chopped ginger and green chilli and fry further for 2-3 minutes. Transfer the cooked rice mixture into the pan, add salt and  mix well.Pour ghee over the rice and mix well again. Remove from the heat.

For Vada

Ingredients

  • 1 cup urad dal soaked for about a minimum of 4 hours
  • 1 tbsp fine semolina
  • 1/2 cup of chopped Shallots or red Onion
  • 1 tsp finely chopped green chilli
  • 1 tsp finely chopped ginger
  • 1 tsp Black Peppercorns
  • 1-2 Sprig of Curry leaves roughly chopped
  • A pinch of baking soda (optional)
  • Salt o taste
  • Oil to deep fry

Method

Grind urad dal to a smooth paste .Use very little water for grinding.I use the chutney jar that comes with Indian blenders to make my batter and it works just perfect.If your batter becomes watery add about 1-2 tsp of rice flour.

Add rest of the ingredients listed except oil to the Daal paste and mix well. Semolina is my secret ingredient to get that crispy restaurant like vadas.If you dont fancy the idea of biting into whole pepper while relishing your Vada you can omit it from the recipe.

To shape your vada, wet your palm, take a lemon sized ball of batter, place it on your palm, shape into a ball, flatten it out and make that most important hole in the centre.You can even use greased plastic sheets or banana leaf to shape the vadas.

Heat oil in a deep pan ,slide  it carefully in to the oil. Fry on medium heat until it turns golden brown.

If  you find it difficult to get perfect shaped vadas , just  use an ice cream scoop or a regular spoon and drop small scoop of batter into the hot oil. Shape doesn’t matter as long it tastes great.

For Coconut chutney

Ingredients

  • 1 cup grated Coconut
  • 4  Green Chillies
  • 1 tbsp roasted Chana Daal (Dalia)
  • Salt to taste

For Seasoning

  • 1 tsp Urad Daal/Black gram
  • ½ tsp Mustard
  • 1 sprig of Curry leaves
  • 1 tsp oil

Method

Grind Coconut, green chillies and  roasted daal with salt to a smooth paste with about  quarter cup of water.

Heat oil in a pan and fry everything listed in the section “For Seasoning” until the urad daal is nicely browned. Pour over the ground coconut mixture.

To Serve

Serve the Pongal with vada and chutney on the side and a small bowl of Sambar. Recipe of Sambar to follow.

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