Pecan, Squash and Cranberries Speckled Wild Rice

I stumbled upon this recipe one afternoon, by chance. Basmati rice, leftover cranberry-pecan topping from breakfast oatmeal, and some odd vegetables lying in the fridge were thrown together in a skillet. I served it over acorn squash baked in its shell. We absolutely loved the lunch, which was very filling, but took little time to fix. Next time around, I tweaked the recipe a bit. Wild rice mix was used instead of Basmati; the squash was cubed, roasted and added to the mix. I took this to our friend’s place for Thanksgiving dinner and got rave reviews. Best compliment was from their two year old. She just couldn’t get enough of it.

Pecan, Squash and Cranberries Speckled Wild Rice
(serves 2)


Wild rice mix – 1 cup
1 small butternut or acorn squash, peeled and cubed – about 2 cups
Pecan halves – 2/3 cup
Onion or shallot – ½ cup, chopped
Garlic – 1 clove, finely chopped
Carrot – 2, small, sliced at an angle
Celery – 1 or 2 stalks, chopped
Fresh thyme – 1 tbsp, chopped
Dried cranberries – ½ cup
Red pepper flakes – a pinch
Butter and/or oil – 1 tbsp


Cook wild rice either on stovetop or using a pressure cooker. If using a pressure cooker, use 1¼ cups water and cook for 2 whistles. If cooking on stove top, use 2¼ cups of water and cook covered for 45-50 minutes. The rice should be cooked, but firm.

Cook squash by any of the following methods. Steam for 15 minutes. Or boil in water for 10 minutes. You can also roast the squash in a 450F for 20-25 minutes. Roasting is my favourite, as it gives the squash a deeper flavor due to caramelization. It is also the most time consuming method. For convenience, you can roast the squash 2 or 3 days ahead, refrigerate and use when needed.

Meanwhile heat a large, wide skillet over low-medium heat. Gently toast the pecan halves until aromatic. Keep a close watch on the nuts. They go from lightly toasted to burnt in less than a minute. Transfer nuts to the board, cool, chop and reserve.

Crank the flame to medium-high, heat butter and/or oil, and sauté onions and garlic until soft. Add celery, carrot and red pepper flakes, and stir-fry briskly for a couple of minutes. Then add cooked rice, squash, thyme, cranberries and pecans. Season to taste, toss to combine. This rice tastes great whether served warm or at room temperature. I have also noticed that the flavour develops as it sits. So make this ahead, and serve slightly warmed.

This is my entry to Monthly Mingle – Healthy Family Dinners hosted by Michelle of What's Cooking Blog. MM is Meeta's brainchild.

I am pleased to announce that The Daily Tiffin has been nominated for Annual Food Blog awards by The Well Fed Network under Best Food Blog – Group category. We are, expectantly, very excited with the nomination. The DT team brings informative articles on family, kids, health, fitness, etc., month after month. If you have enjoyed your visits there, please help us win by casting your vote here.

Sarkkarai Pongal – Indian Rice Pudding

Last week, we celebrated ‘Makara Sankaranthi’ or Pongal, the harvest festival of Tamilnadu. It also denotes the end of ‘Maargazhi’ and birth of ‘Thai’, one of the most auspicious months in the Tamil lunar calendar. This day also marks the commencement of Uttarayanam (mid Jan - mid Jul), the northern ascent of the Sun. The days are warmer and longer from now on. Pongal is celebrated for three days as Bhogi, Pongal, and Kaanum Pongal/Maattu Pongal.

Bhogi is like spring cleaning. People discard old things and buy new ones. As this festival falls soon after the harvest season, the farmers could afford to stock their homes now. The houses are cleaned, white washed, and decorated with kolam. The family congregates to celebrate together. When there are people, there is always good food, particularly sweets. Poli is the star of the day, accompanied by crunchy lentil fritters (called aama vadai).

Pressure-cooked rice and dal

The second day, Sankaranthi, is celebrated in honor of the Sun God. Pongal is the name of the festival, as well as the sweet that is prepared this day. Heavy bottomed bronze pots are cleaned, seasoned with rice flour on the outside (for easy cleanup), and adorned with ginger and turmeric plants. Newly harvested rice, is cooked along with milk and jaggery, and offered to the Sun God. Along with this, an array of vegetables, rasam, sambar and vadai (with no onion) are also prepared. But what attracts the kids most is the sugarcane. They are right in season and are part of the offerings. They are nature’s stick candy, convenient to carry and a pleasure to eat. The bite into the delicious flesh and the rush of the sugarcane juice in the insides of the mouth is an experience everybody should have, at least once in their lifetimes.

On the third day, the cows are adorned and worshiped, hence the name maattu pongal (which literally translates to cow pongal). On this day, the sisters also pray for the wellness of their brothers by offering the previous day's pongal to the birds. Also, leftovers from the previous cooking, namely the different vegetables and sambar are cooked in a single pot making Ericha Kozhambu, a hodgepodge that I absolutely love. On this day, the food is fairly simple in my house after all the feasting in the past two days. Curd rice with ericha kozhmabu takes care of all the leftovers. And there is always sugarcane to indulge in.

Pongal - Sweet and Savoury

It is so much fun being around the family during festivities like such. It is imperative that I miss being home on occasions like these. But I make a point to celebrate (read as prepare the customary treats), if at all in a simple manner. Even during his bachelorhood, G celebrated pongal by making the savory and the sweet version along with gosthu. I have heard tales where his friends used to drive 6 hours to get to eat his killer pongal. I find this more convenient, than preparing rice and vegetables, in addition to sakkarai pongal, for just the two of us. Also, dessert gets to be half the meal. What is there to complain about?

Today I am giving you two almost similar recipes for sarkkarai pongal. One, if you are preparing just the sweet kind; the other for making both sweet and savory versions together. They make for an excellent weekend brunch.

But before going to the recipe, here is a brief explanation of the word pongal. Pongal is grammatically a verb, meaning 'to overflow'. The festival is to wish everyone an overflowing abundance of health, wealth and happiness in their lives. To mark this, sweet pongal is let to overflow in the bronze pot its cooking. The family members cheer 'Pongalo pongal', a traditional greeting, to one another. You can always find me in my mom's kitchen screaming 'pongalo pongal' at the top of my voice. Others, hmmm.. lets say they don't usually bother :D

Savoury version = Ven pongal = White pongal
Sweet version = Sarkkarai pongal = Jaggery pongal

Lightly roasted moong dal

Sweet and Savoury Pongal
(serves 3-4)

Ingredients for both

Raw rice – 1½ cups
Moong dal – ½ cup
Milk – 1½ cups, skim or fat free milk
Water – 7½ cups
Cashew nuts – 20
Ghee – 2 tbsp (more if you like)

For ven pongal

Whole black pepper – 1 tbsp
Whole cumin seeds – 1 tbsp
Ginger – 1-2 tbsp, finely chopped
Curry leaves – few

For sarkkarai pongal

Jaggery – ¾, powdered or grated (per your taste)
Sugar – 2 tbsp
Raisins – 2 tbsp
Ground cardamom – 1 tsp
Edible camphor – a teeny bit


Roast moong dal until light golden brown. Let cool, and wash dal along with rice in two changes of water. If cooking on stove top, combine milk and water with rice and dal in a wide, deep vessel, and cook until mushy. The mixture needs to be stirred now and then, to avoid sticking to the bottom. This traditional method of cooking takes about 25 minutes, but is delicious. If using a pressure cooker, combine milk and water with rice and dal directly into the cooker and cook for 6 whistles. Open the cooker only after the pressure has died down. When cooked, the mixture should be very soft, that it shouldn’t resist the spatula at all.

Jaggery syrup, boiling away

Meanwhile, dissolve jaggery in ¼ cup of water. Take off the heat and filter the syrup for any impurities. Return the jaggery solution back to the heat, add sugar and allow it come to a brisk boil. After 5 minutes, mix 2/5th (pardon the numbers, it is a little more than 1/3rd) of the cooked rice-dal mixture and combine thoroughly.

In a small skillet, heat a tbsp of ghee, roast 10 cashews and raisins, until the nuts are golden and the raisins are plump. Add to the sweet pongal, along with cardamom, and edible camphor.

Return the skillet to heat, add another tbsp of ghee, roast the remaining cashews, pepper, cumin, ginger and curry leaves. Add this mixture to the remaining 3/5th rice-dal mixture in the cooker, along with salt. Mix well and serve immediately.

Ven pongal doused with melted ghee

Sarkkarai Pongal
(serves 3-4)

If you are making just the sweet pongal for dessert, cook rice-dal mixture with more milk. Also, instead of making the sugar syrup separately, the sweeteners are added directly to the rice. But for that, the recipe remains the same.


Raw rice – 2/3 cup
Moong dal – 2 tbsp
Chana dal – 1 tbsp (optional)
Milk – 2 cups, skim or fat free
Water – 2 cups
Jaggery – 1-1½ cups, powdered or grated (per your taste)
Sugar – 1 tbsp
Ghee – 1 tbsp
Cashew – 10-15
Raisins – 2 tbsp
Ground cardamom – 1 tsp
Edible camphor – a teeny bit


Roast the dals until lightly golden. Cool, and rinse along with rice. Transfer to the pressure cooker with milk and water, and cook for 6 whistles. Or cook on stovetop as mentioned above. When the pressure has subsided, remove the lid and add jaggery and sugar and mix until everything is combined well. Continue cooking this mixture for about 10 minutes on low flame. If the mixture tightens up too much, add small amounts of boiling water to maintain the consistency. The jaggery should have melted completely and should not smell raw. When good aroma wafts from the pongal, switch off the stove.

In another small pan, melt ghee, roast cashews and raisins. Add this to the prepared pongal, along with cardamom and edible camphor. Whether you serve it warm, cold or at room temperature, sarkkarai pongal tastes divine.

Few points

  • You can enjoy the sweet and savoury pongal with ezhu kari or ericha kozhambu or gosthu to cut though the sweetness.
  • The small amount of sugar added with jaggery is for added umph. Jaggery has a mellow sweetness that appears in the background. Adding small amount of sugar hits the palate immediately.
  • Different brands of jaggery have different levels of sweetness. So the amount given in this recipe is only approximate, and should be adjusted accordingly.
  • You can mix few tsps of sugar in the end, if you desire sweeter pongal.
  • As with any pongal, this should be served immediately. For reheating purposes, sprinkle boiling water to bring back to consistency.

While I wrote about ven pongal, I described how it used to be served at temples - in cups made from dried leaves (banana or palm). The taste of hot pongal on dry leaf is beyond description. If you had tasted dishes that had been wrapped and steamed in leaves (like tamales or panai olai kozhukattai), you will know what I am talking about. The leaves add an amazing flavor to the dishes which is hard to recreate otherwise. I think this is also one of the reasons that pongal served at temples tastes different than that made at home.

I managed to acquire a small stack of thonnai – the non-toxic, bio degradable, sustainable, all-natural leaf-cups from India. I was very thrilled to recreate the magic one more time.

Sarkkarai pongal, ven pongal served in thonnai. The trio is complete with ezhukari kuzhambhu(not shown)

I know its late, but my belated Sankaranthi wishes to all of you. You bloggers know it takes more time to write about food than cooking it.

My Legume Love Affair, Sixth Helping: Hot & Spicy – Entries, Prize and the Winner

Here is the lineup of entries for the sixth edition of My Legume Love Affair, Hot & Spicy. I want to thank all of you who participated in the event.

My heartfelt thanks to the wonderful Well Seasoned Cook Susan, for not only giving me an opportunity to host, but also for being such a sport. I was at a liberty to make this event based on a theme, as opposed to being generic. Also, when I approached her with a different kind of prize, she was totally game. She even designed the logo. What else could a guest-host ask for? If you are looking to host this wildly popular event, drop a line at Susan’s event page or email her. You may be on a long wait-list, but it is so much fun.

Before going to the entries, there is a prize to be announced. Susan, the creator of this event, sponsors a prize for a random winner. The hosts have the choice of selecting the prize. Being an environmentally-conscious individual, I wanted to utilize this opportunity to spread the word. Through some simple, but effective steps, ‘Going Green’ is quite achievable. Swapping those flimsy plastic grocery bags with reusable ones is one such act. And if they are these gorgeous bags, won’t it be a delight to shop? One lucky winner will find these stylish, reusable and recyclable grocery bags at their door steps. With the dawn of new year, lets resolve to take more steps toward a greener world.

Lisa of Lisa’s Kitchen is the winner. Her entry was a simple, but toothsome bowl of brown lentils and moong dal in cashew-almond sauce. Congratulations Lisa. Please write to Susan with your mailing address.

Here are the entries listed for easy perusal. Please visit this gallery for a detailed look, along with their pictures.

  1. Escapades - Mentham Kura Pappu (Lentils with Fenugreek Leaves)
  2. Priya's Easy N Tasty Recipes - Broccoli Rajma Curry
  3. Priya's Easy N Tasty Recipes - Black-eyed Beans N Carrot Masala Vadai
  4. Culinary Bazaar - Tadka dal
  5. Daily Musings - Butter Beans Pulao
  6. Simply Innocence - Green Lentils with Spinach
  7. eCurry - Spiced Lentil Stuffed Flat Bread (Ajwain, Dal Paratha)
  8. Sinful Indulgence - Moth Bean Stir Fry
  9. Zaayeka - Daal Makhaani (Lentils in Creamy Sauce)
  10. The Singing Chef - Mixed Dal and Dalia Cutlets
  11. Sinful Indulgence - Black-Eyed Beans Curry - Lobiya Masala
  12. Lisa's Kitchen - Brown Lentils and Moong Dal in Cashew Almond sauce
  13. Yummy Food - Muda Pappu
  14. Indian Vegetarian Kitchen - Rajma(Spicy kidney beans gravy)
  15. Yummy Food - Khatti dal
  16. Pakashale - Kidneybeans - Turnip Greens Curry
  17. Ode 2 Food - Pesarattu
  18. Ode 2 Food - Spicy Black Bean Tortilla Rolls
  19. Cook's Hideout - Fuzzy Melon Dal
  20. Annarasa - The Essence of Food - Spicy Lima Bean Curry
  21. TastyCurryLeaf - Fassoulatha
  22. The Singing Chef - Cornmeal and Sprouts Salad
  23. Spiced! - Misal- Pav
  24. Vegetarian in ME - Puttu Payar
  25. Indian Spice Trail - Sprouted Mung Bean Curry
  26. Enjoy Indian Food - Mixed Kathol nu Shaak
  27. Appyayan - Ghugni (Dry white peas curry)
  28. Appyayan - Crispy Moong Dal Masala Dosa
  29. Appyayan - Dhokar Dalna (lentil cakes in a gravy)
  30. Ruchii - Sprouted Channadal Kurma
  31. Priya's Easy N Tasty Recipes - Zucchini N Sprouted Greengram Kurma
  32. Priya's Easy N Tasty Recipes - Drumstickleaves Moongdal Stir-fry
  33. Priya's Easy N Tasty Recipes - Cabbage Medhu Vada
  34. My Kitchen Stories - Brussels sprouts with Kidney beans
  35. Veg Delights - 16 bean gravy
  36. The Singing Chef - Kidney Bean and Pasta Salad
  37. eCurry - Stuffed Jalapeno (Bharwan Mirch)
  38. Seduce Your tastebuds - Spicy channa pulao
  39. Asvadha - Italian Tomato Bean Soup
  40. The Well Seasoned Cook - Coconut Chickpea Curry
  41. One page cookbook - 1001 Sprouted Sundal
  42. What's For Lunch, Honey? - Mum's Creamy Lentils - Kaali Maa Di Daal
  43. Tasty Palettes - Pasta e Ceci (Pasta With Chickpeas)
  44. Tasty Palettes - Winter Comforts: Spicy Dal With Roasted Vegetables

Please write to me for errors or omission. Thank you!

Tomato Bread Soup

Its hard to believe that its 2009, already. But here we are, and let me wish you, my readers and your loved ones, a happy and successful new year. I am back from my time off, and what a vacation it was. The sights, sounds and the FOOD were unbelievably good. I wish it had never ended, but all good things do.

Nevertheless, its good to be back. And, I am starting the year on a high note and jubilance. My entry to the last edition of DMBLGiT was announced a winner in the ‘Originality’ category. I am honored and humbled, and would like to thank the judges and the host, Arfi Binsted, who herself is an articulate photographer.

Talking of photography events, Click is back after a brief hiatus. I have been invited by Bee and Jai to be on the judges’ panel this month, which is always a pleasure. This month’s theme is Red.

Finally, I have received all your entries for My Legume Love Affair, sixth helping. I will be back with the roundup of entries shortly. I am yet to announce the prize for this edition. One of you will be announced the winner. Stay tuned.

Now that things are taken care of, let me leave you with a simple, warming bowl of soup. After weeks of eating out, we craved for simple home cooked meals. There wasn’t anything in my fridge, but my freezer was loaded with days worth of food. Rotis, parathas, burger patties, kofta, and what not. I also dice, blanch and freeze left-over vegetables or greens, if I am off for a few days. You will also never find me wasting a good piece of bread. Being a bread addict, I find it to be a crime. I freeze the left over bread slices, even the heel, in a zip top bag. They come handy, when you want to make a filling, fresh bread crumbs, etc. I find home made breadcrumbs the best, because each bread has a unique flavour, which adds to the taste of the final dish.

In this recipe, leftover bread cubes find their way into a delicious bowl of soup. I have used Roma tomatoes, which can be found year round. Stale bread, couple of tomatoes, and little seasoning – quick meal for those lazy days.

Tomato bread Soup
(serves 2)


Bread– about 3 cups, cubed
Shallots or red onions – ½ cup, chopped
Garlic – 1 clove, minced
Red pepper flakes – a pinch
Tomato – 3, chopped
Parsley or cilantro – a handful
Oil – 1 tsp

Hard cheese like Parmesan or Pecorino for garnish (omit for a vegan version)


Heat oil in a sauce pan. Gently sauté shallots, garlic, red pepper flakes until soft. Add tomatoes and salt, and cook till mushy. Take away from heat, throw in parsley and blend the vegetable mixture till smooth. Return to heat, add 2 cups of water, bring to boil. Add cubed bread and continue to cook until the bread has soaked up the juices. Add more water if necessary. The bread would soften and fall apart. Remove from heat, ladle into bowls, garnish with cheese, and serve with a crack of black pepper. I also drizzled mine with basil-infused oil. It’s a great way to enjoy basil even in winter.