This sweet rice pudding is a traditional Tamil New Year dessert and is also served at other auspicious ceremonies and special occasions. One morning, when I was walking along the beach in Point Pedro, I came across an entire village eating pongal from banana leaves. A local fisherman had recently purchased a new boat, and his wife had set up her cooking equipment on the beach, lit a fire and made a large pot of pongal. Making pongal for everyone was a way to share their joy with the community and to bless their boat with prosperity.
Dry-roast the green gram in a heavy-based frying pan over medium heat for 4 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool slightly. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the green gram until they split, then set aside.
Melt the ghee in the frying pan over medium heat, add the chopped cashews and raisins and fry for 1-2 minutes, stirring until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon. Add the whole cashews and fry until golden. Remove and set aside to cool (these will be used for garnishing).
Wash the red rice thoroughly in cold water. Bring
Add the jaggery powder and simmer, uncovered, over low heat until the jaggery dissolves and the mixture starts to bubble. Stir continuously, so the mixture doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan. Add the cardamom, fried cashews and raisins, coconut and the extra ghee, and mix to combine. Simmer for 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Slowly add the coconut milk and cream, continuing to stir. Simmer for 1 minute, or until the consistency is thick and sticky. Serve warm and garnish with the extra cashew nuts.
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