Tasty Vegetable Pongal

Pongal [Pon – gul, rhymes with sea-gull] is a classic one item meal most popular as a breakfast in South India. It would not be an overstatement to say that most South Indians would have eaten it at least once. Here I present what I consider a slightly offbeat variation of the commonly known recipe, the origin of which goes somewhat like this.
I was in Dubai this May and as a frazzled mom of a toddler who was on a hunger strike for what seemed like days, I was all ears for any trick that showed the slightest chances of working. So, while sharing each other’s motherhood experiences, my co-sister ((India) one’s husband’s brother’s wife) suggested using okra in the traditional Pongal as one of the toddler pleasing food ideas. Okra in Pongal is not instantly intuitive, you think? I had heard it the first time too, but I was ready to give it a shot if my tiny one opened her mouth. I tried this recipe at the first chance I got to cook for her and lo and behold, she liked it and finished the plate too.
I do not know if it was only to do with the Okra, but she ate and that’s what counts. If you have a trying toddler like mine you are most likely nodding by now. Go ahead and try and let me know if you got a seal of approval from yours. For those of you who have never eaten Pongal once or eaten the original one a gazillion times, whatever your excuse, it sure is worth a try.
The recipe here is adapted for the serving size needs of a toddler and yields about 2 – 3 servings depending upon his/her appetite.

Things’s you’ll need:
  • 2 okra / Lady’s finger finely chopped
  • 1/2 Carrot finely chopped
  • 5-6 stems Dill weed chopped (Sapsige soppu, kannada)
  • 1/2 medium tomato finely chopped
  • 1/4 Onion minced
  • 1/8 cup Split yellow dal (Split Moong dal)
  • 1/8 cup Rice
  • 1/4 tsp Turmeric
  • 1 tsp Cumin seeds (Jeera)
  • Ground Black pepper to taste (optional)
  • 4 Cashews coarsely crushed
  • 2 -3 tsp Ghee (Clarified Butter)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups Water
How it’s done:
  • Dry roast the rice and dal until rice turns opaque and dal turns light golden making sure not to burn them. Alternatively, microwave the rice and dal for a 1 to 1- 1 /2 mins checking in between. Optionally, a drizzle of ghee can be used for roasting the rice and dal mix.
  • Heat ghee in a pressure cooker, when it is hot enough add the cumin seeds and let it crackle. Add in the cashews.
  • When the cashews turn light golden, sauté the minced onions along with turmeric.
  • When the onion turns translucent, add in the okra and sauté till the okra is no longer sticky.
  • Add in the chopped carrots and dill weed and sauté for a few more minutes.
  • Finally add in the chopped tomato, sauté and add ground pepper and salt to taste.
  • To this, add the roasted rice and dal mix and stir for few more minutes till all the veggies stick well to the rice.
  • Now add the water, cover and pressure cook until at least 3 whistles.
  • When the cooker cools, serve with a drizzle of ghee.

Rice and Yellow dal microwave roasted

Veggies ready for the Pongal
Rice, dal and vegetable mixture before pressure cooking
  • Do not let the ghee smoke or burn. If that happens, discard and restart (I know it feels terrible to waste ghee!)
  • For more servings, increase the vegetable proportions and just add water 6 times that of rice & dal mix to yield a soft and porridge like Pongal. Example, for 1 cup of mix i.e, 1/2 and 1/2 cup of rice and yellow dal, add 6 cups of water.
  • A small pressure cooker say of 2 or 3 liters is very handy to cook small quantities especially for “toddler only” food.

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