The reStore Food Blog

January 8, 2011

About the blog

reStore presents a blog about good food, spiced with references to tradition, rituals, specifics of agriculture and of course, nutrition. The format planned is more of cooking clinic, where we try to resolve cooking problems that most annoy you. On really dull days, we will look at the less annoying ones. 🙂
As reStore is a community supported endeavour, we welcome any and all contributions to this blog, including comments, corrections, experiences and fresh recipes.
Do share your experiences and questions. Together, we will find a way to a healthy, organic life.

Jan 8

We are now around the winter solstice, a time when every culture manages to celebrate something or the other. Some researchers do claim it is the Sun that is worshiped universally. Perhaps.
It is, after all, the only star that we earthlings know somewhat intimately.

To us, what we see is the universal reach out to warmth, hope and renewal. Don’t we all need a dose of this holy trinity?

One way to affirm this is through our own South Indian, Sweet Rice Pongal

To honour tradition, we will look at that way first. Yes, it does include the Paanai or Pot

Our friend and serious volunteer, SS, would of course prefer an earthenware pot. It is traditional in many agricultural communities to use a new earthenware pot for Pongal.
If our urbanite, city dwelling friends have one handy, do go for it. Else, any heavy bottomed pot or pan would do. Ideally, a taller rather than a wider one.

The basic recipe is very simple.


1 cup Freshly harvested raw rice. Our own kullakar is a good option.
1/3 cup moong dhal – without skin. ( payatthan paruppu)
Jaggery of about a cup, broken down to small lumps.. any kind would do.Yes, even palm jaggery. if using powder use a bit more.. . 🙂 Make sure there are no big lumps
1 cup milk ( vegan?.. look at the note below)
cardamom, saffron, edible camphor .. optional, and if you like it.
Cashews and raisins, optional
ghee optional

Keep about 3-4 cups water handy. ( the older the rice, the more water you will need)

Clean and wash the rice and dal
Add about a cup and half of water to the pot and set to boil.
When water is just boiling, slowly add the rice and dal combination
Let cook on the stove top, in a slow simmer, stir once in a while to keep the contents moving.
When the rice/dal mixture is about 2/3rds done, add the milk.
Let the milk boil over.. celebrate this.. supposed to be very auspicious for the new year.

Keep the flame as low as you can and let the milk blend in well.
At this point if, the mixture becomes too heavy add some water.
Check if the rice and dal are almost done.
Then, add jaggery, slowly, mix it in.

Keep stirring a bit more often to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom.

Once the jaggery is cooked, the rawness is gone, your Pongal is done.

Remove from fire. Add the optionals now. Roast the nuts/raisins in ghee and crush the spices lightly, before adding to the Pongal.

If you think the mixture is too watery for your taste, keep it on the stove for some more time. Don’t forget to stir.
If it is too heavy, add some milk, slowly and let cook.

Vegan- Traditionally, Pongal does not require milk at all. The Pongal.. the boiling over.. happens, when the rice is really, really fresh, right from the fields. It has its own milkiness. Nowadays, only a fortunate few get to use real freshly harvested rice.
If you are not one of the fortunate few and would like some milkiness, coconut milk is an option. Just half a cup or even less of  the ‘first’ milk, to be added just before the pot is taken off the fire. Pour it, stir it and take the pot off the stove.

The non- paanai version.

Cook the rice-dal mixture with extra water directly in a pressure cooker or pressure pan, and follow the recipe from then on. I would insist on using a stainless steel version for cooking directly. I understand that aluminium pans are not good for direct cooking, unhealthy in the long term to be used in direct contact with food.

  1. 11 Responses to “The reStore Food Blog”

  2. Oh Great! At last a food blog that I read and access! Ever since I saw Julie and Julia a few months back, I have wondered about food and food blogs!
    Good beginning for the year (I hope) with Chakkara Pongal and all!

    By Chithra on Jan 10, 2011

  3. Thank You, Chithra. J &J was a great movie, wasn’t it?
    Keep reading and accessing.. and perhaps writing and posting as well? Some day soon? 🙂


    By admin on Jan 10, 2011

  4. Great initiative – looking forward to mouth watering and healthy recipes from the restore community!!

    By Nanditha on Jan 10, 2011

  5. Just great!! Enjoyed reading the different types of instructions, though I,m making pongal for so many years and tasty one too!(If i may say so?) Brought back memories of good old days when fresh vegetables, sugarcane, our own jaggery would be brought by the people who took care of farming our land.
    Thank you.

    By chitra nagesh on Jan 10, 2011

  6. Thanks a lot for the Vegan way of making pongal . Go green –only why is by going Vegan !!

    By anu and manish on Jan 11, 2011

  7. will watch my mom and see how much she deviates from given recipe!
    I thought one used Vengalai panais (in the absence of clay panais) to make the Pongal with all the manjals tied to it…

    By Chithra on Jan 11, 2011

  8. I too am going to post a recipe (not for the Pongal fest)

    Pori Maavu (Popped Rice Powder!)(can be made into a quick breakfast/snack, once the powder/ maavu is ready)

    Soak one cup of rice (I used the kullakar semi polished this time, I think any kind of rice be used) for an hour. Drain water and dry on cloth in shade.

    Then roast the rice a few grains at a time on a low fire so that the rice pops and becomes pori. (this is the most laborious part of the process)

    Cool the pori and dry grind it into a fine powder.

    If you mean to have the sweet version of pori maavu, you can grind the pori with some cardamom.
    The powder can be stored for a few months at least.

    For the snack,
    Take a couple of tbsps of pori maavu + jaggery to taste + warm milk (less than half a tumbler), mix well and the mixture thickens so that you can roll it into laddus.

    Alternately, a couple of tbsps of pori maavu + buttermilk/curd can also be had.

    I have not explored a vegan alternative yet… will post if once I do that.

    By Chithra on Jan 12, 2011

  9. Hey! That one is a oldie but a decided goldie! I can smell it from so far away in cyberspace. Thank you Chithra!

    By Gayatri on Jan 15, 2011

  10. Yes, Vengala Paanais.. all decked up.. is the standard alternative.. I used to know a family, where they decked up their ‘daily use’ pressure cooker this way. The spirit it what counts.. honouring those who provide us the food, the humans and other animals..:)

    By Gayatri on Jan 15, 2011

  11. You are welcome!

    We will have many more vegan recipes as the days go by.. and more vegan options for some traditional lacto recipes. Do share some of your recipes, Anu.

    By Gayatri on Jan 15, 2011

  12. Hi,
    Actually in the village, they do not add milk at the end. They add milk to the empty pot and when it boils over, it is celebrated by telling pongalo pongal. Then the water is added and once it is hot enough, the rice+moong/gram dal mixture is added. Once cooked, powdered jaggery is added. Finally ghee, the cashews, raisins and crushed cardamom are added and mixed well. Finally cut sugarcane and peeled & cut banana are topped up, turmeric plant tied to the pot and removed from the flame and kept in the newly laid out worshipping place with red clay (called Thittani in tamil) and cow dung pillayar with arugampul adorned with thumbai poo flowers in the front yard
    We usually do this in the front yard under the sun with newly bought mud pots, mud sauce pan, cocunut shell ladle, newly made stove (three stout & short pillars made with red clay, cocunut coirs and little bit river soil – this preparation starts on 7th or 5th day to pongal). Festival mood starts atleast a month before the pongal in the villages due to elaborate preparations.

    Unfortunately villages are also under the influence of the modernisation esp. the Television and all these elaborate preparation are missing.

    By Indumathi on Jan 13, 2015

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