3 January, 2019
A New Year has arrived and with it starts our saga of festivals again. January is the month of harvest festivals across India. It denotes the end of winter and the arrival of spring, and many parts of India celebrate the festival of Makar Sankranthi, dedicated to the Sun god. It is said that Sun has moved from the South to the North, heralding the summer. The farmers get ready to harvest their crops and celebrate in style.
The festival is also called as Pongal, Lohri, Magh Bihu or Bhogli Bihu, Sakraat, Uttarayan, and Poush Parbon, depending on which part of India you come from. However, while the names are many, the celebratory spirit is the same, and people get together and have some fun, sing, dance and cook special dishes to thank the god for the good harvest. This also means that, with India being such a diverse country, we also have a variety of dishes to signify this festival. You can take a peek at these and try your hand at a few this Makar Sankranthi, which is just about less than two weeks away.
Moong Dal Khichdi
There are a variety of versions of this simple Indian dish; while in the North it is mostly called as Khichdi, in the South, it is usually called as Pongal. While the spicy version is what is usually made in the North, in the South, the sweet version is also made.
Ingredients – Spicy version
The moong dal should be dry roasted using a kadai till you get a nice flavor, but not browned entirely and then set aside to cool. In a pressure cooker, pour the ghee and splutter the cumin seeds and then add the green chillies, ginger and curry leaves, and pepper pods/powder. Fry this for a while till you get the lovely smell. Then add the turmeric powder, roasted moong dal, and rice. Pour water in the 1:3 consistency and add the salt and stir, if you like the Khichdi to be slightly mushy. Add a little more water, if you want it in the form of porridge. Pressure cook this mixture for 2 to 3 whistles on a medium flame. The rice may be kept immersed in water for 10-15 minutes for better cooking. This can be served piping hot, with some onion or cucumber raitha. A variation of this to also add a few vegetables like finely chopped French beans, carrots, peas, etc., to make it healthier.
Ingredients – Sweet version
Here too, the moong dal should be dry roasted just as mentioned in the above recipe. In a small kadai, the raisins and cashew nuts should be fried with ghee and kept aside. In the pressure cooker, add the moong dal and rice along with 1:3 quantity of water and pressure cook for 2 to 3 whistles. Once done, heat the ghee in a kadai, and add the cooked rice and dal mixture, then the jaggery and keep mixing it on a medium flame. Once the jaggery is fully melted and mixed, you can add in the cardamom powder and the grated coconut and mix again. The mixture can be kept slightly mushy if desired and served with the raisins and nuts decorated on top. If not, you can mix in the raisins and nuts and solidify it and then empty it into a thali greased with ghee and then later cut it out into pieces like a barfi.
Apart from the Khichdi that is common across the country, the other thing that is also common in the Til Laddoo, again in varied forms.
Dry roast the sesame seeds in a kadai on low flame, stirring continuously. In about 2 to 3 minutes, the seeds will pop and slightly change color and then keep them aside to cool. Now add the groundnuts to the kadai and dry roast them till they turn slightly brown or black. Remove and keep aside. Now dry roast the coconut gratings also in the same way, till they turn golden brown. Crush the groundnuts coarsely and then add in the sesame as well as the coconut into it and mix well. You can also stir in the cardamom powder into this and keep it aside.
In a kadai, add the water and the jaggery and boil on a low flame. The jaggery dissolves completely and then slowly the mixture starts solidifying into a sticky, ball like consistency. You can try this by picking a drop of the mix and dropping into a cup of water, and it should stay like a small softball and not fall apart. At this consistency, you can remove it from the flame and add the earlier mixture of Til, groundnuts and coconut mixture and mix it in fully well so that it is evenly spread. You may now pick spoonful of the mix and prepare the laddoos. If the dough is too hot, you can apply little water on your hand and then quickly roll it into the laddoos, or wait just a little bit before doing this. If you allow it to cool thoroughly, it will solidify, and you cannot then make out the laddoos.
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