Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Week That Was - 2

The Week That Was 2 (continuation of last week)

Kaval Deivam - Village Deity

Kaval Deivam - Village Deity

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Monday, January 14, 2019

Samai Ven Pongal - Millet and Lentils Savory Rice - In an Instant Pot

Pongal is by far one of my favorite festivals. If you have connections to a farming community that is how it will always be if you still live in India or not. I am lucky this time I will be home for the Pongal holidays. Pongal is the harvest festival celebrated in the Tamil month of Thai.

Wish you all a Very Happy Pongal!

Pongal is made to pay respects to the Sun God or called Surya Pongal and for the celebration of the cattle in the farm called Mattu Pongal. The 4 day long Pongal festival has Surya Pongal on the 2nd and the Mattu Pongal on the 3rd days.

Usually Pongal is made with freshly harvested rice but here we will add a twist and make Pongal with millets which is also a very important staple grown in the arid parts where there is scarcity of water. Renewed interest in millets is helping farmers in the drier parts of the states of Tamilnadu, AndhraPradesh, Karnataka and Telegana and leading to bio diversity of food crops. Water hungry crops like wheat and rice and the popularity of rice over traditional millets also put a big burden on farmers living in the arid regions of these states and not able to make a living. So it is fantastic that millets are making a comeback as a health food which goes a great way in adding diversity to the foods that are being eaten.

Millets are considered the poor man's food which in a status conscious society like India probably lead to its loss of popularity. Now that the rich man's diet has lead to suffering from diseases everyone is taking a more positive look at millets as a way to improve health and also awareness for sustainably grown cereals increases. While 2018 was declared as the 'Year of the Millets' let us hope that millets will continue to be patronized by a lot more people.

We all know that white rice is nutritionally unable to compete with millets and also adding a diversity of grains and cereals to the diet should be as important as watching calories. We try to use white, red and brown rice in our diets but millets surprisingly compete equally in taste in our house and much better liked than rice. While sourcing millets is hard because of the non availability in food stores in the US we manage to use it by carrying it with us whenever we can.

They are fantastic to be eaten with a lot of curries and in making popular rice based dishes like ven pongal. The slightly off color of the millets is because it is not polished. Samai/Samao or little millet is almost white in color but if it is not polished it looks slightly browner in color.

Using an Instant Pot or Pressure cooker we can make soft and delicious ven pongal in no time. The Pressure cooker version of this recipe is here. The sweet millet Pongal should also be enjoyed this Pongal season.

Ven Pongal can be served with coconut chutney or pulikuzhambu.

Set the Instant Pot in Saute mode and Normal setting.
Add ghee and when hot add in the mustard seeds and cumin seeds.
Add the required amount of water and add the millet, moong dal and salt.
Close the lid and in Manual mode set 12 minutes. In a small pan heat ghee and roast the cashews.
Let the pressure subside by itself, when it flashes L followed by a number it is in the warming cycle. Let the pressure subside normally and open the Instant Pot.
Add the cashews and mix it in.

Serve with some puli kuzhambu.

Saamai Ven Pongal - Millet and Lentils Savory Rice
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
  1. 1 cup of Saami or Little Millet (any millet can be used)
  2. 1/2 cup of split yellow moong dal or paasi paruppu
  3. 1/2 tbsp fresh ginger grated
  4. 4-5 green chilies finely chopped
  5. 1/2 tbsp of freshly ground pepper powder
  6. 1/4 cup of cashews (optional, skip for nut free)
  7. 1 tbsp + 1 tsp of ghee (replace with any oil of choice)
  8. salt to taste
  9. seasonings: cumin seeds, curry leaves and mustard seeds

  1. Wash the millets in several changes of water and set aside. Each cup of millet requires 3 1/2 cups of water for the creamy texture.
  2. Put the Instant Pot in 'Saute' mode and adjust settings to 'Normal'. When the Instant Pot flashes Hot add in the ghee.
  3. Add in the mustard seeds and cumin seeds, when you hear the mustard pop add the curry leaves, ginger and green chilies, saute for 30 seconds and add in the pepper powder followed by the required amount of water for the millet to cook.
  4. Now add the rinsed out millet and salt and close the Instant Pot and put it Manual setting for 12 minutes. After 12 minutes you can turn off the Instant Pot or leave it on in the warming setting till the pressure releases naturally.
  5. While the millet is cooking, heat a small pan with the tsp of ghee and roast the cashews till they are golden brown and set aside.
  6. Once the releases naturally open the Instant Pot, add in the roasted cashews mix and serve.

Ven Pongal can be served with some coconut chutney or tamarind based kuzhambu.

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