Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Few things can match up to the comfort of being indoors on a cold day, wearing something warm and relishing steaming hot food. Particularly food which is believed to warm your body and help brave the cold, at least momentarily. In our country,  we have zillions of such foods. One of South India's most commonly made dish during this season is Huggi or Khara Pongal. This simple, peppery rice and moong dal preparation is offered to God with a dollop of butter on top, a sprig of tulsi and some jaggery. Huggi  distributed as prasadam in temples tastes especially good as its cooked on wood fire. Pongal served with chutney is invariably found on the menu of most eateries.

Traditionally served  with hunse gojju, a kind of tamarind and jaggery sweet-sour sauce, huggi is eaten on a number of days in the season as part of the meal. The meal is served really early, imagine eating lunch at 6.30 am! Proportions of moong dal and rice range from 1:1 to 3:1, though my mother and mother-in-law both use 3/4 measure of moong dal to a measure of rice. A matter of taste, nothing more to it.

Here is how we make it. The amounts of spices given are just indicative, use as you wish. Just remember not to overcook the rice and dal or you will end up with a pasty mass. Enough pepper, cumin and ghee are absolutely imperative if you ask me, specially if there isn't gojju or chutney to eat alongside. And yes, please do eat it hot or at least warm!

Ingredients: This serves about 4 people.
Moong dal - 3/4 cup
Rice - 1 cup
Ghee - 4 tablespoons (or more to taste) plus a teaspoon or two for sauteing.
Turmeric - 1 teaspoon
Pepper, whole - 1 teaspoon
Crushed pepper - 1 - 1.5 teaspoons (more to taste)
Cumin / Jeera - 2 - 3 teaspoons
Grated dry coconut - 1/2 cup
Hing / Asafoetida - a generous pinch
Salt to taste
Cashewnuts, broken - 1/3 cup

Heat 2 teaspoons of ghee in your pressure cooker. Fry the cashew nuts till golden, drain and keep aside. Saute crushed pepper, cumin and the dal and rice. Saute till you get a good aroma, taking care not to over do it, just enough to toast them lightly. Now add the turmeric and 4 cups of water. Cook for 2-3 whistles. You want the rice and dal slightly undercooked. You can cook it to the consistency you need.

Once the pressure drops, gently stir in about a cup of water to adjust the consistency. Huggi gets thicker as it cools, so adjust the consistency depending on when you would be eating it. Add the asafoetida, coconut, salt to taste and the cashew nuts. Taste. If you need more pepper or jeera, you can heat the remaining ghee, add the jeera / pepper. Add this to the huggi and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remember not to cook it for too long as it tends to get mushier and thicker. Or just add the remaining ghee and heat covered on sim for 5 minutes. Garnish with fresh coriander.

Serve hot with gojju or chutney. A little extra ghee on top when you eat takes it to another level! 

Variations : You could add grated ginger to huggi when you saute the pepper and jeera. Use a couple of chopped green chillies and reduce the amount of pepper. My mother sometimes uses tiny pieces of dried coconut for some more bite. Try peanuts pressure cooked with dal and rice, give the cashew nuts a skip. Though the classic combination is huggi - hunse gojju, you could also serve this with coconut chutney or Nimbe Hannina Gojju.

 I know I keep disappearing from here more often than I care to admit. Am pretty much around, yes. But I seem to be terribly busy all day, just don't ask me doing what! Does this happen to you too? I hope to be more regular here with lots baking!

Wishing you a very happy new year and great times ahead!


Rajani said...

Isn't it amazing that I sit in front of my PC, with a bowl of hot pongal- chutney and start browsing my blogger reader only to find your Huggi recipe!
Awesome. So true that it is one very comforting dish.
Love your methodical explanation, as usual.

Unknown said...

Looks awesome and tempting!!

Jayashree said...

Wish you a very happy new year, Suma.