Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Healthy diet series - Khara Pongal (not the regular fare)

If you are a hard core South Indian who loves white rice 3 times a day like me, I am sure you would empathize with me when I  self imposed a restriction on my rice intake. Prevention is better than cure right? especially if you can also feel good about making positive changes without your physician breathing down your neck. I would say that is the fringe benefits of staying ahead in the game.

Here is how it all began.. I am a generally healthy, active (not sporty though) person, thanks to my parents for the genes and the healthy life style we just assumed as part of life. I like to eat and the kind of job I do for living hardly encourages me to move around. Life happens and as I slowly got wiser in years, I kind of filled up :-). One day while rummaging through my closet, I saw this old jeans (my first pair) and very longingly remembered the good old days and something that was going on in the back of the mind for a while took shape and I started a game of sorts to encourage myself to lose a few pounds and get fitter, those pair of jeans was the carrot at the end of the stick. I made a resolution to adapt a healthier life style much before the new year started and my partner in crime BH started a little unwillingly at first but seems to like the changes now.

As I mentioned already, the mainstay in meals at home used to be unpolished rice which is a substantial contributor to the waist line. So in chasing that elusive jeans, I made some changes to my daily diet and started looking for rice replacements and am happy to have found grains we have really grown to love. Some are known and available in India like the Millets while others like Quinoa are from far away lands.  Cooking these grains is a breeze and the substitutes offer a whole range of health benefits. Mixed with the regular side dishes at home from sambar to gojju to chutneys, I can blissfully overlook the fact that I haven't eaten my rice, I am still far away from my dream jeans but honestly I don't care too much about the body image :-)

Any new entrant into my kitchen is usually tamed the South Indian way first before I start experimenting with them. This lets me know their range, capacity and any hidden odors or flavors :-).

Foxtail Millet (Navane in Kannada, Korra in Telugu, Kangni in Hindi) is a nutritional power house just like other grains from the millet family, it is non glutinous, releases lesser percentage of glucose into the system over longer period compared to white rice and hence morphs into diabetic friendly diet. It is also high in iron & potassium. And most of all, it is a big team player and blends very well in a variety of recipes.

When we came back from the trip last week,  I dished out a yummy, healthy foxtail millet pongal with Hunise saaru (tamarind rasam - will post the recipe soon) for a home made comfort food after 30 hours of air travel and the boxed food.
What do you need to make Foxtail millet pongal? 
1 cup foxtail millet/navane/korra
3/4 cup moong dal/hesaru bele/pesara pappu
1 inch piece of fresh ginger root
2-3 green chilies
1 Tblsp salt (adjust to taste)
7-8 cups of water (adjust to get the consistency of your choice)

For vaggarane/seasoning/tadka:
1 Tsp Ghee/clarified butter
1 Tsp black pepper corns
1 Tsp cumin seeds
1 Tsp mustard seeds (optional)
4-5 curry leaves
6-8 cashews broken into small pieces (optional)
How do you make Foxtail millet pongal? 
  • Dry roast the millet and moong dal until moong dal turns light pink and gives out a nice aroma. I do this in my pressure pan so I can continue to cook in the same vessel.
  • Pound the ginger root and green chilies in a mortar & pestle or make a paste in your chopper. 
  • Add the ginger-green chili paste and salt to the roasted millet & dal mixture. 
  • Add water, close the lid, put the weight and cook for 3-4 whistles, switch off. 
  • Heat ghee in a small pan, add ingredients under seasoning to it, let the mustard crackle and pepper corns pop, switch off and add curry leaves.
  • Once the cooker has cooled, open the lid, pour the seasoning on top, give it a stir to mix everything in. 
  • Serve it with any spicy chutney or tangy rasams and papads for a wholesome meal. 
Even if you are not into healthy diets or rice substitutes, try this recipe for a super yummy pongal. 

  • Try adding vegetables such as beans, carrots, onions and cinnamon for a khichdi variation. 
  • You can soak the millet and moong dal in water for 30 minutes before cooking them, I sometimes make pongal this way without roasting the ingredients.
  • Coarsely crush pepper for a stronger flavor. 
  • We like our pongal soft, I add almost 4 cups water for every cup of millet+dal mixture, adjust the water to suit your palate.
  • The exact time to cook the pongal is dependent on your kitchen gadgets, so adjust to get a soft, lumpy pongal for best taste.
  • If your local Indian grocery doesn't carry the foxtail millet, try an Asian/Chinese store, that is where I found mine. 


NamsVeni Pothas said...

this is a new dish for me i never tasted. looks very tasty and healthy . sure i will try.waiting for few more new ones.

Anonymous said...

The recipe looks interesting. Now, I have a similar story like you. I have gained a lot of pounds, like a usual south Indian. Everything made of white Sona maoori rice. Will try this one. Thank you.