Jaggery Rice Pudding (Sweet Pongal)

Harvest festivals are celebrated world over like the thanksgiving festival in the US. This festival is also celebrated across India and SriLanka in January every year. The festival is known by different names in different parts of the country. Its known as Makar Sankranti, Thai Pongal, Uttarayana, Lohri, and Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu and is celebrated in the month of January every year.


"Pongal" in tamil (a South Indian Language) means overflow and is aptly the name of the festival celebrating the end of the abundant harvest season in Tamil Nadu. As part of the harvest festival in southern India there are two varieties of a rice and lentil dishes that are prepared called Pongal. The savoury version called the Khara Pongal and the sweet version called Sakara Pongal. Sakara Pongal or Sweet Pongal is a jaggery, rice and lentil pudding. 


Ingredients:
Cardamom Powder1 tsp
Cashew Nuts10
Clove3
Desiccated coconut1 tbsp
Edible Camphor1/8 tsp
Ghee1 tbsp
Jaggery1 cup
Milk1 cup
Nutmeg Powder1/8 tsp
Raisins20
Rice1/3 cup
Water2 1/2 cup
Yellow Mung lentil1/3 cup

Method:
  1. Melt the Jaggery: In a pan on medium flame, bring half cup of water to boil and add the jaggery. Let the jaggery melt and form a liquid. Once it forms a liquid, seive it to remove the impurities and keep the filtered melted jaggery liquid separate. 
  2. Cook the Lentils and Rice: Pressure cook rice and lentils with 2 cups of water. Mash the rice and dal once its cooked. 
  3. Toast the nuts and spices: Heat ghee in a large pan and toast halved cashew nuts till they brown. Then, switch of the flame and add the raisins and let them soak up the ghee. Keep the toasted nuts and raisins separate. To the pan with the ghee, add cloves, grated nutmeg powder and edible camphor. 
  4. Blend the ingredients:To the pan with the spices add the mashed Rice and lentil mixture, then the jaggery liquid, milk, desiccated coconut and cardamom powder. Serve the sweet pongal topped with toasted cashew nuts and raisins. 

Notes:
  1. If the sweet pongal is too dry, add some milk or water to bring it to the right consistency. The pongal must not be dry or stiff and form lumps. It should be in a pudding like consistency.
  2. Edible camphor may not be easily available so skip it, if you do not have it. 
  3. Add more jaggery if you like the dish sweeter. 
  4. Desiccated coconut is optional and can be replaced with dry grated coconut (a.k.a copra) or skipped in the recipe.

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