Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Akkara adisil

First of all, my sweet Pongal wishes to everyone who celebrates Pongal (the Tamil harvest festival)! En Iniya Pongal nal vazhthukkal! The Tamil winter solstice month, Marghazhi (Dec-Jan), is one of the wonderfully busiest month in Triplicane, where I grew up in Chennai. Music festivals, dance recitals, upanyasams and other art-forms are celebrated in full glory. I have such fond memories of these special times that, even though I live away, I make special effort to celebrate the Tamil winter solstice in my own way. The end of the Tamil winter solstice is marked by the harvest festival, Pongal which usually is for 4-5 days and, in it's own right, one of the best times of the year in Chennai for me. Like most Indian festivals, the winter solstice month and Pongal festival days mean extra special food cooked at home. At home, my folks usually make Akkara adisil on koodaravalli (27th day of the winter solstice) and sakkarai pongal (sweet pongal) on the Pongal festival day. Both dishes are similar with a small variation. Akkara adisil can be made with rice and varieties of dal, while, sakkarai pongal is made only with moong dal (yellow lentils). I personally prefer the mixed dal flavour in akkara adisil. Akkara adisil is beleived to be one of the traditional and ancient food recipe since it is mentioned in the works of Tamil saint Andaal (believed to have lived around 3102 BC). This does seem to be her favourite dish since it comes up in more than one of her literary works. She first claims, in Thiruppavai, that

"Adan pinne paal soru, mooda nei peithu muzhangai vazhi vaara, koodi irunthu kulirinthellor empaavai" (My friends and I, later on, will enjoy ourselves together while we have rice cooked in milk covered in ghee so that the ghee runs and pours through to your elbows (while eating)...

and again in Naachiyaar thirumozhi she says,

"innaDiSiloDu pAlamudu ooTTi eDutta en kOla kiLiyai 
unnoDu tOzhamai koLLuvan kuyilE ulahaLandAn vara koovAi"
(I have brought up my parrot on a rigid diet of sweet adisil and rice cooked in milk...)

and I do not blame her for this dish is very delectable and addictive too. As to the claim of being ancient I am aware of the evidence of the use of unrefined sugar/jaggery in food from a very long time so I think it is possible. Ancient or not we love this dish here too and I use molasses instead of jaggery which makes my life all the more easier to make this dish. So here is the recipe...

Raw rice - 1 cup
Moong dal(yellow lentils), channa dal (yellow split peas), toor dal (pigeon peas) - 1/2 cup
Jaggery crushed - 1 and 1/4 cup or molasses - 8 tbsp
Sugar - 1/4 cup (optional - use if you like it very sweet like we do in India!)
Saffron - 1 pinch
Cashews - 12
raisins - 15
Pachaikarpooram/edible camphor - a pinch
Cardamom - 2
Milk - 1 litre
Ghee -6 tablespoons

Wash rice and dhal. Drain the water completely.

Heat a deep and heavy bottomed vessel (preferable pressure cooker), melt 1 tbsp ghee & roast the rice-dal mixture till it changes colour and slightly yellow/golden. 

Now add 1/2 litre of milk and allow it to boil in the milk. ( OR) pressure cook for 4 whistles. When done, mash the rice-dal well.

Soak saffron in a tablespoon of hot milk. Crush jaggery, dissolve in very little water, strain out the dust and add it to the mashed rice (or simply add the molasses) along with sugar.

Now add 1/2 of the ghee and the remaining milk mix well and stir for a while. The consistency should be semi-solid. Add powdered cardamom, saffron and pachaikarpooram/edible camphor. Add in the remaining ghee. Garnish with fried cashews and raisins.

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