Happy Pongal (now a wee bit belated)! Pongal, or Sankranti, is an Indian festival that celebrates the winter harvest of rice–a staple food of South India. We celebrate with two kinds of festival foods–ven pongal, or a spicy savory rice and lentil risotto-like dish and chakkara pongal, a sweet brown-sugar and cashew-laden variety. Since it’s sugar-free Jan for me, I did away with the chakkara pongal this time.
While I’m not that big of a rice eater (sorry my South Indian peeps, I’m just not that into rice), I always remember around Pongal how much I like the dish. And just how easy it is.
This year, my husband suggested that we do something different–turn it into a portable appetizer we could take wine tasting with us. within a few mins, I had an idea: I’ve seen/heard of arancini, sicilian risotto balls. I decided this could be a good way to have pongal. I made mine a little healthier than the normal pongal by doubling the lentils in the recipe. I also threw the whole thing in the rice cooker–no fuss, no muss. And healthier than the normal arancini by baking rather than frying.
- 1 Cup rice (i used basmati)
- 1/2 cup moong daal (dried mung beans) (in a later recipe scan, i saw one that went up to a whole cup of lentils and maybe i’ll try this next time)
- 4 cups of water (you want this dish to be soft not like regular rice)
- 1/2 t peppercorns (this makes the dish)
- 1-2 turns of cracked black pepper (some people put a full 1-2 t of black peppercorns, but then you end up picking them out of your mouth)
- 1 t ginger paste or fresh ginger
- 1 t cumin
- 1 t asafoedita
- 6-7 cashews (just a handful) (save til the end don’t put in the rice cooker)
- a stem of curry leaves or 4-5 dried curry leaves
- 1-2 pats of butter or ghee (separated)
- salt to taste ( a few pinches)
- Put all of the ingredients into the rice cooker (just 1 pat of butter and none of the cashews) and let it go. I turned it on and went to bed. When I woke up, I stirred, and voila, we had pongal. Almost.
- While that’s cooking, heat up your butter in a skillet. let it sizzle. You could use ghee but I don’t routinely have that laying around (did I just lose my desi card again? twice in the same post?).
- Add in your cashews and lightly toast them
- Dump that ontop of the pongal mixture and enjoy. Best enjoyed when piping hot.
Now to turn that into aranccini
- 1 1/2 cups of panko breadcrumbs (or any other breadcrumbs you happen to have)
- 1 egg** (possibly not needed)
- 12 t tamarind chutney plus some to dip in afterwards
- mango pickle (optional)
- olive oil spray
- Scoop your pongal into balls using an ice cream scoop (or your hands)
- make a little hole in each ball. spoon in a little tamarind chutney. I put mango pickle (oorugai) into half of mine, but if you do, use just a smidge
- beat your egg.
- dip your pongal ball into the egg and then roll into bread crumbs (**Note i think the pongal is sticky enough that this may not be necessary to get the bread crumbs to stick)
- Place on a baking sheet (i of course lined it with parchment). Spray with cooking spray
- Bake at 350 for about 10-15 mins. You want your coating to get a little brown and a little crispy.
- Serve warm with mango pickle and tamarind chutney