Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ven Pongal and Eggplant Gothsu

Blog hopping in search of new and interesting rice cooker recipes, I stumbled on this rice cooker ven pongal from Sukanya's blog. What an enticing picture it is- definitely the sort of recipe that makes you want to run to the kitchen and cook it right after you have tried pawing at the screen. Which is exactly what I did last night, the cooking, not the pawing at the screen.

Yes, ven pongal (a soft mushy combination of rice and lentils, a cousin of the khichdi) and gothsu (a tangy eggplant curry) are traditional breakfast fare in Tamil Nadu but I have always embraced the idea of breakfast for dinner.

The ven pongal was a breeze to make in the rice cooker- simply cook the lentils and rice with some salt, then add the tempering and mix. Could it be simpler? The only slight problem was that the lentil-rice mixture bubbled and frothed ferociously as it was cooking, resulting in some clean up at the end.

Ven Pongal
(adapted from Sukanya's recipe)

1. In the rice cooker bowl, soak the following for 30 minutes:
1 rice cup measure Sona Masuri rice
34 rice cup measure moong dal

2. Rinse well. Add the following and put on "cook" mode:
5 rice cup measures water
1 tsp. salt

3. When the rice and lentils are a comforting mushy mess, stir in a tempering:
2 tbsp. ghee
1 tsp. cumin seeds
8-10 peppercorns, crushed
2 sprigs curry leaves
2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
Handful of broken cashews

For the accompanying spicy eggplant, I turned to a cookbook that is full of Tamil classic recipes.

Kathrikkai (Eggplant) Gothsu

(adapted from Samayal by Viji Varadarajan)

1. Heat 2 tsp. oil and temper it with 1 tsp. mustard seeds and a pinch of asafetida.

2. Add
1 medium onion, cut in small dice
3 Japanese eggplants or 10-12 Indian eggplants or 12 Italian eggplant, cut in small dice
2 tomatoes, cut in small dice

3. Add
12 tsp. turmeric powder
12 tsp. red chilli powder
1 tsp. sambar powder
1 tsp. tamarind paste
Salt to taste

4. Cook until the vegetables are tender. Add a little water if required to help the cooking process along. Garnish with plenty of cilantro.

This is the comforting khichdi meal taken to a new level with all kinds of aromatic additions.  I'll be making this again and again.

I am sending this post to the first edition of my own Blog Bites event. There's one more week left to send in your entries- to participate, simply try a rice cooker or pressure cooker or slow cooker recipe from another blog. We're already collecting tasty entries. Thank you for your participation!

Dale's Tales
When I see creatures of the puppeh and kitteh and bebeh variety, the unbearable cuteness makes me lose my grasp on normal language. I start babbling and calling them all kinds of silly names. Dale is not amused at being referred to as a sticky dessert. But it is when I call him a "baby kitty" that he gets really indignant.

My friend Bek looked at the picture above and sent me this cartoon :D

I'm trying a rice cooker dessert tonight- if it works out, I'll come back and tell you about it. 


  1. Hi Nupur,

    I have a follower of your blog for quite some time now. Everything I have tried out from here have turned out to be just fabulous. I have baked your chocolate cake 6 times(!) and every single time it has delivered. I need to bake a sponge cake and was wondering if you had some recommendation on which recipe I should follow.

    I have been searching the net for a good recipe for 2 days now and am overwhelmed. Would really appreciate your help on that.


  2. Hi Sharmila- Let's see...when I think of sponge cake, I think of just a regular cake with flour, butter, eggs, sugar, baking powder. Is there a specific type of cake you are looking for? For instance, are you trying to make a single layer cake or one in a loaf pan, or what kind of pan do you want to use? Is there a particular flavor you are looking for, like vanilla or chocolate or strawberry. If I know what you are looking for specifically, I'll be very happy to come up with some suggestions.

  3. You are so right about Sukanya's ven pongal picture. It looks very very tantalizing.

    I love venpongal and sometimes I do hate the fact of cleaning up my pressure cooker. The more water the more mess I guess..

  4. Here is a tip for avoiding the mess on the cooker. Keep the rice and dhal mixture in a steel cup, add water to the cup and then place the cup inside the cooker. The cooker should also have some water in it. basically the steel cup should float in the cooker water. If you cook it like this water will not ooze out. Once the rice dhal mixture is cooked, remove the steel cup and add pepper/jeera etc seasoning into it and mix it well.


  5. I love rice cooker pongal - have been doing it a while and love it! But have yet to try the gotsu and your description of it makes me want to run home and try this evening.
    U know I had the same problem with the bubbling/frothing in the rice cooker and it helped some to cover the lid with a kitchen towel (that way the steam escapes but most of the froth is caught in the towel). Of course, the towel has to be thrown in the laundry after coz its too full of starchy liquid, but it washes easily. Seemed to help me esp since the bubbling would result in a mess on the outside of the cooker and the counter. Not sure if u had the same issue.

  6. Thanks for replying Nupur!

    I was looking for something simple, maybe a layered sponge cake with chocolate filling and frosting. I am worried however that if I were to follow any recipe other than those tried and penned down by an Indian, it might turn out to be nauseatingly sweet like the ones at any dessert shop here in the US.

    It's for my friends who have had the chocolate cake 4 out of the 6 times (they say great consistency and I say its the same blog I go to every time:))and want something different.

    Your suggestions would definitely help.


    PS: On an unrelated note your bharli vaangi is also a great hit with my friends. I follow the recipe to the T.

  7. Oh gosh, if my cat understood half the things I say to him, he'd think his owner was a blithering idiot. I am fond of telling him that he has cat ears. He just blinks at this.

  8. Nupur, i'm thinking very hard on which recipe can i send on MBP event. As I have pressure-cooker only so my options are very limited. Let's hope I will find something and make it fast and send you across.

  9. This sounds delicious! It never fails to amaze me how many interesting things you can do with a rice cooker. I wish mine were more fully functional!

  10. This is one of my absolute fave Tamil foods....:)

  11. Hey Nupur..Dale is a nonsense boy..Happy New year to all of you..

  12. I love this combination. It is made slightly differently at my place :)

    I cook the rice, dal mixture inside a vessel in the cooker. The spluttering is then contained.

  13. Hi Nupur

    I baked this cake: and it turned out good. I did find it a little too sweet, but my pals liked it, so all's well.

    Thanks for all the great recipes and tips on books (I love Indian authors too, you must try out Anita Desai) it is much appreciated.

    San Diego CA

  14. You said it right. This is definitely a recipe which makes us run to the kitchen and make it. I did and had an early dinner at 7! Just could not resist.

    And I am sorry about my earlier comment. I just noticed that you used an electric rice cooker. I thought you used a pressure cooker and gave my tips.

  15. BDSN- Yes, it is the extra water that makes the mess for sure!

    Anitha Pillai- Glad you enjoyed your dinner, and thanks for the pressure cooker tip.

    Priya- That's a great tip- thank you very much for sharing it! Yes, some of the liquid did leak onto the counter and a dish towel would be perfect for containing it.

    Sharmila- Glad you found a recipe, and it is easy enough to reduce the sweetness in cake recipe; simply add less sugar.
    I have a request for you- it is nice when comments on a post are relevant to that particular post. So if you have an off-topic question or comment, please use the contact form instead. There is a link at the top of the page. Thanks.

    Diane- LOL yes I shudder to think of what our pets think of us!

    Sonia- Pressure cooker options are many, there are recipes for everything from pulaos to dals to desserts (rasmalai, steamed cakes) made in the pressure cooker. Contact me if you would like ideas. And no, there is no pressure to participate at all, so do it only if you find time and a recipe that you want to try :)

    Joanne- So your rice cooker is not working properly? Yes, there are many creative things you can do with it and I am having fun trying things out.

    Jennifer- It is a new favorite for me :)

    Madhuli- Happy New Year to you too!

    Raaga- I know, I'll try the pressure cooker next time.

    notyet100- Thanks

  16. Normally pongal is very mushy and draining with ghee like you see in Sukanya's recipe.

    You could also try the it in the ratio 3:1 and add more water ( and reduce ghee) to make it mushier.

    But hey, it tastes fine when its not mushy also. To each his own :)

  17. Pongal and Kothsu looks super delicious. One of the fav combos of TN.

    The next time, you can line some tissues on top of the slowcooker (make sure that they stretch outside the cooker that way it won't fall inside), then cover it with the glass lid. The steam that falls from the top, back into the cooker will be absorbed this way and you wont get an over mushy rice or bubbling water.

    Use the "steaming" tissue to wipe the cooker once the food is served..

    Thanks for your thoughts on one voice article.. You have no idea how many hate mails I got(which I didnt publish) coz people thought I am a "gone case" :D

    Society still needs to change a lot and DV is still a taboo..

  18. ooh- love the picture of dale and the thought bubbles!!

    Venn pongal is one dish that continually restores my faith in the simplicity of dishes and minimal spices. So simple, yet flavorful and tastes just like home. I am like you - I believe in serving breakfast dishes for, dosas, even omlettes!

  19. Venn Pongal and Gotsu is our Saturday brunch almost every week. Very filling. You have recreated it beautifully! Yum!

  20. Wow, that looks yummy. I am going to try making this tonight for dinner. I have only rosematta rice at hand though, I hope that will work well. I also don't have a rice cooker, so will try to make it in a pressure cooker.
    Thanks for posting this, Nupur.
    Off topic, but I just wanted to let you know that your contact form was not working when I tried using it last week. It may be a Safari issue, but just wanted to let you know.

  21. Only yesterday I had this kind of Ven Pongal and an eggplant sabzi whose name I don't know but it went very well with the Pongal.

    I do not have a rice cooker yet but love my p.cooker, it is part of my everyday cooking

  22. wow nupur, ur blog is simply a treasure house of simple and delicious recipes!! this dale cartoon is hilarious.... lol. i am fairly new to the blogging world, stumbled upon ur site, adding u to my blogroll for sure! - Rupali.

  23. hi Nupur,

    hello from California. I've been following your blog for a while and thought I should leave you a note. Absolutely love your blog and the recipes in there and your style of writing. Welcome read!

    To comment on the bubbling from the rice-cooker..I use it like I would a normal cooker..I use the regular steel utensils as an inner vessel to which I would add the rice etc...and use the default container to just add some water to cook the rest..Clean up is no problemo!

  24. Nupur,
    I made this ven pongal & gothsu combo following your recipe. turned out delicious and comforting. thanks to you and Sukanya both.

  25. Hey Nupur.. pongal and eggplant both looking great.. sound like a yummy combo!

  26. Hi Nupur, Yes it is a very popular combination in Tamil households. We make the Gothsu slightly differently. We always scorch the Eggplant like for Bharta over the gas. The flavour is different.The tempering goes like this---heat oil, drop mustard seeds, then chana dal,karipatta,hing,one red chilli, a green chilli ( if you like it hot),a few methi dana,; add scorched eggplant skin removed and torn into bits, saute, add tamarind water / paste and cook till mushy. Normally in our homes we do not add onions ; tomato is optional. Add salt of course; the masala powders are optional. Our recipe is even simpler. Except you have to roast the brinjal over fire. It gives a smoked flavour. Very nice.

  27. ruchikacooks- Another reader suggested a dish towel, similar to the tissues you suggest. I can see how both would work well; I'll go with the dish towel just because it is reusable. Thanks for the tip!
    So people sent you hate mail because you wanted to create awareness about domestic violence?? Seriously? They think it is OK and should be celebrated or something? I'm flabbergasted.

    Lavanya- Yes, breakfast has saved dinner in my home dozens of times, because it usually takes minutes to throw breakfast dishes together :)

    Sangeetha- Thank you :)

    Soniya- A pressure cooker and rosematta rice should work beautifully for this dish, I would think. The contact form has hiccups sometimes, it is usually just a matter of trying again in a little time.

    Bong Mom- Oh yes, I am in love with my pressure cooker, can't imagine cooking without it!

    R- Thanks, and welcome to my blog!

    Aparna- Thank you, and thanks for the tip, only my steel utensils don't fit in my bitty rice cooker :)

    Meera- Yes, Sukanya's recipe worked so well!

    SS- It was a delicious combo!

    Geeta- Thanks for sharing your recipe, it sounds great.

  28. Hi Nupur,
    I've been a loyal reader and lurker of your blog until now--that bit about calling Dale a baby kitty compelled me to comment. What does it mean when I call my cats puppies, bunnies, or bears? I have no idea, except you can only imagine their withering scorn.

  29. I loooove pongal and gotsu:)

  30. Havent cooked venpongal in rice cooker. Sounds perfect with the gothsu.

  31. Hey where is the dessert recipe? Waiting.


  32. Love this combination. I was assuming that only coconut chutney and sambar would go with pongal until I had this combo at my friend's place. It is absolutely delicious. I am a recent follower of your blog and I love the way you put things together in your writing.

  33. Hi Nupur,

    I follow your blog regularly and have tried quite a few of the recepies. Made Kathrikkai (Eggplant) Gothsu with a slight variation, I used amchur powder instead of the tamarind paste - wass actually lazy to extract just 1 tsp of the tamarind paste :). It came out awesome.


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