Pongal is the turkey equivalent of the Tamil harvest thanksgiving Festival of Sankranti. The festival occurs around mid-January, celebrating the winter harvest in India and also commemorates the journey of the northward journey of the sun, heralding the advent of spring.
Freshly harvested rice is cooked along with mung dal & milk in a pot decorated with turmeric leaves and allowed to boil over, signifying the abundance of prosperity for the year to come.
There are two versions. The traditional, sweet variety is cooked with milk and jaggery (unrefined sugar combined with the molasses) and spiced with cardamom & saffron.
The savory version is spiced with a seasoning of cumin & cracked peppercorn.
The finishing touch is always a generous drizzle of melted, homemade ghee. The 'venn' in the dishes name comes from the tamil word for butter (vennai).
Ingredients4 tablespoons ghee
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked peppercorn
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
6 to 8 curry leaves, torn
1 whole green serrano chile split in 1/2 lengthwise (optional)
2 tablespoons broken cashew pieces
1/4 teaspoon asafetida powder (optional)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 cup split dehusked mung dal
1 cup jasmine rice
4 1/2 cups water
Salt to taste
Plenty of melted butter/ghee to finish