Now pongal is something that sadly we make only during the pongal festival. It is not unlike the rice pudding that is commonly offered as a dessert option in the west ! My experience with making the sweet version or the sakkarai pongal as we call it ,here in TamilNadu has been only post marriage. Having watched mum follow the pongal ritual year after year,it was my turn once to do so ,after setting up a home of my own. A practice that I was only too happy to continue given the symbolism of it all. Now ,it has grown to become a very special part of my adult life and I cannot thank my mum and grandmum,enough, for instilling these values into me ! It’s these thoughts that led to me being able to write this article ,for the hindu , which was published on pongal day …I could not be more grateful !
The recipe that I give you ,is an approximate of my eye hand measurements. The rice here is cooked to a squidgy consistency and that’s what makes this dish so comforting. I have found that using the best quality of natural sugar makes an enormous difference. In India it’s known as jaggery /gur /karumbu sakkarai etc…Traditionally this was also made fresh in farms with newly harvested sugarcane and therefore added to the rice before offering it to the sun. There are farms that still continue to follow this practice but sadly ,they are a mere handful in comparison to the past ! The usage of natural sugars gives it not only it’s lovely golden colour but a real depth of flavour. It’s more than just the sweetness you get from refined sugar ,it’s a molassey goodness that is rich in minerals and gives a full bodied taste. I do think ,made with brown ,black or other varities of wild rice ,it can be a great dessert option,which I plan to implement the next time I have guests ! Depending on the kind of rice and sugar ,this can easily be one of the healthier dessert options !
As you can see,this picture has 3 kinds of sweet rice. They are made the exactly the same way ,with slight variations. My older off spring is partial to the white one which is made with rock candy sugar or kalkandu and milk. This contains no jaggery. My younger one as is usually the case ,prefers the golden sweet pongal. Even if I have to make it on non festival days ,I would still be inclined to use a mud pot or a brass vessel as ,I truly feel ,this adds to the final taste ! It will also add a charm to the dining table,without a doubt ! The two pots of sakkarai pongal are the same except for the addition of lentils in one. The lentils or dhal add a sort of a pasty texture to the sakkarai pongal. I am partial to the plain sakkarai pongal without the lentils. Cardamom is not welcomed by the young palates in our home,so ,you won’t find it mentioned in the recipe. Please,do go ahead and add some ,if you prefer to do so…
For the kalkandu saadham (White sweet rice)
After the rice is cooked ,add the same quantity of powdered rock candy and 1 or 2 cups of milk and let it simmer on a slow flame until well amalgamated.
Instead of the jaggery ,we substitue with rock candy ,which must be powdered finely. The milk gives it the pudding taste and a mellow sweet flavour .
Mud pots of various sizes are available. Wash them well and leave them overnight ,half filled with water . Drain the water the next day before using it on the hob. This recipe is simple ,delicious and can even be that special dish that you carry when visiting a loved one !