Monday, January 14, 2013

Chakarai Pongal - a debutant's story.

Running back into the nostalgia of that Pongal celebrations where my dad used to do Surya Pooja over that concentric circles Sangu Kolam in the half shaded mutram (an open roof space in the middle of the house), I had no business other than ringing that pooja bell when ever my dad tells and drool over that hot Chakara Pongal and other special items on the menu while they come out for the Neivedhyam (symbolic offerings in the trust that God will not eat anything) at the end of the Pooja.

Will run immediately to the kitchen after the Pooja  where my grandma would have a plate of little pongal and little rice that I need to put at a designated spot in the open area behind the kitchen for what half a dozen crows wait everyday at the stroke of 11 AM. On the return, I get to have one full dabara of hot chakara pongal with a spoon to be blown, tasted and gulped, swinging in the long oonjal (swing) along with my sister watching those special programs on Podhigai Channel in the 15" Black and White Uptron TV. Yeah, I also do the antenna pole rotation every time there are more grains in the middle of the program.

Time has gone by and finally here I am, a Pongal day when I have to actually work!! :-(

I brought with a load of utensils as told earlier. Thought of making some Chakara Pongal to hook on to the customs from the roots. It may not be as good as Mom made Pongal, but still I can call it Home made Pongal. :-)

The last time I made a sweet all myself was Rava Kesari during school days. For Chakara Pongal, got lost in the various recipes and ingredients and finally got saved with a simple recipe mailed over by my foodie friend Deepa Iyer. Purchased most of the ingredients from the Indian groceries around the next street but after a double thought skipped cashews alone in the list since I felt it was a bad idea to stock cashews at home as there were no small packs. 

Woke up at 5 AM, did 12 rounds of Suryanamaskars in place of the Surya pooja. Took a nice hot shower and ventured into the kitchen at around 6 AM. Followed the recipe very diligently and modified a bit by reducing the jaggery little to my taste. 

Somewhere in the recipe it read,
"elaichi powder - 1/4 tsp (if you get whole elaichi - you can roast and grind)"

Grind?? I do not have a mixer!! That Rava Kesari experience came in handy. Powdering elaichi by just ramming it does not work. Rolled it in a thick plastic sheet along with a small pinch of sugar and rammed it to powder.

Since I decided to replace cashews with almonds for the final dressing, had to soak that in warm water for a while and peel the skin off. Roasted the almonds and raisins together in a scoop of ghee. 
I was pretty excited by my first attempt of cooking something on my own and was taking pics at each step. Was trying hard to get focus and lost time to get the nuts and raisins little over roasted. :-(

Closed my eyes and prayed Suryabhagavan for a min who was yet to show up even at 7:00 AM here in Detroit and tasted a spoon of the pongal that already looked promising. 'Yep, yummy!!'. I have always loved or tolerated what I cook. To re-assure the taste, offered bit of it to my roomie and he said 'Nice'. Still was not very sure about the taste and packed the remaining in the fridge. My roomie took some more from the fridge in the evening along with his dinner and said, 'really very nice man' without me asking about it!!. So my day is made. 

 Happy Pongal.

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