Venpongal reminds me of my high school days when I was in National Cadet Corp (N.C.C). While serving pongal at home, I mentioned to my family that it was my breakfast during my army training days. They had a hearty laugh and warned, ‘Please don’t joke when we are eating!’ As I’m not the bravest of my gender, they have such good confidence in me, handling arms and ammunition and defending the country. But I am totally capable of doing that as I have received the basic military training.
Okay, back to high school…just before regular classes start, after the N.C.C parade and instructions from 7.30 am to 9.00am, breakfast would be served for the hungry cadets. It was invariably Venpongal and Idly brought from the famous restaurant, Annapoorna. Did I mention, I lived in Coimbatore? Okay, I was born, raised and attended school there.
This pongal would be wrapped in a green banana leaf accompanied by thick coconut chutney in a small shred of the same leaf. Venpongal will be soaking in oil and ghee with a garnish of cashew nuts. The smell of the pongal mingling with the subtle flavour of banana leaf is absolutely striking. My mouth is watering as I type this. Definitely, there were some cadets attending the training just for the breakfast. (Hey, don’t look at me!)
After regularly dishing out the same old pongal for many years, I wanted to change it by adding one new ingredient to make it more desirable and cut out the repetition. Quinoa is the fave grain/seed of the season, so I added a measure of it to this pongal.
- 1/2 cup white quinoa
- 1/2 cup raw rice
- 1/2 cup mung dhal
- 3 1/3 cup water
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp whole black pepper
- few curry leaves
- a small piece ginger
- 1/4 tsp hing
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 6-7 cashew nuts
- 1 tbsp ghee
- Heat oil and fry cashew nuts and then add crushed cumin, black pepper, chopped ginger, curry leaves and hing to the oil and reduce the heat.
- Soon after the cumin crackles and ginger is fried, add mung dhal and quinoa to the same oil and fry for a few minutes.
- Add rice and water to it.
- Mix everything well and add salt according to taste.
- Cook until everything is soft and sticky. (I used the pressure cooker and allowed it to cook until 4 whistles. When it cools open the lid of the cooker.)
- After it is cooked, pour 1 tbsp ghee and mix well.
- Serve it with coconut chutney.
Quinoa pongal turned out to be quite satisfactory with a hint of quinoa flavour and texture. I served it with a chutney made of onion, dry red chillies and coconut.