Pick moong lentils first to get rid of stones if any. Then heat a small pan or a small kadai and add the moong lentils.
On a low flame stirring often roast the moong lentils till they become aromatic.
The moong lentils only need to be roasted till they become aromatic. No need to brown them.
Now take them in another bowl or you can use the same pan for rinsing.
Rinsing rice and lentils
Add rice in the bowl containing the roasted moong dal.
Rinse both rice and roasted moong dal a couple of times with water.
Cooking rice and moong dal
Drain very well and then add them in a pressure cooker.
Now add the following ingredients - cumin seeds, asafetida (hing), chopped ginger. Also add salt as per taste.
Pour 3 to 3.25 cups water. The amount of water to be added depends on the consistency you want and also on the quality of moong dal.
Pressure cook on a medium to high flame for 7 to 8 whistles or 11 to 12 minutes.
Let the pressure settle down on its own and then you remove the lid to check the doneness and consistency. If the pongal has a consistency like that of pulao, then add ½ to 1 cup hot water and mix very well.
Both the rice and the moong dal should be cooked very well. If you want you can even slightly mash the cooked rice and moong lentils. If cooked well, then cover with the lid and keep aside.
In another small pan, heat the ghee.
Add the cumin seeds. Let them splutter.
Then add the cashews. Fry until the cashews become light golden.
Once they begin to get light golden, then add black peppercorns and 10 to 12 curry leaves.
Stir very well and fry until the curry leaves become crisp. The black pepper should also be fried well.
Making ven pongal
Now pour this entire tempering on the pongal. Mix very well.
Cover with the lid (with the vent weight/whistle on the lid) and keep ven pongal aside for 5 to 6 minutes. This allows the tempering flavors to infuse with the pongal and the aroma to stay in.
Then remove the lid and serve hot with coconut chutney or sambar.
How to make Instant Pot Pongal
For cooking ven pongal in the Instant pot, after the roasting and rinsing steps, add the lentil, rice, spices in the steel insert of your IP. Add 3 cups water. Pressure cook on high for 6 to 7 minutes.Do a quick pressure release after 10 to 12 minutes. If the consistency looks thick, add some water to thin it a bit and using the sauté option, simmer for a couple of minutes. Later fry the spices, nuts separately and add to the cooked rice and lentils. Mix and serve.
Fresh ingredients: Use fresh and good quality ingredients. Do make sure to have your spices fresh and not stale.
Ghee: Use fresh ghee and you can always add more of it, but do not add less.
Gluten free recipe: For a gluten free pongal, I would suggest to add a gluten-free asafetida, rather than skip it completely.
Black pepper: You can crush the black pepper lightly in a mortar-pestle instead of adding them whole.
Cooking lentils: Depending on the quality of moong dal, it can take less or more time to cook them. I usually cook the moong lentils for 7 to 8 whistles and so I add about 3.25 cups water. If you have moong lentils, which cook faster, then add about 2.5 cups water and cook for 2 to 3 whistles. The lentils and rice have to be mushy and the pongal should have a porridge like consistency.
Cooking in a pot or pan: If you do not have a pressure cooker, you can make pongal in a pot or pan on the stove-top. Simply follow the recipe and cook the rice, lentils in 3.5 to 4 cups water. Do add more water if needed.
Lentils and rice proportion: In this recipe, the proportion of rice is more. For more protein, you can easily switch to equal proportions of rice and lentils.
Scaling: Make a big batch of this recipe easily to feed a crowd.
Make ahead: I would not suggest to make ahead and freeze ven pongal, as it tastes best when served fresh. On refrigerating or freezing, the pongal will thicken and become lumpy. The taste also changes as well. Lentils and rice are best had freshly cooked.
Variations: You can add some mixed veggies like carrots, green peas, french beans, cauliflower or corn. Adding oats will give you a healthy oats pongal. Pongal can also be made with millets or dalia (cracked wheat)