This dish is associated with the four-day harvest festival called Pongal, celebrated in the South of India in mid January. It is mainly celebrated in the state of Tamil Nadu and eating this sweet rice dish is an intrinsic part of the festivities.
- 80 g (⅓ cup) moong dahl (yellow split peas)
- 1 litre (4 cups) water
- 200 g (1 cup) basmati rice
- 180 g (1 cup) shaved jaggery
- 250 ml (1 cup) milk
- large pinch saffron threads
- large pinch ground cardamom
- pinch ground cloves
- 60 ml (¼ cup) ghee
- 50 g (⅓ cup) cashew pieces
- 55 g (⅓ cup) raisins
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Combine the dahl and 875 ml (3¾ cups) of the water in a large saucepan. Cover and bring to the boil then cook for 15 minutes or until nearly soft. Quickly add the rice, stirring to combine it well then cover the pan and cook for another 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed and the rice is very tender.
Meanwhile, combine the jaggery with the remaining water in a small saucepan and slowly bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the mixture is smooth. Stir the jaggery syrup into the rice mixture with the milk and spices and stir to combine well. Bring to a boil then cook over medium heat, stirring often, for about 8-10 minutes or until the liquid has reduced and the mixture has thickened. (You can adjust the thickness according to taste, depending on how long you boil the mixture for.)
Heat the ghee in a small frying pan, add the cashews and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until cashews are light golden. Add the raisins and cook for another minute or until the raisins just change colour. Divide the warm rice mixture among bowls and spoon the cashews, raisins and ghee over the top.
Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Sarah O'Brien.