Rice pudding on crack
Yesterday was an Indian harvest festival. Its called Pongal in some parts of the south of the country. Various parts of the country celebrate it at this time and it’s called different things – Makar Sankranti in central India and parts of the west. Bihu in the north east. Lohri in the north.
I can speak for Pongal from experience. The highlight of the festival for me is the food. (Isn’t it always?) The dish itself has the same name. There are two versions – a savoury and a sweet one. The sweet variant is a hot fave. Probably because the savoury one is a fairly common weekend/eat-out breakfast that you eat more often and therefore not as novel.
So sweet pongal or chakkarai (translates to sugar in Tamil) Pongal as it’s called is made of rice and split mung beans (mung dal – a lentil easily available in most stores here now; if not, definitely at the Indian store. Or just borrow from an Indian friend, most will have some.). It is flavoured with cardamom and an unrefined palm sugar called jaggery. It has a strong, malted taste like dark brown sugar. The ingredients are representative of the kinds of staples that grow best in the humid, tropical climes of southern India.
I made a very loosely inspired version of it yesterday. I’m going to call it ‘rice pudding on crack’. All I’ve done is try to recapture some of those familiar flavours with ingredients I don’t have to go too far to find.
Start by soaking ¾ cup of rice (I used basmati because that’s what I use regularly) and 1/8 cup of mung beans (I used the split ones with the skin on; the original uses the ones without the skin) separately. Soak for as long as you can. It reduces cooking times. I soaked for about an hour.
Once soaked, rinse well in a strainer till the water runs clear. Put both into a pan with 4.5 cups of water, bring to a boil, cover and let simmer on medium/medium low for 20 mins.
Check on it a few times and remove the cover if it keeps boiling over. The rice needs to absorb most of the water and start looking really broken and mushy and the mung needs to be soft. Try squishing against the side of the pan to check.
At this point, add in 1/3 cup of dark brown sugar and 2 cardamom pods (peeled of the outer green skin and the inner beans crushed to a powder). I used my trusty brass pounding thingumajig, which I have mostly because it’s pretty!
Also pour in half a can of sweetened condensed milk. Stir it all through and let it simmer on low for another 5 minutes.
In the meanwhile, take about ¼ cup of raisins and soak in boiling water and set aside to plump.
Also measure out an equal amount of chopped walnut pieces.
Once you take the rice mix off the heat, stir in the fruit and nuts and let sit for a bit. It will thicken as it cools.
Serve hot or cold.
I realize in terms of colour and general appearance this isn’t super attractive. But what rice pudding really is? All that matters is that it’s yummy! This is a fairly sweet version so maybe serve in smaller portions. Or not. Whatever the pudding gods will you to do on the day ;).
¾ cup rice
1/8 cup split mung beans (mung dal)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
½ can sweetened condensed milk
2 cardamom pods, peeled and crushed
¼ cup raisins, soaked in boiling water
¼ cup chopped walnuts
Soak rice and mung beans separately for about an hour, in plenty of water. Rinse in a strainer till water runs clear. Add both to a pan, together, with 4.5 cups of water, cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes till soft and smooshy.
Soak raisins in boiling water
Add sugar, condensed milk and cardamom to rice mix. Simmer for 5 more minutes on low. Add in soaked raisins and nuts. Stir through and serve hot or cold.