Oats Pongal with Dried Cranberries and Toasted Coconut

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. Continue reading

Oats Pongal

Pongal is in a genre of rice porridge made in parts of South India, often with some lentils added. Usually eaten at breakfast, it’s a savoury porridge. Though I’ve always enjoyed it when I’ve had it, it’s not something I’ve been very drawn to in the past and in recent years I’ve been trying to limit my white rice intake in order to try to make a dent in my high triglyceride levels. Related concerns have also had me trying to increase my consumption of oats. But every time I try to make a habit of eating a bowl of oatmeal every morning I run out of steam in about a week. I’ve tried counter-programming with oats upma (upma with roasted oats in place of sooji/rava) but for whatever reason that never feels like breakfast food to me. However, about 10 days ago when I posted a picture of my latest iteration of oats upma on Facebook a friend recommended I try making oats pongal as well. She gave me her basic recipe which I tinkered with a little bit and now present here. I am not exaggerating when I say that I actually look forward to eating this every morning. Continue reading

Pulao with Cranberries and Pine Nuts

Pulao with Cranberries and Pine Nuts
I’ve previously posted a recipe for a Bengali-style sweet pulao with whole “garam masala” and raisins. Today I have a somewhat different version. It riffs on some different pulaos I’ve had in different parts of India—from Kashmir and elsewhere in the north it borrows the use of pine nuts; the use of tart dried cranberries pays homage to the berry pulao of Irani and Parsi restaurants in Bombay. Like all good pulaos it places these ingredients in supporting roles to the rice. Pulaos, in my opinion, are about the fragrance of good basmati rice (this is, of course, a North Indian prejudice—Basmati is not used much elsewhere in India) and that fragrance should not be suppressed or muddied by other overly strong flavours. The subtle nuttiness of pine nuts complements the basmati perfectly, the cranberries add a tart-sweet counterpoint, and a bit of mint brightens it all up. Give it a go: it works wonderfully with rich curries (like this korma, for example) but also just by itself. Continue reading

Sweet Pulao

Sweet Pulao
Here’s a very simple Indian recipe for a change, for pulao (puh-lao), or pee-laff, as most Americans call it. You could think of it as biryani’s vegetarian cousin, even though that’s probably not very historically accurate. What I mean is both that there is of course such a thing as vegetarian biryani and that the earliest subcontinental references to pulao seem to indicate rice and meat cooked together. You could, however, more accurately think of it as biryani’s more laid-back cousin, as it’s generally much easier and less time-consuming to make. Can you think of it as Indian fried rice? Well, some people will get very upset if you do: Chinese-style fried rice generally involves steamed rice that’s then fried with other things, whereas pulao usually involves rice cooked with other things that have been fried or sauteed. What you absolutely should not think of it as is as a dish with any sort of fixed recipe: there are various iterations up and down the subcontinent and every home kitchen probably adds an idiosyncratic twist.  Continue reading