Starting the posts this year with a family favorite, a traditional and heart warming Sarkarai Pongal. Besides, in a week's time, its going to be Pongal festival and this is a must prepare dish for the celebration. Today, however this is coming in a week early because of a request from my favorite and only brother-in-law of mine. We had a long chat yesterday on what to cook for Pongal and he is going to try his hands on making Sarkarai Pongal...or how we all fondly call it as Chakkara Pongal.
This dish automatically reminds me of our Oppiliappan Koil temple visits. The drive through the green fields to reach the temple, the colorful gopuram at the entrance and the messy shoe racks to the right, the lady who sells fresh flowers for Rs.10 for a mozham, tourist vans parked across the street, step inside and on the left are the water taps where you could wash your feet before you go in, and then there's the friendly big elephant trained to bless and thrill a few children for a few bucks, the big mandapam on the left side, the ticket counters, and the narrrow walkway to the sanctum sanctorum. You finish all the prayers and come out and as you walk to go around the temple, you cross the kitchen on your left just behind the Hanuman sannidhi. And that's when it hits you. The Aroma. The Ghee laden Chakkara Pongal wafting out of the kitchen and right under your nostrils. So, you forget the big round around the temple and walk straight in the kitchen. Someone is usually outside handing you the prasadam in little dhonnai cups. And you take a bite out of that suda suda chakkara pongal..that's when you feel it...God's complete blessing. Bliss. Nothing like temple chakkara pongal and puliyodharai.
Here's my attempt to get that experience of Bliss in my kitchen. And share God's abundant blessing with you all! All you need is this -
1 cup Rice
1/4 cup Moong Daal
2 cups Jaggery (powdered or broken into small bits)
Cardamom Powder - a pinch
Cashewnuts - a few
Ghee - how much bliss do you want? That much.
Saffron - a few more strands of bliss. Why not.
Wash and dry roast the moong daal till they turn golden.
Mix with washed rice, add 3 1/2 cups of water, and pressure cook for 4-5 whistles.
In a pan, add a little water. Melt the jaggery in the water till it all dissolves completely.
Filter out the jaggery to remove any impurities. You can see I did not have much but still there is a black dot and some few strands of something. Good riddance, my friend.
Add a little water and using a spoon, mash the rice and daal as much as you are able to.
Heat the clean jaggery and when it starts to boil, add the rice and daal and mix well. It will be a little watery at this point. No worries. Keep cooking in low-medium heat till this thickens up.
Add about 2-3 tbsps of ghee - a little at a time and incorporate it into the pongal. You can use a masher and mash you the rice further.
When this is thick and it start coming off like a ball from the side, stop the heat and add a pinch of powdered cardamom for aroma. You can add some saffron strings too if you have them.
Finally, fry some cashews in ghee and add to the pongal.
Now, all you have to do is eat.
If your pongal gets too thick, you can always add a little warm milk and mix well until you get the consistency. Some people even cook the rice and moong in milk. I always end up with a pressure cooker mess and hence don't do it.
Satish - hope this helps! Enjoy making Sakkari Pongal and have a great Pongal party!