Late last year I posted a recipe for pongal made with oats. That recipe was a take on my friend Pradnya’s recipe, which was itself an adaptation of a rice-based pongal from the cookbook, Dakshin. I’ve been making various iterations of that pongal for breakfast ever since—it beats a bowl of oatmeal in the American style any day of the week as far as I’m concerned. A couple of months ago I randomly improvized a more savoury version for lunch. My description of it caused a Tamil friend to pretend to faint in mock horror—this because I made it with dried cranberries, which are certainly not a traditional ingredient. It may not in fact be the only complaint that people who actually have cultural ties to pongal—which as a Bengali I don’t—have with this recipe. To them I say, just call it porridge if you prefer; but do give it a go: you’ll probably like it. Then again, for all I know, it actually resembles a traditional preparation quite closely. Indian foodways are wide and varied and it’s very hard to come up with anything truly new.
Ingredients (to make four servings)
For the porridge
- 1 cup quick cooking oats
- 3 tblspns split moong dal
- 5 cups water
For the tempering
- 1/2 tspn black mustard seeds
- 1/2 tspn hulled and split urad dal
- 1/2 tspn channa dal
- 1 large dried red chilly
- 3 tblspns raw peanuts (sans peel)
- 1/2 a red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tspn fresh ginger, grated
- 2 tblspns dried cranberries
- 1/2 tspn cumin seeds and 1/2 tspn black peppercorns powdered coarsely in a mortar and pestle
- 2 tblspns ghee
For the garnish
- 2 tblspns shredded dessicated coconut
- 1 tblspn ghee
- Dry roast the unwashed moong dal over medium heat for a few minutes till you get a warm nutty aroma—the dal should not darken.
- Now rinse the dal and add the oatmeal and water to the sauce pan, bring to a boil and cook, partially covered, over medium-low heat until it becomes a thick but still easily pourable porridge.
- While the porridge is cooking make the tempering as follows:
- Heat 2 tblspns of ghee over medium heat and and add the mustard seeds, urad dal, channa dal and the dried red chilly.
- As soon as the mustard seeds start popping add the onions and ginger and cook till the onions just begin to brown.
- Then add the peanuts and salt and saute till the peanuts begin to darken.
- Add the dried cranberries and saute till they begin to plump up
- Add the coarsely powdered cumin and black pepper. Stir it all together to mix, add to the porridge and stir it thoroughly.
- Leave the porridge to simmer and in a small pan heat the remaining tblspn of ghee and saute the dried coconut over medium-low heat till it is golden brown and richly nutty in fragrance.
- Take the porridge off the heat and pour the coconut over the top. Stir it in before serving.
- As you can see if you compare this recipe with the previous the difference is just of some plus and minus of ingredients. But those pluses and minuses are significant. The interplay between the spices, the sourness of the cranberries and the rich nutty sweetness of the coconut is really very nice. And there’s a nice blend of textures as well.
- And though I described this as a dish for lunch you could certainly eat it for breakfast too—though it’s a lot to pull together in the morning for one as slow to fully wake up as me.
- Also, if you don’t have cashew allergies in your home, this pongal will probably be even better with cashews rather than peanuts. However, to really give my cranberry-phobic friend the hives I think I’ll next make it with pine nuts…