I am too lazy easygoing to keep tabs on when Indian festivals come and go, but thanks to our families back home it is impossible for us to ever miss one.
Every year, just before Diwali, my dad on the phone from Goa starts counting down for my benefit the days leading up to this mother of all Hindu festivals. Patiently (and probably concerned for my agnostic soul) he will explain to me what each day of Diwali signifies and the traditions to be observed for each of those days.
The Pongal Cakes are delicious: it’s like comfort food wrapped in a warm blanket and fuzzy slippers. Best part is, it is still a healthy dish: there is very little oil in this recipe, and — bonus– we leave out the artery-clogging ghee in our vegan version.Here’s the recipe. It’s also a great way to revitalize some leftover Pongal. My next post will be about the other Pongal– the sweet one– also with a slight variation on the original.
A happy Pongal to all the readers of Holy Cow!
Crispy Pongal Cakes
- 1 cup rice (I used Basmati but use any kind, medium being the best choice. You want your Pongal, like your risotto, to be starchy so that it ends up being nice and gooey)
- 1/2 cup mung dal (the yellow kind)
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp cumin seeds , coarsely pounded
- 1 tbsp grated ginger
- 1/4 cup cashew pieces , broken into small bits
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp oil
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 cup rava or sooji
- About 1 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil to pan-fry the cakes.
- Cook the rice and dal together until very soft. I usually do this in a pressure cooker (I add four cups of water and let the cooker go for five minutes after it reaches pressure). But you can also do this on the stovetop. It will take much longer, but it will get there. Make sure you monitor it, like you would a risotto, and add water if it dries up. Pongal by itself can be more gooey, but because you want to shape this into cakes you want a slightly firmer (albeit not dry) consistency.
- Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the cumin, pepper, ginger and cashew and stir until the cashew pieces just start to turn golden. Add this to the rice-mung dal mixture and stir it in until everything's well mixed.
- Once the mixture cools, start shaping your cakes. I press them into balls and then flatten them on the palm of my hand. You don't need a separate binder-- the dal and rice are glutinous enough to hold firm.
- Place the rava in a dish and dredge each cake so you have a light coating on each.
- Heat the oil in a cast-iron or nonstick skillet and add the oil, spreading it evenly in a thin layer.
- Pan-fry the cakes, about two to three minutes each side, or until a golden-brown crust forms.
- Serve hot with the gotsu (recipe below) or with chutney.
Sweet Potato Gotsu
- 1/2 cup mung dal
- 2 sweet potatoes , chopped into 1/2-inch dice
- 2 tsp oil
- 1 tbsp grated ginger
- 3 medium tomatoes , chopped
- 1 tbsp rasam powder
- 1 medium onion , finely chopped
- 2 green chillies
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- Heat 1 tsp of oil and add the onions.
- Stir-fry until the onions start to soften, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the curry leaves, tomatoes and sweet potatoes and stir. Add the ginger, green chillies, and rasam powder and stir together for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add the mung dal and stir well. Now add enough water to cover the dal, season with some salt, and pressure cook or let it cook on the stovetop until the dal and vegetables are really soft.
- Mash the dal with the back of a ladle. Add water if the mixture is too dry.
- Heat the remaining tsp of oil and add the mustard seeds. When they sputter, add the curry leaves. Stir for a few seconds and then add this tempering (or tadka) to the dal mixture.
- Add more salt if needed. Serve hot.
This regal bird was taking a break on our backyard fence one fine morning last week. She’s long flown on to greater adventures, no doubt, but Desi trapped her forever in these gorgeous shots.