Sarkarai Pongal (Sweetened Rice)


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We celebrated pongal (the harvest festival) a week back. Leisurely posting the recipe a week later, that is how “fast” I am. Well, next year I can republish this post right on time, so I am happy for next year ;). Sarkarai Pongal is a very traditional, very basic and a very simple dessert, often offered in temples or made in homes on auspicious days. But don’t let that restrict you, this makes a great dessert for any day or any party. Another popular variation of this dish is “Akkara Vadisal” where rice is cooked in milk instead of water.

Making this sweet pongal involves only four basic steps. Cook rice, make brown sugar syrup, mix rice and syrup, add some roasted nuts and raisins. Child’s play , right ? It is really that simple. Hopefully, the tips I give below are helpful in simplifying the already simple recipe.

To make the sweet pongal, you will need :

  1. Uncooked rice – 1 cup (any kind is good)
  2. Moong Dal or split green gram – 1/4 cup
  3. Jaggery/Vellam/Dark Brown sugar – 1 cup
  4. Water (to cook rice) – 4 cups
  5. Water (for syrup – 1/4 cup)
  6. Cardamom powder – 4 tsp
  7. Cashew nuts – 3 tbsp
  8. Raisins – 2 tbsp
  9. Ghee / Melted Butter – 4 tbsp
  • First, we have to get the rice ready. In a pan or a pressure cooker, heat 2 tbsp of ghee or butter and roast the moong dal (green gram).

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  • Rinse rice and add ¬†rice to the pan and mix well that each grain is coated with ghee.

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  • Rice and dal mixture has to be well cooked to really soft consistency, so double up the quantity of water used. Add 4 cups of water and 2 tsp of cardamom powder and cook the rice and dal until soft. When rice is cooked , mash it gently with the back of a spatula. (If not using pressure cooker, you will have to add more water).

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  • Now to make the brown sugar syrup, mix 1 cup of brown sugar in 1/4 cup of water and heat until the sugar completely dissolves in water.

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  • If you are using jaggery/vellam it is important to make sure the syrup is free of any impurities, so filter the sugar solution using a clean cloth. I used a wet bounty paper towel, it gets the job done.

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  • Now, put the clean syrup back on heat and bring it to a boil. You are looking for 1-string consistency, but when your syrup comes to a good rolling boil, you can be sure its there.

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  • Add the syrup to the cooked rice and dal and mix thoroughly.

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  • Now , for the last step : In a separate pan , add a tbsp of ghee/butter , and fry the cashews and raisins to golden brown and add to the rice.

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Add the last spoon of ghee right before serving, and your sweet pongal is ready to be served to the king/queen in you ūüôā

Some pointers :

  • Instead of making syrup, you can directly add the ¬†brown sugar to rice. But I do not prefer that method, as the brown sugar tastes raw in the final pongal. Adding the syrup gives a well rounded taste.
  • I have only used cardamom powder, you can also add nutmeg, ground cinnamom or a pinch of ground ginger to elevate the flavors.
  • It is not very appealing when it is in a soupy consistency, often confusing the eater if its pongal or payasam (kheer). It should be in the”sticky rice” consistency.
  • Use milk to cook the rice instead of water and make a much creamier version of this pongal, which is also called as “Akkara Vadisal”.

Treat yourself to this yumminess effortless !!!!!!

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Halwa


This decadent sweet that melts in your mouth ,filling your body and soul with sweetness is made slightly different in different parts of India. This recipe is a version of the famous southern “Tirunelveli Halwa”.

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All purpose flour – 1 cup
sugar – 1.5 cups
cashew nuts
ghee – I/2 cup
cardamom powder and food color

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Knead the flour to a dough by adding water.

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Soak the dough in 1/2 cup of water and set aside for 30 minutes.

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After 30 minutes squeeze the dough in water and a milk like liquid comes out.¬†If you are wondering why we shouldn’t just mix the flour and water to the consistency of milk….there is a reason.

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When you filter the liquid from the previous step, you will be left with the solid shown in the purple bowl. Throw it away. ¬†If we had just mixed the flour with water it wouldn’t be possible to separate this solid and it will make the halwa very gummy.
You can skip all the above steps by soaking the whole wheat in water,  grinding it and filtering to take the wheat milk out.

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Set the wheat milk aside for 7-8 hours. I usually leave it overnight. After 8 hours, there will be some water separation.

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The water that has separated can be used to make the sugar syrup.
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Mix the sugar in the water and heat. (preferably use a non-stick pan).

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Add the cardamom powder and food color (orange or yellow).

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We are looking for the 1 string consistency . But when you see the sugar syrup boiling and bubbling….its time.¬†Pour in the flour milk.

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Keep stirring, things will progress very fast from here, so do not leave the scene .

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You will notice the liquid thickening into transparent lumps..

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When it starts sticking to the bottom add ghee..little at a time.

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Fry the cashews in 1 tsp ghee. Fold in the cashews.

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When the halwa rolls like a ball easily without sticking to the bottom or sides ..you know its done.

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Transfer it to a greased dish. (Notice the ghee in the bottle. I started with the full bottle and have used about 1/3 rd of it. )

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The halwa should be easily transferrable. If it sticks too much then its not done yet. If it happens, all you have to do is, heat it for another 3-4 minutes as needed. It seems like a lot of steps, but its quite easy. Hope you try this.

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Mysorepak


Mysorepak is one such sweet , that you can’t just read a recipe, do it and get it right. There is a rhythm to the making of it and you have to do atleast a couple of times to find your own and make mysorepaks with the melt in your mouth texture and yet not like a burfi. I had the hardest time taking pics for this recipe as in the last 5 minutes things happen really fast , and managing the camera and the stirring was a challenge. However, I hope if you are looking for a mysorepak recipe this could help you.Image
Besan (chick peas flour)- 1 cup
Sugar – 2 cups
water – 1/2 cup
Ghee – 1 cup
flavorless oil – 1 cup(I like the mix of ghee and oil, when you use just ghee, the texture doesn’t come right…it comes out very soft , like a burfi. And we won’t be fully using the 2 cups of ghee and oil mix, but its always better to have this amount on hand ready, coz’ while making the mysorepak, if you need more ghee/oil…it would be too late.)Image

Mix 1 cup of ghee and 1 cup of oil and heat it to smoking hot, then lower down the flame and keep it in ‘sim’ until the mysorepak is done. The key is that it should be hot, not warm.Image
Heat 3 tbsp of oil (you can take some from ghee+oil mix) and add it to the besan. The oil has to be hot enough so that you hear a sizzle and you can also see it bubbling when you add to the besan. Do not skip this step, this takes the raw smell out of besan.Image
Mix the oil well with the besan, try to break the lumps with spoon, but do not worry much about them. I always add it like this, the lumps smooth out in the syrup anyways.Image
Grease the plate you will be pouring the mysorepak in at the end.Image
I have one heavy bottomed pot to make the mysorepak and the ghee+oil pot in the nearby burner (keep it hot)Image
Add the sugar and water to the pot to make the syrup.Image
Stir until sugar completely dissolves.¬†The consistency we are looking for is 1-string. But you don’t have to check the string. when you see the sugar boiling like this, it is 1-string consistency.Image
Add the besan to the syrup. You will see lumps now…but do not worry about that.keep stirring for a couple of minute before you start to add ghee.Image
Pour a big spoon of hot ghee+oil to the mix. Ofcourse, you have to hear the sizzle and you will see the hot ghee cooking the top layer instantly.Image
Mix well until the ghee is absorbed. Keep adding ghee and keep stirring.Image
The mixture will take in all the ghee you are adding. Notice the smooth texture…Image
Notice how the texture is becoming flaky, its the beginning of the end .Image
Slowly the ghee+oil will start oozing out of the mixture. Image
The mixture will not stick to the bottom anymore.Image
When it rolls easily into one big lump you know its done…if you leave it on heat any longer, it will start to brown/burn.Image
Quickly transfer the mysorepak to the greased plate….the mysorepak will continue to cook.
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Smooth the top without pressing too hard, the top layer will look rough….that’s how mysorepak is.Image
Mark lines when it is still warm. But you can wait for it cool down before you cut them into pieces.Image
The cooking time, from making the syrup to pouring the finished mysorepak to the greased plate won’t be more than 10 – 12 mins. But those 10 mins definitely need your undivided attention.¬† Good luck !Image

Rum Raisin Pumpkin Cake


This is a fusion of pumpkin bread and the Indian Christmas cake otherwise called as plum cake.Image
 
Flour – 3.5 cups
Sugar – 3 cups
Cooking oil – 1 cup
water – 2/3 cup
Eggs – 4
pumpkin – 8 oz can
Baking soda – 2 tsp
Baking powder – 1 tsp
Salt – 2tsp
pumpkin pie spice mix – 4 tsp

If you do not have pumpkin pie spice mix, you can use :

cinnamon – 1 tsp
clove – 1 tsp
nutmeg – 1 tsp
allspice – 1 tspImage

 
For the rum raisin part :

Take 1 cup of raisins. You can also add other dried fruits or dates.Image

 
Coat the raisins with flour.Image
 
Soak the raisins in 1/2 cup of rum and leave it overnight. You can use up to 1 cup of rum.Image
 
Quick roast some walnuts in microwave and chop them.Image
 
Sift the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice mix and salt) together.Image
 
Blend the oil and sugar.Image
 
Beat in one egg at a time.Image
 
After blending in all four eggs, add the pumpkin.Image
 
Add the combined flour in three batches alternating with water.Image
 
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Stir in the rum-soaked raisins and chopped walnuts.Image
 
Grease and dust a cake pan. You can also use loaf pans.Pour the cake mix into the pan and bake at 350 degrees. It took little over an hour to get done. If you are using loaf pans, it will take less time.Image
 
Serve with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream or just the cake on its own.
(You can use mashed bananas instead of pumpkin, but the banana cakes usually come out denser than the pumpkin cakes.)Image