Today is ‘Thai Pongal’ – a Tamil festival celebrated at the end of a harvest. During this festival the farmers thank nature, the Sun and the farm animals for their assistance in providing a successful harvest.
Thai means January and Pongal means ‘overflowing’ which signifies abundance and prosperity. Pongal is also the name of a sweetened dish of rice boiled with lentils which is ritually consumed.
Even though a festival for farmers, all Tamils around the world practice it.
The day starts at sunlight in the garden, where the ‘pongal’ is cooked in a clay pot, served on a banana leaf and dedicated to the Sun god – Surya. Once the family have conveyed their thanks, the food is eaten.
This recipe is from ‘Recipes of the Jaffna Tamils‘. It is also called ‘Chakkarai Saatham’ or ‘Chakkarai Pookai’. It is quite sweet and there is an alternate recipe which can be made if you want a savoury option. I will post the recipe for that another day.
1 cup long grain rice
1/2 cup split green gram (moong dal), roasted
21/2-3 cups water
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup brown sugar (or traditionally jaggery pieces – I used jaggery).
2 dessert spoons ghee
2 Tbsp cashew nuts chopped (I didn’t chop as my mum puts in whole or halved)
2 Tbsp raisins
1/2 tsp cardamom seed powder (or crushed cardamom seeds)
1. Soak rice for half an hour and drain.
2. Bring water to boil. Add rice and green gram.
3. When rice is cooked, add coconut milk and jaggery.
4. Remove from stove.
5. Heat ghee in a pan. Saute cashe nuts and raisins. Turn off flame.
6. Add cardamom powder.
7. Remove and adde to rice.
8. Mix well.
9. Serve warm or cold.