Come January 14, every year, and I start missing Ahmedabad. The city is at its grandest best during the Uttarayan (Pongal in South India) season after all! Chikki, undhiyu, jalebi, kite flying, bonding with family, chilling out in general.. Uttarayan in Ahmedabad is all of this and more. It is something that you have to experience in person, I would say. It is a feeling, something that cannot be effectively described in words.
That said, I am, slowly and gradually, beginning to fall in love with the way Pongal is celebrated in the south of India. Bangalore doesn’t have large-scale, grand celebrations the way Madras does, for Pongal, but there is a good-enough celebration for sure. I love how the markets here seem to come alive with sugarcane and turmeric roots and all kinds of winter veggies, around Pongal. I love how the people here let milk boil over and flow out of a big pot (paal pongardhu, in Tamil), and then proceed to make sweet sakkarai pongal for the family. I love the way turmeric roots are tied around the Pongal pots. I love how some people celebrate Pongal by harvesting the first paddy of the season in their farms, and then go on to use it in their kitchens for the first-ever time to make pongal. As a hard-core foodie, I love how Pongal is a harvest festival, celebrated to thank God for a bountiful harvest and to pray for the same next year. I love how it is an occasion to cook beautiful, beautiful dishes using the loads of veggies that are available this time of the year.
The following pictures are a small representation of the way Pongal is celebrated here, in Bangalore.
This Pongal, Amma made sakkarai pongal and a mixed vegetable kootu for all of us, along with venn pongal (savoury pongal). I wanted to make something loaded with veggies, my way of thanking God for the abundance of vegetables that we get these days, and so, I made a very simple pulao.With Amma’s sakkarai pongal, venn pongal and kootu and my vegetable pulao, we sure had a veritable feast!
This was the first time I made pulao this way, and all of us loved how it turned out. This is definitely not going to be the last time I make it. It tastes awesome, is nutritious, and is a one-pot meal. What more could you ask for from a dish? 🙂
Here’s how I made the pulao.
Ingredients (serves 4):
- 1-1/2 glasses basmati rice (I used Daawat)
- Salt, to taste
- A handful of shelled green peas
- 2 medium-sized tomatoes, finely chopped
- 7-8 French beans, strings removed, chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 1 medium-sized onion, chopped length-wise
- 1 medium-sized carrot, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 2 green chillies, slit length-wise
- About 50 grams of paneer, chopped into cubes
- 1 medium-sized capsicums, chopped
- A handful of fresh double beans
- 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
- 4-5 cloves
- 4-5 cardamom pods (elaichi)
- 2 small bay leaves
- A 1-inch piece of cinnamon
- A few mint leaves
- A few stalks of fresh coriander, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
- 1 tablespoon ghee/butter/oil
- Place the basmati rice in a colander, and wash it thoroughly under running water. Drain out all the excess water. Keep aside.
- Heat the ghee/butter/oil in a pressure cooker bottom. Add in the cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves and cardamom, along with the ginger-garlic paste. Fry for a few seconds.
- Add the paneer, chopped carrot, capsicum, French beans, double beans, green peas, onion and green chillies. Saute for a minute.
- Now, add in the tomatoes, the washed and drained basmati rice, and 2.75 glasses of water.
- Add salt to taste and red chilli powder. Mix well.
- Shred the mint leaves with your hands and add them to the other ingredients. Add some of the chopped coriander as well. Mix.
- Close the pressure cooker and put the whistle on.
- Cook on a high flame for 3 whistles.
- Let the pressure release naturally and then open the cooker. Fluff up the pulao and garnish with the rest of the chopped coriander.
- Serve hot. This pulao doesn’t really need any accompaniment, but you could serve it with raita if you want.
- I commonly use 2 glasses of water per glass of basmati rice, to make plain rice. That comes to 3 glasses of water for 1-1/2 glasses of basmati rice. Since I wanted a grainier pulao, I reduced the quantity of water used. Increase or decrease the amount of water that you use, depending upon the texture of pulao that you want.
- If I am using Sona Masoori rice to make this pulao, I would use about 3.25 glasses of water for 1.5 glasses of rice + the veggies.
- I used the vegetables that I had on hand to make this pulao. You could add or deduct the vegetables that you use, as per your preference.
- I used home-made paneer, which retained its softness even after being pressure cooked. If you are using store-bought paneer and are worried about it becoming stringy with pressure cooking, saute it in a little oil and add it to the pulao later, after it has cooked entirely.
- If you don’t have ginger-garlic paste on hand, you could pound a 1-inch piece of ginger (peeled) and 4-5 cloves of garlic (peeled) in a mortar-and-pestle, and then add this to the hot oil.
- If you want the pulao to be all-white, you could skip the chilli powder entirely and up the quantity of green chillies that you use.
Do you celebrate Pongal in your part of the world? How?
Do you like the sound of this pulao? I hope you will try it out, and that you will love it as much as we did!