The month of Aadi(as per Tamil calender) or Aashad is a very auspicious one in South India as it marks the beginning of festivals which begin with Ganesh Chaturthi and Janmashtami and goes up to Pongal in January which is the month of Thai(Tamil) or Paush. The Chakkara Pongal is considered to be the prime offering to the Mother Goddess. This sweet Pongal is also the offering to the Sun God on the Makara Shankranti day/Pongal festival.
This being the Aadi month I made Chakkara Pongal too and it came out well as always. But there is a lot to tell about the proportions and how I arrived at the current one after a lot of hit and trial methods. Is it that tough you may ask? Certainly not. In fact, it is the most simple one provided the right proportions of Rice, Dal, and jaggery is used.
Chakkara Pongal was my favourite sweet dish as a child(the only one I liked as I was not fond of sweets, now I like most of them) and I would get my mom to make it frequently. As I grew older I learnt to make it from my mother and eventually my mother in law. I believed our’s was the best Chakkara Pongal as compared to most South Indian households(as it is very common to make it here often) until I had it as prasad(offering) in a temple around 10 years ago and that Chakkara Pongal wowed me. I so fell in love with that taste and it was unlike any other Sweet Pongal I had tasted before. From then on started my quest for the right proportions to make this recipe. I asked a lot many people of the proportions they used, I browsed many websites to check out the best recipe, and also tried all these whenever I made the Sweet Pongal but “that” one recipe always eluded me. It is not even that this recipe has many ingredients, whatever it is we have to play around the proportions of Rice, dal(moong dal/ Chana dal) and Jaggery. So I tried many permutations and combinations until I arrived at the current one. I have used the one-pot method, but the same recipe works well for pot in pot method too. Hope you all will find it easy to prepare and also delicious. Looking forward to your comments.
Dry roast the Moong dal until light brown on a low flame. In a vessel take the rice and add the roasted moong dal to it. Wash the rice and dal together and put them in the cooker. Pour 4 cups water and cook for 5 to 6 whistles. Once the pressure releases mash the rice and dal nicely with the back of a ladle or masher. Set aside. Take the jaggery in a vessel or pan and add 1/4 cup water. Switch on the flame to low and dissolve the jaggery until it froths up. switch off and cool for 5 minutes(the jaggery mixture can be prepared when the rice is cooking, it will save time later). Now strain the liquid jaggery directly into the mashed rice-dal mixture in the cooker. Switch on the flame, add 1/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup water. Stir the mixture nicely and cook on low fire for 5 minutes or until the Pongal comes together and the jaggery is not runny anymore. Switch off the flame. In a tempering Kadai take 1 tbsp ghee and heat. Add the Cashewnuts and fry, followed by raisins. Pour this mixture on the cooked Pongal and also add the cardamom powder, raw camphor and the nutmeg powder(optional). Pour the remaining ghee over the Pongal. The delicious Pongal is ready. Enjoy. Bon Appetit.
STEPWISE RECIPE FOLLOWS:
1. Assemble all ingredients.
2. Dry roast moong dal over a low flame until light brown.
3. Take the rice and roasted dal in a vessel and wash nicely and put them in the cooker.
4. Add 4 cups water and cook for 5 to 6 whistles. While the rice is cooking take the jaggery in another pan/vessel and add 1/4 cup water and put it on the flame. On low flame dissolve the jaggery and allow to boil until it froths around 2 minutes from dissolving. Switch off the flame.
5. Once the pressure in the cooker releases, strain the liquid jaggery over the rice – dal mixture in the cooker. Pour 1/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup water(warm) and stir nicely such that the jaggery is well mixed with the contents in the cooker, add 1 tbsp sugar. Let it cook for 5 minutes on low flame. The Pongal will come together as a nice gooey mixture. Switch off the flame.
6. In a tempering Kadai or pan add 1 tbsp of ghee and heat. Add in the halved cashew nuts and fry, followed by raisins until they fluff up. Add the cardamom powder, and a pinch of raw camphor(a mini pinch of nutmeg powder too if using). Drop the ghee with nuts and raisins into the Pongal. Top up with remaining ghee. The delicious Chakkara Pongal is ready to serve.
1. I have used 1 cup jaggery, but depending on the sweetness of the jaggery the amount may vary by 1/4 cup.
2. Adding a spoon of sugar to any jaggery based sweet dish they say helps in the jaggery getting integrated into the dish and raises the taste they say. So I have always followed this.
3. Edible Camphor and Nutmeg powder should be used sparingly and only the mentioned amounts. Using more makes the dish bitter.
4. A trick I learnt from my mother in law is to always pour the ghee in the end on top of the sweet dish while it is hot and to not stir it in completely. So when you scoop out the sweet dish the ghee on top will automatically flow down, so you actually won’t have to flood the dish with a lot of ghee.
5. Adding the ghee while it is still hot helps in even spread of the ghee on the dish. Don’t mix the ghee after pouring on the Sweet dish, it makes it heavy and also the dish will keep absorbing how much ever you pour.
If you tried my method of the Chakkara Pongal and liked it please comment below. I would love to hear from you.