April 14, 2011

Mom's Ven Pongal (Khara Pongal or Ghee Pongal) with Madras Tomato Chutney

We will be in a whole new yet our own world - in less than 15 days. Many many exciting  things and lots of last-minute traveling happening at our end, hence this short, unintentional break from blogging.

So friends, after a lot of contemplation, after staying in US for 6 long years, we are finally relocating back to India. On one side, I am butterflies-in-my-stomach-excited, but I also feel sad at the very thought that we might not come back here. :-(. But, did you know what Mr.JB says - Never Say Never. So, I am hopeful that someday we will get to visit here yet again and meet all my lovely friends I have made over the past few years. :-).

That said, it has been months ago that we planned our 10-day trip to Hawaii and finally, we did go there in the first week of April, for our first anniversary.

I am falling short of adjectives to describe to you guys - about how beautiful and mesmerizing the islands of Hawaii are. Everybody likes the beach the most, I suppose but for me, Kaui was the best. It is called the"Garden Island" because of its lush, green, mostly untouched & uninhabited surroundings. I felt a weird sense of peace within myself by just looking at the majestic canynos, sugarcane/coffee fields and the weather itself is so cool. :-). But, the TH loved Maui the most as it is mostly sunny with lovely blue skies.

Well, each of the islands have something new and unique to offer and it is a place to be visited atleast once in a life time.

Waikiki Beach, Honululu

Hula dancer, performing for a Japan fundraiser at Honululu.

Our 10 days of Hawaii trip included a 7 day cruise on the "Pride Of America" cruise ship. Never before, we went on a cruise. This was our first one. We were a bit apprehensive at first to spend 7 days & nights on sea but then the excitement won over the fear. I am so glad we did this as it will be one of the memorable experiences for sure. :-)

If you are like us who wish to visit 4 main islands of Hawaii (Oahu, Maui, Big Island and Kaui) all in just one week, then I would strongly recommend to island hop via a cruise. No hassle of flying and booking hotels in every island. From whale watching to witnessing Kilauea Volcano or for some dramatic views of the Napali Coastline, all can be done during the day time and as the night falls, you can return back to the ship, ready for sail to the next one.

More Hawaii pics - on my photo blog.

Being a foodie and a vegetarian, I suspected we would have limited choice when it comes to food on the ship. I would say I was partially right. Having said that, we were quite impressed at the variety of options available to us. There was a special booth called "Curry Kitchen" and there they were - fried pappadams, to pieces of naan with sometimes aloo-gobhi curry or palak-tofu curry or rajma & basmati rice of course. For breakfast, we had hashbrowns, made-to-order omlettes, oatmeal with lots & lots of fresh fruits (hey! we are in Hawaii, remember ;-)).

An extra special mention about the dessert section - Oh my my, they had brownies, lemon mousse, white chocolate mousse, apricot bread & many many more which I can't remember right now. & they all tasted so delicious. I must have put on some extra pounds just because of these desserts.

But, by the end of our vacation, my hands were itching to cook a warm south-indian meal and devour on it. We wanted stuffed eggplant, mirchi ka salan, keerai masial or the very best my mama's vegetable biryani with aloo kurma. We wanted them all. But We couldn't until we came back home on last Saturday at 12 in the midnight. We were so hungry that I had to make a proper meal for ourselves at that odd hour and made some simple cauliflower poriyal, rasam and rice. Yes, at 1 AM. :-)

The very next day, as our Sunday morning breakfast I made this very popular Ven Pongal (or Khara Pongal) with Madras Tomato Chutney.

I am sure our tummies thanked us for this simple yet delicious meal. :-)

Mom's Ven Pongal (or) Khara Pongal

Recipe Source - My Mom

Ingredients -

1 cup rice (I used sona masoori variety)
1 cup split moong dal
1 tsp black pepper corns
1 tsp of cumin seeds
2 tsp of ghee
2 green chillies, split lengthwise
1 tbsp of cashew nuts & few curry leaves(optional - I have not used these in this recipe)
Salt -to taste

For tempering -

1 tsp each of - urad dal, mustard seeds, cumin seeds,\
2 red chillies

Preparation -

1. Pressure cook (1 cup of rice +1 cup of split mung dal ) with 5 cups of water until 3 whistles. Let the pressure release and cool down a bit.

2. Grind (I use a coffee grinder for spice powders - best 9$ ever spent) - the black peppercorns and cumin seeds into a fine powder.

3. Heat ghee in a pan on a low-medium heat, add urad dal, mustard seeds, red chilli (broken at the end tail), cumin seeds and let them splutter. Add slit green chillies, cashew nuts & curry leaves (optional)and fry for couple of seconds. Add in a tsp (or more as per your taste) of the (blackpepper + cumin) powder & little salt. Stir in the dal-rice mixture and Mix well. Add a tiny amount of water if desired.

4. Adjust seasoning one last time, put 1 more tsp of ghee on the top and close the pan with a lid.

5. After the ghee melts into the warm pongal, mix and serve immediately. that is when it tastes best.

The best accompaniment for this Ven Pongal is a spicy chutney. Don't you all agree? Here is a version of tomato chutney which I often make at home.

Madras Tomato Chutney, Take 2 with a better picture

I am sending this as entry to MLLA 34, this month guest hosted by Jaya (a.k.a Desi Soccer Mom), orginally conceptualized by Susan.

Hope to see you all back real soon. Not sure when as there is a lot of packing, cleaning and moving to do. and I might not cook for a while as I will be hogging all of my mom's food.

There are some exciting and fun times ahead (I hope) and we both are looking forward for all of them :-).

P.S - I will be updating my photo blog (365 days of Siri) on a regular basis, please do stop by there and say a hello for me, Will ya. :-)

until next time,
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