Monday, 12 January 2015

Chakkarai Pongal/Gud Pongal/Sweet Pongal

In South India Especially in Tamil Nadu, Pongal or Harvest Festival is celebrated for three days... as in different parts of India like Lohri in Punjab, Bihu in Assam, makar sankranti in Karnataka and Gujarat, The whole reason for celebration is to harvest new crops an thank nature elements like rains, soil and so on for good crops.
The first day in down south it is called Bhogi..the day is house is cleaned and beautiful rongolis are decorated and everything kept ready for the celebration next day.
The next day the crops harvested, especially the newly harvested rice crop  is cooked in new vessel, the vessel is tied with fresh turmeric and kumkum and cooked on wood fire..the newly harvested rice is cooked as pongal with very mild and subtle flavours. 
Both sweet and bland version of pongal is cooked.
The next day some have tradition of kanu pandigai or festival is celebrated, to strengthen  the bonds of brothers and sisters.
The left over sweet and spicy pongal, red kumkum rice, curd rice are place on a banana leaf on five sides along with fresh turmeric, orange slices, sugarcane pieces, fresh green chickpeas and then offered to cow.
Some parts like Karnataka and Gujarat, kite competition is organised and also cows are bathed, smeared with turmeric and make them to jump fire to ward off evil.
But the very Important dish being the Pongal, today I am sharing chakkarai pongal or sweet(gud/jaggery) Pongal.
This recipe is from my FIL's family passed to daughters-in-law for fourteen generations.
This is the same recipe of sweet pongal, which is prepared to offer, Lord Cheluva Narayana in Melukote. Our Family has been offering this sweet dish to lord from more hundred and fifty years now. We Provide all the raw ingredients to the temple priest on the D-day and he cooks to perfection on wood fire for six to seven hours and then offered to Lord.
This dish remains on your kitchen table top stays good for more than a month...
So here I share the secret. I warn you that you need lot of patience and time to cook this and the right measurement.

Raw Rice - 1 cup, washed and soaked for an hour,
Moong Daal - 1/2 cup,
Ghee -  1/2 to 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon,
Jaggery - 3 cups,
Raisins - 1/4 cup,
Cashew - 1/4 cup,
Cardamom Powder - 1 teaspoon heaped,
Edible Camphor - a dot,
Good Quality Saffron - 1/2 gram,
Dry Grated Coconut/Copra - 1/2 cup.

In a thick bottom pan heat a table spoon ghee, add moong daal (no need to wash) and roast it in medium low flame until it is golden brown.
Add 3 cups of boiling water and allow to cook until mushy.
Then drain water from rice and add to the pan, and cook until a bit mushy.
Add more hot water required to cook rice.
Now by this time grate your jaggery and keep ready..
While choosing jaggery, taste it, you will know if it is too salty and light in colour do not choose it, it surely makes a difference to your end product in its taste and colour.
The jaggery has to be dark in colour and less salt content.
After grating it, dissolve in few tablespoons of hot/cold water and strain it.
This is to ensure that all the impurities in the jaggery are removed.
Once the rice is cooked to a bit mushy consistency,  add this jaggery water into the rice mixture.
Lower the flame, you need a lot of patience at this point, mix well and keep stirring.
You have to cook in low flame upto the point, when the mixture thickens, to make sure you have reached correct the consistency, is to place the stirring spoon in the middle of the mixture.
The spoon has to stand straight without moving an inch, stand firm in the middle of the mixture.
This would take for a cup of rice, for 1 and 1/2 hours to 2 hours to reach this consistency.
So be patient..the end product is all worth it.
Now start pouring ghee little by little..What I mean here is add a little ghee, stir it and wait for the mixture to absorb while you stir it constantly.
Once the ghee absorbs and then add little more. Continue to do this until the ghee oozes out of the mixture.
Now add grated coconut, edible camphor,saffron and cardamom powder and mix well.
In a pan, add two teaspoons of ghee and fry cashew and raisins and add to the sweet pongal and stir well.
Serve warm and enjoy!!!!!!
Happy Pongal!!!!!!!!!