We grew up eating the staple dosa (south indian rice pancake) ,chutney and sambhar (lentil side dish) breakfast.On special days there would be piping hot,crisp ullunthu vadais (deep fried savoury donuts) waiting for us at the table (my brother’s favourite) .The one dish that was rarely made at home though was the ven pongal. I’m guessing it was because neither of my parents favoured it but I’m not exactly sure ! As a result it wasn’t a dish that I had a great affinity towards .Though I’ve known friends and family to salivate at the aroma of a well made ven pongal,it wasn’t a dish that I personally gave much thought to.
Though it’sa permanent dish at festive occassions and wedding breakfasts I always ended up giving it a miss.I remember the first time I actually relished a serving of this savoury rice dish. It was with my fellow participants after the first Coimbatore marathon.There we sat perched high above the open space,on the broad cement steps at Nehru stadium feeling mighty pleased with our efforts of that morning, chatting away while savouring every mouth full of the comforting rice and lentil meal. That’s when it occurred to me that this was a great breakfast option for my school goers.
I must mention here that I’m really not much of a rice person.I enjoy eating my hand pounded rice as an accompaniment to my veggies and gravies,not the other way around. So,naturally when it came to adding the ven pongal to my daily food options I was a bit hesitant.Though it was perfect for the children I wasn’t too keen about the rice part for myself.
Then I chanced upon a Pongal mix that was made with millets.It seemed to be just what I was looking for.It contained all natural ingredients, no preservatives and completely supported an organic way of farming. The Timbaktu brand retails at most organic stores in the city and is home delivered by the Bio basics team as well.
The Pongal mix comprised of three varieties. Little millet,fox tail millet and kodo millet. All of these were packaged with the right blend of lentils and spices.The label proclaimed that it needed a minimum cooking time of 15 minutes. After trying it out once we were quite pleased with the result.However to make it a little more creamy,we added a little more dhal the next time around.It was just perfect.In half an hour one could dish up a nutritious meal ! I was pleased as punch that the family liked it just as much.We cooked it in pretty much the same manner by adding curry leaves , peppercorns and a bit of ghee at the very end. The sides however varied depending on the mood of the cook. On some days it was a coconut chutney that was made a tad spicier by adding an additional green chilli.Then there are times when the craving for peanut chutney takes over and only that would do ! But if you ask the children they would say that the extra helpings of the millet pongal would happen most likely on the days when they have their paternal grandmother’s vathal kuzhambhu to feast on !
It’s only been a few months since I introduced this mix for breakfast and it didn’t really occur to me until my daughter said that this would be a perfect one pot dish for a starving student to make especially when away from home.She has awhile to go before she needs to cross that bridge of having to cook for herself but i was happy that the thought process has set in.In order to continue eating healthy,options such as this millet pongal were perfect. After all there’s just so much pasta or sandwiches that one can eat. As far as Indian comfort foods go, this dish figures high on the list. In that regard it’s also an ideal meal for Indians living abroad who find it a challenge to whip up a traditional meal every day !
All these three varieties of millet pongal taste equally good and vary very slightly in terms of colour and texture.They take well to added flavourings.You can vary the consistency to suit your palate by changing the amount of water added for cooking.In fact,the cooking liquid can even be a veggie stock instead of plain water. It’s wholesome , delicious and even the most ardent rice fan will have to admit that it matches up in every way to the traditional ven pongal.