With a pinch of tradition

With a pinch of tradition
Although I was born and brought up in Mangaluru, I’ve now settled in Bengaluru. A psychiatric counsellor by profession, I got interested in cooking only after marriage.

Before that, I was more into academics. I didn’t have the time to learn cooking or put rather simply, I wasn’t interested in it.

I got married soon after my Post Graduation. We stayed in Mysuru for seven years after that. Due to the traditional nature of the place, we did not get good cakes and other food items in the market. Whatever we wanted had to be prepared at home. Everyone in my husband’s family was good at cooking and one of my sisters-in-law was great at baking.

I was motivated by her to enter the kitchen. Also, with the never-ending guests and my children’s demand for tasty food, I was driven to try new and varied recipes. I started experimenting and bought a lot of cookery books to try out new things. Whenever we visited any friends or relatives and I liked some dish prepared by them, I would quickly take down the recipe for myself. This trend has continued even after moving to Bengaluru.

Sometimes, I prepare variations of a particular dish like mango, ‘badaam’ and chocolate ‘phirni’. Even with simple vanilla ice cream, one can churn out a variety of desserts with just a hint of creativity. I enjoy baking cakes and pastries and also try to make the best use of leftovers. For instance, I use the leftover chicken pieces from the chicken curry to make pepper chicken or ‘ghee’ roast. I even utilise mixed vegetable to make ‘parathas’ or sandwiches. My favourites in the kitchen are Chinese, Continental, South Indian and North Indian cuisines. Since I love South Indian, I often search for traditional recipes just to be connected to the roots. However, I feel learning is an ongoing process and I still have a long way to go.

The recipe that I am sharing is of ‘Khara melagu (pepper) pongal’. It is the most popular breakfast dish from Tamil Nadu. In most South Indian temples, it is served as ‘prasadam’. Though it is traditionally served with ‘sambar’ or coconut chutney, it makes a great combination with ‘raita’ as well.

Since it is made from rice and ‘moong’ or green gram dal, it is rich in proteins and carbohydrates.The ‘raita’ that accompanies the dish contains cucumber, onions and curd — it not only makes for a delicious and refreshing side dish but also acts as a bountiful source of vitamins and minerals. Keep in mind, not to make the dish too watery or too dry as the consistency can make or break the dish. Spice it to your liking. The dish is best served with a spoonful of desi ghee, although weight watchers can choose to omit this last step.

(For details, visit ‘Chethana’s Kitchen’ on Facebook.)

Khara melagu pongal

Main ingredients

1 cup moong or green gram dal
1 1/2 cups rice
1 tbsp ghee


Wash the green gram in water and drain. In a pressure cooker, heat ghee and fry the moong dal until it becomes fragrant. Add the washed and drained rice to it and stir fry for a minute. Add six cups of water and cook for four whistles.

For seasoning

1 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp asafoetida (hing)
5 green chillies (slit lengthwise)
2 sprigs curry leaves
10 cashew nuts (split)
1 tsp whole peppercorn
1 tsp whole jeera
1 tsp freshly crushed pepper powder
 A few chopped coriander leaves
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 cup grated coconut
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
 4 tbsps ghee
 Salt to taste


In a large vessel, heat ghee and add the seasoning ingredients one by one and sauté. Add the cooked rice and dal mixture. Add the required amount of water and cook for three minutes. You can add a dollop of ghee for extra taste.

For cucumber raita

1 cucumber, peeled and diced into small bits
2 tbsps grated coconut
1 green chilli minced
1/8 tsp asafoetida
1 tsp sugar
 Salt to taste
1 cup curd


Mix all the above ingredients in a bowl and the raita is ready. Serve the hot khara melagu pongal with the raita.


This dish needs extra ghee. It is not particularly recommended for weight watchers. If you try to make it low calorie, you will be compromising on taste.
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